If you have never heard of the Savannah cat breed before, you are in good company. This beautiful, lean and slender breed is a relatively new hybrid breed that first began to be developed in the 1980s.
The Savannah Cat is a cross between the wild serval of Africa and a domestic cat, a Siamese cat in the first instance.
As you might guess, the breeding of a domestic cat with a wild one has resulted in the Savannah Cat getting its stunningly beautiful spotted coat with stripes. A long neck and large ears also point to its parentage.
Unfortunately, the “wild side” also brings a range of issues beyond your average cat antics. Though this exotic breed might be right for some pet owners, it won’t be a good fit for most.
Before you pursue the possibility more seriously, take the time to do some thorough research and consider your wants, needs, and how much you have to offer.
Keep in mind that generations matter in this breed because it is so new. You can tell how much wild ancestry the cat has by its F rating: F1, F2, etc.
An F1 Savannah has one parent that was an African serval. An F2 Savannah has at least one grandparent which was a serval. The distinctions go all the way through to F6.
Remember that the F rating scale is a good indicator of the cat’s behavior. The closer they are to the wild serval, the more wild characteristics they will share with their parents: the further away, the more domesticated.
Here are some of the reasons you should at least pause before opting for the Savannah cat breed and why it may not be a good pet for most people.
1. It can jump very high
The Savannah cat can jump 8 feet in the air from a standing or squatting position. Now, I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine trying to harness that kind of power.
Not only can your cat reach virtually any space in your house (counters, high bookshelves, tall shelving units, etc.), it is also very challenging to confine for this reason.
Typical suburban fences stand about 4-6 feet high. This is no match for the Savannah cat if it wants to get out of your yard.
Some owners have gone as far as to make their backyards into a habitat similar to a wildcat exhibit in a zoo, with secure roofing. If you can’t invest in this, consider if the Savannah is able to stay inside all the time or not or if you are willing to keep it on a leash when letting it exercise outside.
2. They are huge
Not only are they powerful, but they are also very large cats. In fact, the Savannah cat breed is one of the largest domestic cat breeds in existence, easily weighing up to 25 pounds and being 20 to 22 inches long.
They tend to be somewhat slender so that weight points to a considerable size. Though this may be appealing to some people, it is certainly an important factor to keep in mind.
If you have a small living space, this may not leave much space for your 25-pound baby. They also tend to break things in their exploration. They are not intentionally destructive, but not overly cautious of your knickknacks.
3. It’s at risk for a heart condition
Though generally healthy, the Savannah cat breed is more at risk for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a heart condition in which the left ventricle thickens. This can eventually lead to heart failure. Though this is something to look out for in all cats, Savannahs seem to be more at risk than other domestic cats.
4. Males are often sterile
Another health issue to be aware of is that male Savannahs are often sterile until they reach the F5 or F6 generation. However, females are usually fertile from F1 on. If you are considering breeding these cats, you will need to note this before purchasing an animal.
5. It thrives on a raw diet
To keep your exotic cat healthy, it will do best on a raw diet when possible. Again, the closer it is to serval parent, the more it will mimic them in their dietary needs and preferences.
However, an F5 or F6 Savannah may be able to eat regular domestic cat food without stomach issues if they are far enough away from the wild serval.
The ideal raw diet would mean not only meat but also bone, organs, some vegetation, etc. It may get this by hunting, or you may need to find a supplier.
Even for the later generations (F5, F6, etc.), they will still benefit from a diet high in protein and meat, with minimal corn and grain products. They will probably prefer wet to dry cat food if they are able to handle processed cat food at all.
6. Their behavior is unpredictable
As we have already discussed, the Savannah cat breed is closely connected to its wild parents and will display more of these characteristics than a fully domestic breed. They are not quick to be obedient, and they will be rough on your house just out of curiosity.
Unfortunately, many Savannah cats end up in rescue shelters because their owners could not handle them. This is an unfortunate situation for both the owner and the pet, which can be avoided if you take the time to carefully weigh out this decision.
If you have children or other pets, a steady, predictable behavior can be critical for the safety and wellbeing of all.
7. Their intelligence can lead to mischief
Intelligence is certainly a positive in most cases. Everyone wants their children (even their furry children) to be smart and good decision-makers.
Unfortunately, a Savannah cat’s intelligence may be focused on doing things that prove inconvenient or dangerous for the owner. For example, the Savannah cat breed is known to be an excellent escape artist and is able to open doors, locks, cupboards, etc. with surprising agility.
Many Savannah owners find the need to childproof their houses, including special locks to prevent the cats from getting into dangerous cleaning supplies or unsafe areas.
8. Hunting instincts make them dangerous to other small pets
Just as they are able to work out how to open doors and locks about the house, they may also be able to figure out how to get into other animals’ cages. They have a strong, natural hunting instinct and won’t think twice about stalking the family bird, hamster, or fish if they find the opportunity.
Even if you don’t have small animals as pets, if the Savannah is outdoors regularly, it will put a serious dent in the small critter population in your neighborhood. This could be detrimental to the local ecosystem on top of other things.
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9. Several countries and states in the US have banned them
Even if all of these other factors leave you undeterred and you still want this exotic beauty for your home, you should check the regulations in the area where you live because multiple countries, including Australia, have banned them.
Many states in the US (as well as some individual cities) also have restrictions and bans on the Savannah cat breed, including Massachusetts, Hawaii, Texas, Georgia, New York City, etc.
10. It’s not recognized by the Cat Fancier Association
Though the Savannah cat breed has been recognized by the International Cat Association, it is not recognized by the CFA, which decries the crossbreeding of wild and domestic cats. If the largest pedigreed cat registry is concerned about this breed, you should be too, which brings us to our next point.
11. The hybrid breed raises ethical concerns
People concerned about the preservation of wild breeds and safe breeding may be concerned about the use of wild animals in breeding for profit. It may potentially lead to the exploitation of the wild servals and put them at risk for illegal trafficking when there is a high demand for the Savannah.
Further, because the Savannah cat breed exhibits many wild characteristics (which is natural considering its genetics), many owners find that they cannot handle it. This sets the Savannah cats up for potential abandonment and trauma.
12. It’s very expensive
The price tag alone may be enough to scare many people away. You are likely looking at $1,000- $5,000 to buy a Savannah cat, but they could be as pricey as $35,000. It hardly needs to be said that this is a huge financial investment in an animal that itself is a huge time and training investment if you want to give it a healthy, happy life.
13. It’s very rare, making it difficult to buy or adopt
Because the Savannah cat is a new breed that is still developing, it is often difficult to buy or even adopt one. If you do find a breeder that can work with you, there will certainly be a hefty price to pay. Because of the issues we’ve already raised, adopting one may be a more humane decision.
Though we would caution you about taking on a Savannah cat as a house cat, especially if you don’t have previous experience of owning and caring for a cat, it may be a good choice for some. For all of its unpredictability, it also is loveable, beautiful, and affectionate to its owners.