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Tetsu Yamazaki, Animal Photography
If the call of the wild is what attracts you to cats, the Savannah is one to consider. Created by crossing African Servals with domestic cats and then breeding the offspring to cats such as Egyptian Maus, Oriental Shorthairs, Savannahs, Ocicats and others, this cat stands out for his large pointed ears and spotted golden, silver or black smoke coat. The breed is still in development and is not yet recognized by most cat registries.
The Savannah’s unusual physical traits include large, tall ears that sit on top of the head, eyes set beneath a hooded brow, a long neck and a short, thick tail. All of these characteristics contribute to his exotic appearance.
The Savannah is an active, confident cat who enjoys interacting with people and other cats. Intelligent and curious, he is always looking for something interesting to do, the more adventurous the better. Provide him with plenty of tough, sturdy toys and frequent playtimes, or you will probably discover that he can be quite destructive.
He bonds strongly to his family and makes every effort to be with them, including learning to walk on leash or retrieve toys. When he’s not displaying his affection by giving a few headbutts, he might be seeking out water to play in. This is a happy, entertaining cat who does best with a person who will enjoy playing and interacting with him. When raised with them, he can get along well with kids, other cats and friendly dogs.
The Savannah’s short coat is easy to groom with weekly brushing or combing. Trim the nails and clean the ears as needed, and don't forget to brush the teeth.
A kitten sired by a serval (a small African wild cat) on a female domestic cat in 1986 was the beginning of the Savannah as a breed. This first-generation cross was named Savannah, and when breeder Patrick Kelly heard about her, he decided to create a new breed. Kelly and fellow breeder Joyce Sroufe began a breeding program and wrote a standard for the new cats.
The Savannah is still in development and has not yet achieved full recognition from The International Cat Association. The breed is not recognized by any other cat registries.
The Savannah is a lovely cat who’s full of personality, but he’s definitely not the cat for everyone, or for first-time cat owners. A Savannah is highly intelligent, curious and active, qualities that require a lot of patience to live with. He demands a lot of interaction and will find ways to make you give it to him if you aren’t on the ball enough to provide it without asking. For instance, he might learn to set off the alarm on your clock-radio to make you come running to turn it off.
This is a cat with a sense of humor and likes a good joke, especially if it’s at your expense. He likes to climb up high—higher than you might have thought a cat could go—then push things down onto you. He likes to hide, assuming that you can’t see him, and then tag you when you’re not looking. Or he might drop his favorite toy into whatever you’re drinking, to make a splash and cause you to have to fish it out.
At bedtime, the Savannah will of course share your bed, snuggling in under the covers if he’s cold. Others might perch at the top of your head, spoon against your back, or bring favorite toys to bed with them.
This is a cat who needs a lot of vertical territory. Savannahs love to climb, the higher the better. Provide them with tall cat trees and window perches.
Besides being athletic, Savannahs are also highly intelligent and enjoy the attention that comes with being clicker-trained. Challenge their brain and keep them interested in life by teaching them tricks and games and providing them with interactive toys or puzzle toys that will reward them with kibble or treats when they learn how to manipulate them.
Always choose a kitten from a breeder who raises litters in the home and handles them from an early age. Meet at least one and ideally both of the parents to ensure that they have nice temperaments.
All cats have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on kittens or who tells you that her kittens are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. Savannahs are generally healthy, but it is always wise to purchase your kitten or cat from a breeder who provides a written health guarantee.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new kitten into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Savannah at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to protect his overall health. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier cat for life.
Savannahs have a short, luxurious, soft coat that is easy to care for with weekly brushing. He will love the attention, and if you brush him more often you will find fewer dust bunnies and hairballs around the house.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually weekly. Check the ears every week for redness or a bad smell that could indicate an infection. If the ears look dirty, wipe them out with a cotton ball dampened with a gentle ear cleanser recommended by your veterinarian. Brush the teeth frequently at home with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath, and schedule veterinary dental cleanings as needed. Start brushing, nail trimming and teeth brushing early so your kitten becomes accepting of this activity.
You want your Savannah to be happy and healthy so you can enjoy your time with him, so do your homework before you bring him home. For more information on the history, personality and looks of the Savannah, or to find breeders, visit the websites of the Savannah Cat Club, the Fanciers Breeder Referral Listand The International Cat Association.
A reputable breeder will abide by a code of ethics that prohibits sales to pet stores and wholesalers and outlines the breeder’s responsibilities to their cats and to buyers. Choose a breeder who has performed the health certifications necessary to screen out genetic health problems to the extent that is possible, as well as one who raises kittens in the home. Kittens who are isolated can become fearful and skittish and may be difficult to socialize later in life.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include kittens always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any kitten, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your feline friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and unhealthy catteries can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick kitten, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy kittens. Put at least as much effort into researching your kitten as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Be patient. Depending on what you are looking for, you may have to wait six months or more for the right kitten to be available. Many breeders won’t release kittens to new homes until they are between 12 and 16 weeks of age.
Before you buy a kitten, consider whether an adult Savannah might be a better choice for your lifestyle. Kittens are loads of fun, but they’re also a lot of work and can be destructive until they reach a somewhat more sedate adulthood. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health. If you are interested in acquiring an adult cat instead of a kitten, ask breeders about purchasing a retired show or breeding cat or if they know of an adult cat who needs a new home.
Sometimes pedigreed cats end up at the shelter after losing their home to an owner’s death, divorce or change in economic situation. Check the listings on Petfinder or the Fanciers Breeder Referral List, and ask breeders if they know of a Savannah who is in need of a new home.
Here are some tips to help you find and adopt the right cat from a rescue group or shelter:
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com can have you searching for a Savannah in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Savannahs available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a cat. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Savannah. That includes vets, cat sitters, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a cat, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Networking can help you find a cat that may be the perfect companion for your family. Most people who love Savannahs love all Savannahs. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless cats. A Savannah rescue network can help you find a cat that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for Savannah rescues in your area.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a cat. These include:
Wherever you acquire your Savannah, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a cat from a shelter. In states with “pet lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the cat from both understand your rights and recourses.
Kitten or adult, take your Savannah to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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