The Savannah cat is a hybrid cat species, a cross between a domestic cat and a serval (a medium-sized wild African cat with large ears).
The Savannah cat is known as the largest of the cat breeds. At the end of the 1990s, the unusual cross became popular among breeders and was recognized as a new registered breed by the International Cat Association (TICA) in 2001.
It was recognized by TICA as a championship breed in May 2012. Its scientific name is “Felis catus × Leptailurus serval”.
Due to the fact that the Savannah cat is a hybrid of two different species, it does not have its own scientific name, but rather, it uses both the serval and the domestic cat scientific names.
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|Genus||Felis x Leptailurus|
|Scientific Name||Felis catus × Leptailurus serval|
The tall and slender form of the Savannah gives them the appearance of greater size than their actual weight. Size is very dependent on sex and generation, with the F1 hybrid male cats being the largest.
Owing to the greater genetic influence of the African serval ancestor, F1 and F2 generations are typically the largest.
Many first-generation cats will have many of the serval’s exotic characteristics, as with other hybrid cats such as the Chausie and Bengal cat, although these characteristics also diminish in later generations.
Male Savannahs are typically bigger than females. Savannah cats of the early generation will weigh 4.5 – 11 kg, with the most weight due to genetics generally attributed to the F1 or F2 neutered males.
Savannah cats are typically between 3.5 and 7.7 kg in later-generation. Due to the random factors in the genetics of Savannah, size can differ greatly, even in one litter.
The coat of a Savannah coat is said to have a spotted pattern, the only pattern approved by the TICA breed standard.
Non-standard colour & patterns include rosettes, snow colour (point), marble, blue colour, chocolate colour, cinnamon colour, lilac (lavender), and other diluted colours are derived from domestic cat coat genetics.
TICA’s breed standard calls for silver-spotted tabby (silver coat with dark grey or black spots), brown-spotted tabby (cool to warm brown, gold or tan with dark brown or black spots), black smoke (black-tipped silver with black spots), black (black with black spots) only.
The exotic look of a Savannah cat is often due to the presence of several distinguishing serval traits.
The numerous colour markings are most prominent; tall, deeply cupped, broad, rounded, erect ears; very long legs; fat, puffy noses; and eyes with hoods.
The bodies of Savannah cats are long and leggy; the hind end of a Savannah cat is often higher than its prominent shoulders when it stands. The small head is taller than broad, and the cat has a long, slender neck.
The backs of the ears have ocelli, a dark grey, black, or brown bordered central light band that gives an eye-like effect.
The short tail has black rings, and a tip that is solid black. Kittens’ eyes are blue (similar to other cats), and in adults, they can be brown, grey, gold, or a mixed hue.
The eyes have a “boomerang” shape and a hooded brow in order to shield them from harsh sunlight. Dark or black “cheetah tear” or “tear-streak” marks extend from the corner of the eyes to the whiskers from the sides of the nose, just like that of a cheetah.
Cats are known for their loyalty and will follow their owners around the house. They can also be taught to fetch and walk on a leash.
Some Savannah cats are reported to be very friendly and social with people, other cats, and even dogs, while others may run and hide or resort to hissing and growling when seeing a stranger.
As Savannah kittens grow up, exposure to other people and pets is most probably the main factor in sociability. Its jumping ability is an often-noted characteristic.
It is understood that they jump on top of fridges, doors, and high cabinets. Some Savannah cats can leap from a standing position to about 2.5 m (8 feet) high in the air. Savannah cats are very inquisitive.
They also learn how to open cupboards and doors, and in order to keep the cat from getting into trouble, anyone buying a Savannah will definitely need to take special precautions.
Several Savannah cats are not afraid of water, and will even play or even immerse themselves in water. Some owners shower with their Savannah cats.
Genetics and reproduction
Since crossbreeding servals and domestic cats produce Savannah cats, each generation of Savannahs is marked with a filial number.
For instance, Savannah cats directly gotten from a serval x domestic cat cross are called F1 and are therefore 50 percent serval.
Due to the substantial difference in gestation cycles between a serval and a domestic cat (75 days for a serval and 65 days for a domestic cat) and incompatibilities between the sex chromosomes of the two species, F1 generation Savannahs are very difficult to develop. Pregnancies are often aborted, or the kittens are born prematurely.
Servals can also be very picky in selecting partners, and may not always mate with a domestic cat. Savannah backcrosses, called the BC1 generation, are said to be as high as 75 percent serval.
Such 75 percent cats are the offspring of a 50 percent F1 female bred back to a serval. Cases of 87.5 percent BC2 Savannah cats are known, but the fertility is questionable at those serval percentages.
More common than a 75 percent BC1 is a 62.5 percent BC1, which is the product of an F2A (25 percent serval) female bred back to a serval.
The F2 generation, which is the offspring of the F1 generation female, ranges from 25 percent to 37.5 percent serval. The F3 generation has a serval great grandparent and is at least 12.5 percent serval.
As hybrids, Savannah cats usually show certain hybrid inviability characteristics. Since the male Savannah cat is the heterogametic sex, in accordance with Haldane’s rule, they are most commonly affected.
Usually, until the F5 generation or so, male Savannahs are larger in size and sterile, whereas the females from the F1 generation are fertile.
Females of the F1 – F3 generations are generally kept back for breeding, with only the males provided as pets. In the F5 – F7 generations, the opposite occurs, but to a lesser degree, with the males being kept as breeding cats and females being provided mainly as pets.