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What is a Savannah Cat?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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A Savannah cat is an exotic-looking new breed of domestic cat. It has large ears, long legs and striking markings that can resemble those of a leopard. The Savannah breed was developed by mating domestic cats with African servals. A serval is a wild cat that lives in open grassy areas called savannahs. This habitat helped inspired the name for the domestic and serval cross breed, savannah cat.

The Savannah was bred to retain some unique traits of the wild serval. One unique characteristic of the Savannah breed is its size. It is the largest of all domestic cats. The build of the Savannah cat is very slender rather than muscular. The Savannah's coat pattern is especially bold and striking as it has black stripes and/or spots on a lighter, often golden tan, background color.

The first recorded breeding of the Savannah cat was in Pennsylvania in the early 1980s. The development of the Savannah breed continued in the early 1990s, but today Savannahs are still considered rare. There may be only a few hundred Savannah kittens available worldwide at any given time. The international breeding organization for the Savannah cat is a group called the Savannah International Member and Breeder Association (SIMBA).

In general, the Savannah cat is said to be very intelligent and playful. Some Savannahs enjoy playing fetch like a dog and many get along well with dogs and other cats. However, the Savannah cat is known for often wanting to be the dominant or alpha animal in the home. One interesting trait of the Savannah breed is a unique hiss that sounds much like a snake's warning to keep away.

Despite their size and wild heritage, the Savannah cat is domestic and is an indoor animal. Some Savannahs may even walk on a leash or harness if trained from an early age. These cats thrive on human companionship and are often very loyal and affectionate toward their owners. Savannah cats are sometimes confused with the Bengal breed as the markings and features can look very similar. The Savannah is usually larger in size than the Bengal though.

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