Savannah cats of Marechal
History of the Savannah cat

Savannah Cats are a breed of domestic cat that mirrors the beauty of spotted wildcats and yet make a great house pet.  In fact, the very first Savannahs were created by out crossing domestic cats with the graceful, long bodied and long legged exotic Serval Cats.   

Serval Cats

Serval Cats are medium sized, fun loving and playful cats weighing approximately 20- 35 pounds and standing 15-30 inches at the shoulder at maturity.  The males tend to be larger than the females. There are currently 14 different sub-species recognized. They are kept as pets by many people and in the right household they do make good pets. However you do have to change your life to revolve around your Serval. You cannot take off on vacation for any length of time unless you have a very experienced person to care for your Serval that the Serval also knows and trusts. Many states require permits and land requirements as well to have a Serval. You must do your homework and think long and hard before bringing a Serval cat into your life. 

Leptailurus serval

MacGyver photo by Sheryl Koontz

Found in the savannah grasslands of Africa.
A Servals diet in the wild consists of rodents, birds, small reptiles, fish and anything else they can catch in the tall grass, or leap up and pull out of the air, that looks tasty.

MacGyver photo by Sheryl Koontz

The Barbary Serval from Algeria is the only Serval considered endangered by USF&W.

  To continue with the Savannah story......

The first Serval Cats were crossed with domestic cats as part of a research effort to study cat diseases.  After years of careful breeding, we now have the breathtaking and affectionate house cats that resemble the spotted exotic cats of the African grasslands. 

The first offspring produced by breeding an Serval to a domestic cat is known as the "F1" generation.  F1 is a genetics term that means "first filial".  Many of these attempted crosses do not produce live young.  When the kittens do survive, the F1 males are sterile.  The F1 hybrid females, on the other hand, can be fertile and can be bred to other domestic cats.  This is how the Savannah breed was established.  Due to the difference in the gestation periods of a domestic cat and a Serval cat, the first generation kittens are sometimes born premature and require an incredible amount of care to survive.

When an F1 female hybrid is crossed, the next generation is called the F2.  Once again, the F2 Savannah foundation males are not fertile.  The females are once again usually bred to fertile Savannah males now that we have reached fertility in the lower generations.   

The same is true of the F3 foundation generation.  A small percentage of the F3 males may occasionally produce some offspring. Normally an F5 is the first generation we try to keep to test for fertility. To date we have had two F5 males, one is fertile the other one was not. As of 2009 we have a fertile SBT male and a fertile F4 male that we have added to our program.

These first three generations are registered by The International Cat Association (TICA) as foundation cats and only the F4's and beyond can be shown in TICA-sponsored cat shows for Championship.  F1s and F2s are often gorgeous, but should not be considered as pets for inexperienced households.    For example, they can be extremely active, a touch on the moody side and due to their size are often not good to have around young children. There are always exceptions to this, but in general we do not recommend the F1's or F2's for homes with small children.

The fourth generation of offspring that have been breed to only other Savannah's for four generations are considered domestic Savannah cats.  TICA registers these as "SBTs".  SBT pedigreed Savannah's can be shown in TICA-sponsored cat shows but are still not accepted for championship status.

A Savannah Cat makes a great pet.  By careful breeding, TICA affiliated catteries maintain the "wild" look, but produce well-socialized pets.  Savannah's are often selected as pets by previous dog owners, since they are often more sociable and playful than some other breeds of cats. 

Savannah cats have long graceful necks, big ears and long legs. They are usually a bit larger than your regular house cat in height and length, and we strive for a nice short thick tail.

Their coats are short and as a result they usually do not shed as much as longer haired cats.  The coats are often called "pelts" because they are so much like a fur-bearing animal's soft fur.  And of course, they are spotted to resemble their wild ancestors.

Did you know that more people are now selecting cats as pets than dogs?  This change appears to have occurred because most folks now work outside of the home for long hours.  Cats can be left alone with food and a litter box -- where as dogs usually need to be walked.

Savannah cats often make good pets for dog-lovers as well as cat people.  Savannah's  are outgoing and enjoy games and interaction with their humans.  Some of our Savannah's like to play fetch.  A few will wear a harness and a leash.  Several like to play with water.  They greet you at the door and "talk" to you.   They never stop entertaining their households.

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