Consider the following:
SOCIALIZATION: How much socialization has my kitten gotten? Does my kitten like to be around people and does he/she have the potential to bond with me? Some breeders do not socialize their kittens to people until they are 4 weeks or more, others are handling the kittens from day one.
INHERITED PERSONALITY: What are the temperaments of the kitten’s parents? Certain personality traits can be passed on. If the parents are easy to care for and loving, odds are, with the right socialization, the kitten can have the same temperament.
YOUR CURRENT CATS: If you have cats, how will your current cats acclimate to a new kitten? If you already have a dominant kitty I wouldn’t recommend bringing home a kitten with a really dominant personality.
CATTERY SIZE AND TYPE OF RELATIONSHIP: I tend to recommend that buyers purchase from small catteries for several reasons. I know I’m a little biased, but I’ve done a lot of research and am familiar with many catteries big and small.
HEALTH: We recommend working with your breeder to assure that your kitten is free of acquired diseases that are common in catteries, such as Feline AIDs, Feline Leukemia, Giardia, and Tritrichomonas Foetus. Additionally, be sure that your kitten has not inherited the following genetic diseases: Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency (PK deficiency), Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), and Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM). Note that when it comes to certain genetic diseases (autosomal recessive diseases such as PK Deficiency and PRA), cats can be "carriers" of the genes that lead to the disease. Carriers for PK Deficiency and PRA can still be healthy pets. However, HCM is an autosomal dominant disease, therefore if they carry this disease at all in their genes it will affect their health negatively.
GENERATION: Savannahs are descendants of the African Serval. The “F’s” are used to explain how far away the Savannah is from its Serval parentage. For example, an F1 Savannah means that this Savannah is 1 generation from the Serval - in other words it has one Serval parent. F2s are cats that have one Serval grandparent. F3s have one Serval great grandparent, etc. If a cat is described as a high percentage F1, that means that a Serval was bred to a Savannah cat that already had some Serval in its background. So a high percentage F1 (it may be advertised as around 65% Serval) will then go on to produce high percentage F2s etc. These percentages are just estimates, it is impossible to actually know which Serval genes are passed on by F2 and F3 generations. Kittens inherit 50% of their mother’s genes and 50% of their father's genes. There’s no way to know how much of their mother’s Serval genes were passed on in the 50% she contributed.
F1s and high percentage F2s tend be the most likely to exhibit Serval traits.
They have more energy and need more play as a result. This might mean a couple hours a day. Usually we get tired of wearing them out before they get tired!
They also often have the bad habit of liking to eat rubber, fabric, and plastic items in your house (think of flip flops, socks, ping pong balls, and electric cords). If you really want an F1 or high percentage F2 Savannah you need to “Savannah-proof” your house in order to keep your Savannah (and your belongings) safe. In addition, accidents can happen. Your friend can leave a sock on the floor or a child may bring over a small bouncy ball and your cat may ingest these things. If they do ingest something that blocks up their intestinal tract, be sure you’ve saved up money to pay for emergency surgery to save their life. I’d estimate around $3,000. Otherwise the cat will die a rather painful death from starvation. When people ask me if the breed has health problems my answer is “intestinal obstructions” are probably the most common F1 and F2 health problem. If you are able to control your household relatively well and are an organized, thoughtful person you might be able to manage this annoying Savannah habit.
In addition, if you are someone who will find a rowdy, curious, and sometimes reckless cat charming, maybe an F1 or high percentage F2 is for you. Our Noel loves to play with good-smelling cleaning products. She showed me one day how she could pull all of the Clorox wipes out of the container and how she found a hole in our basement ceiling and could crawl around behind our walls. We found this hilarious, but also quickly removed the wipes and patched the ceiling hole because we knew neither were good for her safety. Sunny is a high percentage F2 and he has become so excited while playing that he has fallen off the second story of our stairs. He has also ingested rubber kong toys that we initially thought were sturdy. Noel and Sunny keep us pretty busy watching after them and cleaning up their new adventures.
These types of beautiful cats are a commitment and will have a harder time being re-homed since they tend to only bond with 1 or 2 people.
I am producing regular F2s and F3s (not high percentage). I have chosen these generations because I find them to be a great compromise between look, temperament, and ease of care. They still retain a lot of the great body type, spotting, and often the size of the early generations. However, they are more likely to have a domestic personality and to bond with at least a couple members of the household, if not your whole household. Although they will have more energy than a regular tabby cat, they will feel more manageable to an average cat owner.
F4s-F8s are the easiest Savannahs to own. If you just want an easy-going, playful, spotted kitty, these generations are your best bet. The perks of these generations are that they tend to be the most affordable and can be shown in TICA cat shows.
Are all generations fertile? No. Most females F1 through F8 will be fertile. Males are not fertile until about the F5 generation. Why? It is a complicated issue related to genetics. For specific scientific reasons that I haven’t fully researched, the F1-F4 males do not produce healthy, functioning sperm.
If F1-F4 males are infertile do I have to neuter them? Yes. F1-F4 males may not be able to impregnate other cats, but they will still have hormones that encourage them to mark their territory by spraying strong smelling urine. Neutered males’ urine is like any normal cat urine. Intact males also yowl at all hours calling for a mate. Neutering them will cause them to be much better pets and your house will be quieter and cleaner.
WHAT GENERATIONS ARE LEGAL WHERE I LIVE?
Please check the laws for the state you live in. This is a very helpful link: http://www.hybridlaw.com/
Do not consider owning a generation that is illegal in your state. If your cat is found out to be illegal by mean-spirited neighbors, a vet’s office, the authorities etc., it may be confiscated from you and potentially euthanized. Imagine owning a cat that has come to trust and love you and then it is taken away from its home. It will be treated as if it is a wild animal and you will likely have to plead that it not be killed or sent away. These are very sad situations when they happen. If you want it to be legal to own a certain generation in your part of the country, unfortunately you’ve got to do the legwork to educate your community and request that the laws be changed. Otherwise, consider moving to another state.
Ivy has a very nice long lean body and long legs. She has a nice triangular head and large ears. I’ve included a picture of Jet’s mother, Lil' Bird, to demonstrate how very nice Savannah ears have tips that point straight up to the ceiling, almost like bunny ears. Her ears are also set high on her head. Most Savannahs do not have all of the breed traits; every cat has their weaknesses. However, as a breeder I strive to pair my cats with other cats that can compensate for their weaknesses. In this case, Ivy’s ears are not as upright as I want them to be, so I will breed her to Jet and Odin who have more upright ears like Lil’ Bird pictured above.
DO I WANT A BREEDER CAT OR PET? Many people think that if they paid so much money for an F2 or F3 female that they would enjoy having a litter or two in order to recoup some of their money back. The downside is, having an intact female has its own set of problems.
First, females will yowl and occasionally spray/mark their territory when they are in heat. If a female cat is not bred, she may cycle in and out of heat every 2 weeks! This means yowling, spraying, and rolling around in a daze for about 8 days out of every month.
Second, if a female cat is not bred regularly, her chances of uterine infection (pyometra) increase. This infection can be life threatening and will usually necessitate spaying in order to save your cat’s life. After about three cycles without a pregnancy, many breeders fear pyometra.
Third, you should only be breeding if you are aware of the breed standard and have a healthy Savannah stud to breed your female to. Stud cats yowl and have pungent urine that they spray to mark their territory. It is not easy to raise and care for a stud cat while you wait for your female kitten to come of age for mating.
Fourth, please only breed healthy, papered cats that you know you can find good homes for. Do not try to breed your Savannah kitten from me without the appropriate breeding paperwork. This turns into a “backyard” kind of breeding that usually leads to more unwanted cats that end up in shelters.
I will consider selling a kitten as a breeder to someone who has a TICA-registered cattery and is fully informed and responsible about breeding practices. Otherwise, for the safety of my cats and to prevent “backyard” breeding, I will spay and neuter my kittens that are going to pet homes.
Males tend to be a little larger than females when fully grown. Noel’s F2 kittens will likely be larger in size than Ivy’s F3 kittens if you are very concerned about size. However, size is something not guaranteed and not something we focus on at Sunny Savannahs. Noel is not a “large” F1 and Ivy is not a “large” F2. If you want a “large” Savannah you probably should find another breeder. However, I’d like to warn you that there is a lot of genetic variability in a cat’s size, and often you do not know what size they will be until they are full grown. Breeders can only guess at what size their kittens will become based off of past litters.
WHAT ARE THE "FUZZIES"? Maybe you have wondered why some kittens have great contrast in their coats and have been surprised to see others looking like wiry little wooly bears. Well, kittens’ coats often change as they age and this makes it even trickier to figure out what your kitten may look like when it is an adult. There is nothing wrong with the kitten who has a wooly coat, the only down side is they may be a little harder to sell because people can’t tell how beautiful their coat could be in the future!
At birth kittens will likely have a coat where you can see their spotting and have a general guess as to their coat color. Enjoy this time to really study their spots because you might not be able to see them in a few weeks!
From 2 to 6 weeks a more-wiry looking coat will appear. It will become harder to see the kittens’ spotting. I call this the “fuzzies”. Some kittens get the "fuzzies" worse than others. It really just depends on their genetic lines.
The "fuzzies" may also make the coat look greyish. Often kittens do not photograph great from 4 weeks to 11 weeks because of the “fuzzies”.
In my cats I’ve seen coats start to clear up around 11 weeks and by 16 weeks I have a really good sense of what their adult coat will look like. By 16 weeks you can see if the black spotting is going to become lighter or brownish. You can also see how solid the base color will be. Some cats have more “ticking” or a muddied looking base color.
As cats continue to age beyond 4 months their coat color may become less golden or more golden. It really depends on what is in their genes. There are cool golden tones and warm golden tones that may appear. Reddish tones tend to be more of a Bengal trait.
Moral of the story, look to both of the kitten’s parents to try and estimate what your kitten’s final coat will look like. This is a very complicated guessing game otherwise. Ask for pictures of kittens from past litters to help give you a range of how a kitten’s coat may turn out.
WHAT OTHER WAYS DO KITTENS CHANGE AS THEY AGE?
It’s important to know that kittens born with black noses do not always keep their black noses - at times their noses become more pink as they age. If a kitten has a pink spot on their mostly black nose, this pink spot is likely to enlarge with age. If a kitten has tearstains - black fur markings around their nose - I think they’re more likely to keep their fully black noses.
Eye color also changes during the first year of life. Almost all kittens start out with blue eyes, but then they slowly change to a blue-green, then to green, and then sometimes to brown or a golden color. Look to the kitten’s parents to estimate what their adult eye color may be. We have a lot of eye color variety in our household. Sunny has deep golden eyes, Odin has orange eyes, Ivy has green/hazel eyes. Jet is still under a year, we’re thinking his eye color may be orange when he is done maturing.
Kittens' ears also change as they grow. At first kittens’ ears are small and at the sides of their head. Then the ears begin to grow larger and move toward the top of their head over several weeks. A kitten’s ears may not be upright and perky on their heads until they are around 10 weeks old. Therefore, a lot of breeders will wait until this age to get a feeling for how a Savannah’s ear set will finally look. Ear set is an important part of the breed standard. Some kittens who have very large ears may have them flopped over for several weeks. You can see this in Ivy’s baby picture.
On a side note, F1 Savannahs are often born with a silver coat and then begin to become more fuzzy and golden as they age. This makes it tricky at first to know for sure whether the kitten you put a deposit on will end up being a silver or gold adult. If the F1 kitten starts to have tinges of gold on the edges of their body they will likely continue to warm up and be more golden in the coming weeks.