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F5 Savannah Behavior Questions & Answers

Your site is so very informative and level-headed. I thought I could perhaps turn to you to ask a few questions before committing to a Savannah F5.

The high intelligence and energy levels combined with extraordinary looks is very alluring. However, I am getting very conflicting reports on the Internet as to some other characteristics that may be associated with wild blood: litter box use and vocalization. Both sides take an extreme angle of the story. Breeders vouch for the Savannah’s perfect toilet habits while those opposing hybrid cats take the stance that they are unsuitable for domestic living.

I would definitely spay/neuter my pet at the appropriate age. And yet should I expect him/her to start spraying at some point? Of course, I would be fastidious myself as to the placement/size/maintenance of the litter box… more careful, perhaps, than I would with a domestic cat.

And what about the vocalization? Is it non-stopping? I adore cats that one can hold a dialogue with but being woken up at odd hours of the night consistently every morning would most definitely be an issue; that said, it is expected that this would be the case on occasion with any cat such as a Simaese.

I am prepared to take on more responsibility in raising a pet that requires more maintenance than a domestic breed. Yet I would like to ensure that if I were to take this on, I would be entering with my eyes wide open. Do let me know your thoughts.

Response (written by Jessi Clark-White)

I should first say that my knowledge of hybrids is somewhat limited, but I'm quite familiar with servals. From what I've heard, you're more likely to see serval behaviors in the earlier generations such as F1 and F2. By F5, the domestic percentage is overwhelmingly high.

As far as vocalization is concerned, I would look to the domestic cat breeds used in the creation of the hybrid for an indication of how vocal the cat will be. Some breeds (like the Siamese you mentioned) are more vocal than others. Servals are actually not a noisy cat at all, so I wouldn't expect a Savannah to get excessive vocalization from the serval blood. Servals have a very quiet "chirping" meow and purr very loudly. They don't vocalize any more than an average domestic cat.

The most valid concern here is probably the litterbox use. Servals in general are not reliable when using the litterbox, and many spray; this applies regardless of whether or not the serval is spayed/neutered. I think it's unlikely to be an issue in an F5, but still possible. There are probably going to be a majority that use the box reliably, and a minority that don't. For that matter, there are a minority of domestic cats who spray and don't use the litter box all of the time; you might be slightly more likely to end up with one of those when purchasing a Savannah. I think the bottom line is that you should be prepared for the possiblity of problems, and find a way to accept that in your mind before committing to a hybrid.

The one other factor in considering a cat with serval blood is their loyalty. Full-blooded servals tend to bond very closely to their first owners, and in general are one person or one family cats. They don't tend to be outgoing around strangers, and most importantly they do not accept being re-homed well. A serval that is completely tame, happy, and well-adjusted in its first home can turn into a traumatized, hissing, growling cat that cannot be handled when placed with strangers. Some savannah owners have reported difficulty in getting their cats to adjust if they buy them as older (5 or 6 month old) kittens, or when adopting a savannah raised in a different home.

Again, these traits will be very diluted in an F5, and may not be an issue in earlier generations either. But to be on the safe side, my personal advice to a future savannah pet owner would be to acquire a kitten while it is still fairly young to avoid any potential adjustment problems.

The bottom line is that we're dealing with animals, and we can never predict exactly how any animal (or human!) will behave. But I'd say your chances of ending up with a happy, well-adjusted F5 who will make an excellent pet are good. You are more likely to see mere traces of its serval heritage than anything that resembles the behavior of a full-blooded serval.

Good luck!


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