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Savannah Cat Myths ll - by Brigitte Cowell


Staff member
Myth #6 – Savannahs Cannot Be Around Small Children or Pets

Along with the assumption that because they have “wild” heritage then they must be dangerous, some folk assume they must be kept in cages and away from other pets and small children. The reality is that Savannahs are no different from any high energy domestic cat breed, and all small children should be supervised around pets. Children can move and act unpredictably, they can decide to see how soft a cat’s eyes might be if they poked them, or how hard they can pull the tail before they get a reaction…all things that might get a child scratched when the kitty is startled. A Savannah is unlikely to be at all different in this case, therefore we recommend children are supervised around all pets and taught to interact properly.
Most Savannahs live in houses not only with humans but with other pets, in particular other cats and dogs. They do very well with dogs, maybe as they tend to be on the more confident outgoing end of cat personalities. Like most cats though, they think fish tanks and mice cages are toys, and would love to get into their toy and play more directly. Therefore we recommend that all those kinds of pets are kept in very secure accommodations, and possibly with a door between them and the kitty when not supervised.

Myth #7 Savannahs are Super-Predators

The Australian Government passed a ban on Savannahs due to an ill-researched “report” gleaned from online sources, none of those sources actually included Savannah breeders nor cat judges that had some experience with the breed. They believed a few sensational websites that claim outrageous sizes for their Savannahs, and put that together with a presumed innately superior hunting ability and came up with a “super-predator” that would climb their trees and kill endandgered koalas. Laughable though it seemed to those of us that live with these cats, this ban passed! Due to this action, many people now claim that the Savannah is indeed some sort of superior predator cat, yet no actual proof has ever been presented to back up such a claim. The Savannah is high energy therefore likely to be enthusiastic, yet being an indoor pet is no more likely to be efficient as a hunter than any other domestic cat.

Myth #8 – ALL Savannahs Love Water

Servals hunt in creek beds, they will hunt for small fish and frogs. Therefore there is the assumption that all Savannahs are going to inherit a love of water. This is not true, just like because your grandfather or great great grandfather was an Olympic athlete does not mean you will be breaking any world track records.
It does however seem that a lot of Savannahs are comfortable with water in a way that most domestic cats are not. They may still not be impressed when you dunk them in a bath, but they may join you in the shower to bat at the spray and they may get under the tap in the bathroom making it impossible to wash your face easily at night. How much of this is due to Serval and how much is due to them being a highly interactive and enthusiastic personality breed, I don’t know. In any case, when you get your Savannah kitten, don’t assume it will enjoy being thrown into a full bathtub. Run the tap and see how interested your kitten is… make the water lukewarm in temperature and inviting. Run a bath with a couple of inches and throw in some ice cubes or bath toys. It can be very amusing, but only if your particular kitty enjoys water sports!

Myth #9 – Savannahs are Hypoallergenic

This particular myth is not confined to the Savannah, I’ve read this about the Bengal also. I’m not sure if this is because some think that there is wild cat heritage therefore this would mean hypoallergenicity. Or else the fact that these are both low-shedding breeds of cat might mean that people tend to react less to them than other cats and assume it is “hypoallergenicity”. If you are allergic to cats, be very careful! There is no substantiated data on these cats and allergies. You may have less reaction, it most likely depends on what triggers your allergies and what threshold you have to that allergen.

Myth #10 – Savannahs Need Special Housing

This comes back to the “wild” heritage, people assume this means the Savannah is unpredictable hence cannot live in a house like a regular domestic cat. This is simply not true. Every generation from F1 through F100 is suitable to live in a house. Savannahs may not be suitable for every house, their energy and exuberance may make living in a house with a lot of breakable antique vases a bad fit. We as breeders and rescuers sometimes suggest “Savannah-Proofing” as something similar to toddler-proofing a house from floor to ceiling but mainly as a way for you to keep your valuables safe and intact while you work out just how klutzy your Savannah might be and just how much fun your belongings might be to them.

Myth #11 – Savannahs Need an Exotic Animal Veterinarian

Many websites state that Savannahs need special veterinary attention; only killed vaccines, no ketamine, etc and many assume that the same vet that treats exotic cats is going to understand a Savannah better. In reality, many domestic cat breeders also advocate only killed vaccines and to avoid ketamine as an anesthetic. The only difference between the average domestic and a Savannah is really that they look “wild” and hence a vet that has never met one before might be worried and extra-cautious, while a vet that treats wild cats on a regular basis wouldn’t give them a second glance.

Myth #12 -
Savannah cats are "exotics", "hybrids", and "wild", and their babies are referred to as "cubs".
Savannah cats are a DOMESTIC breed of cat, as referenced by both the USDA and The International Cat Association (TICA). Savannah cats of all generations from F1 to F100 are a DOMESTIC breed of cat. Usage of any term beyond the word "DOMESTIC" leads to bans and legislation banning these house cats in many areas. See:
Savannah babies, like their serval ancestor's babies, are called KITTENS. Another term used to describe Savannahs as being HP (High Percentage) is misleading as well, and is nothing more than a marketing tool. Serval percentage in Savannahs can only be estimated.

Myth #13 - Savannahs are often turned loose to wreak havoc on the local wildlife population and breed rampantly with feral cats.

Savannahs are almost never "turned loose"! Those that do escape and are missing for several weeks are often found thin, very hungry and in need of veterinary attention. A few have been found feeding with the local feral cats from common meal sites. Since most Savannahs are sold as pets, they are often spayed or neutered as kittens before leaving for their new homes. All Savannah male cats are sterile from F1-F3 generations. A few F4 males have proven fertile, but this is rare and not the norm. Male infertility in the lower generations (F5-F7) is still being seen, and many female Savannahs are very choosy about who they choose to mate with...many feral and domestic cats are equally as choosy to their mates. In addition, a cat that cost at least $1000 is not likely to be tossed outdoors. Many breeders have a clause contained in their kitten contracts requiring they be notified and the cat or kitten returned to them if owners are no longer able to keep them.

Myth #14 - Savannah cats ALL spray and refuse to use the litter box.

Savannahs, like every other breed of domestic cats, do not spray once spayed or neutered as a kitten. Some, but not all, intact adult male and female cats may spray to mark their territory. Males and females that are altered as adults often never spray again, like any other domestic cat breed. Litter box issues are the #1 reason cats of all breeds or mixed are surrendered to shelters. A Savannah cat that has been taught proper litter box usage as a kitten, is no more likely than any other house cat to refuse to use them. There are many behavioral techniques to address litter box avoidance by cats including, but not limited to: using a different litter, changing the size, shape and amount of litter boxes as well as the location, and ruling out urinary tract infections (a common house cat malady) that can contribute to cat litter box issues.


Savannah Super Cat
Yes thank you for posting and ironic that I am reading this today.

I spent time with a friend of mine from the shelter I use to volunteer with and she had some not so nice things to say about savannahs, a lot of the above that you wrote about forgetting that I own 2 of them. When I reminded her that I did own 2 and how they were nothing as she was describing and the best cats I have ever owned, I could see that my arguments were not being taken seriously which really upset me. Opinions seemed to be formed on this breed by those who do not own them, or by horror stories heard, most of which are not true.

It upset me terrible tonight, felt like my kids were being judged unfairly.


Staff member
It is ironic, Karen, and I'm sorry your friend upset you.

When I am walking Taj around my neighborhood, I get to do a bit of educating, since people have heard this and heard that about the breed - and most of it is not true...

Brigitte Cowell

Staff member
I'm so sorry, Karenleigh :-(

yes, some prefer to believe the ugly rumors... not entirely sure what the motivation is to believe negative information and not be open to learning more. I carry a lot of pics on my phone showing them in my home, on my bed, in my bathtub, with the dog etc to show them that really they do live as housepets! It's definitely frustrating to deal with such people though :-(


George's brother
I have lived and dealt with some very "bad (tough)" dogs and horses over the years. It was my thing for years. I always have a healthy respect for what could happen in the best of situations with any animal and kids. I have rules about our very good dog never being with the kids when I am not home, for her safety as well. No one could have prepared me for the reality of George and the family. I could not have paid enough money for a more perfect pet. He wants to interact with the kids, be with them, be involved with their games. He is gental with them, keeps his claws in, doesn't bite and just exhists in the middle of chaos happily. When they are sleeping he looks for them. My husband and I watch in amazement. No puppy would be able to be with them and not bite and jump (just being normal) no kitten I have ever seen would chose to remain in the "pile" for any length of time. It is amazing. It is also closely supervised, no one can use their hands to play with him, no chasing by him or them, no picking him up, and no putting your face in his face. He gets plenty of time by himself to eat and sleep as well. I will tell you why we are so amazed, I have 9 children, 7 of whom are six and under. Quiet is now at 3 in the morning, this is the only quiet time! The SV is the perfect pet for us.


Staff member
Thank you so much for sharing George with us Cindy! He sounds so amazing! And we are so happy to be able to hear about him and watch him grow through your stories and photos.

Sounds as though you have a wealth of experience and know exactly what you are talking about. welcome to the world of the Savannah Cat :big grin: