The Meow Of The Wild: Savannah Cats

Written by Thomson Safaris

Savannahs are bred for their spotted coats and more “wild” looking faces and ears
By Jason Douglas (By uploader) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons,

Most people who experience the magnificent wildlife on safari want to keep the amazing memories they made alive.

And then there are the people who want a live version of the wildlife they’ve seen…literally. For these people there’s the Savannah cat, a feline cross-breed between a domestic cat and a serval.

A serval in Ngorongoro Crater. The cats are already hunted for their coats.
Photo: Thomson Safaris guest Chris Kezer

Big, (serval often weigh up to 40 pounds, and stand around two feet tall, and the savannah has inherited these plus-sized genes, regularly weighing in at upwards of 20 pounds), and wild looking—with large, rounded ears, “cheetah-tear” markings near the large nose, and extremely long legs—savannahs are nonetheless reportedly extremely sociable and family-friendly. In temperament, savannahs are often compared to dogs rather than cats, for their loyalty and devotedness to their owners.

But not everyone is thrilled about the race to breed a wilder pet cat.  Australia bans ownership of the breed, because of the greater risk they pose to native small wildlife, and several U.S. states have placed restrictions on savannah ownership. In Massachusetts, for example, ownership of a savannah is limited to research or educational purposes; you can’t just pick one up because you want an “interesting” kitten.

There’s good reason for the concern; even without crossbred superpowers, domestic cats kill over a billion birds a year. Perhaps even more importantly, recent research has shown that creating demand for “wild” pets threatens the very species that have sparked the interest in the first place. Servals are already hunted in Africa, in large part because of their beautiful coats, and creating an interest in keeping them as pets (or even just as breeding stock) encourages poachers to illegally take even more of them from the wild.

Anyone lucky enough to spot an elusive serval on safari will admire its grace and beauty. Make sure you create a lasting memory of that moment…by taking a picture.