You saw a cat and now you’re uncertain about its breed. Is it a Savannah cat or a wild Serval cat?
Your confusion is absolutely normal. These two breeds are closely related and share common physical features.
The Savannah cat is a relatively new breed that was developed around 35 years ago. It resulted from crossbreeding wild Serval cats from Africa with domestic felines.
There are a couple of Savannah cat generations nowadays, meaning that they vary in percentage of the serval blood they possess.
How similar is the Savannah cat to the Serval cat? This close insight into a Savannah cat vs Serval cat debate brings you their similarities and differences.
Savannah Cat Vs Serval Overview
|Weight||9-24 pounds||20-40 pounds|
|Height||14-17 inches||17-24 inches|
|Length||20-22 inches||24-40 inches|
|Coat type||Short, dense||Long, smooth|
|Coat colors||Black, black smoke, brown spotted tabby, silver spotted tabby||Tawny with black lines and spots|
|Temperament||Loyal, friendly, intelligent, active||Aloof, strong, solitary|
|Health||Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, dental problems, Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency||Diarrhea, vomiting, swallowing foreign objects|
|Lifespan||12-15 years||10-12 years in the wild/up to 20 years in captivity|
The first notable difference between Savannah and Serval cats is their size.
The Serval is larger in all aspects. This wild cat weighs 20 to 40 pounds on average. Its height goes from 17 to 24 inches, while its length can vary between 24 to 40 inches.
Savannah isn’t a small cat, either. But, its size can vary, depending on the Savannah generation. So, these cats can weigh anywhere from 9 to 24 pounds.
They can be 14 to 17 inches tall, while their average length is 20 to 22 inches.
The F1 Savannah cat is the most similar one to its Serval parent. Most usually, these cats originated from a Serval father, while their mother is a domestic cat.
The F1 generation Savannah cats are usually bred with breeds like Siamese. Their offspring make the F2 generation of Savannah cats that are noticeably smaller than Servals and F1 Savannah cats, too.
Furthermore, the F3 Savannah cat is even smaller, and so on.
Coat Type And Colors
The Serval cat boasts a long and smooth coat, while the Savannah cats feature a short coat.
The Serval cat has a yellow to orange coat color with black lines and spots. Savannah cats have a spotted coat, too, but it doesn’t have to be as tawny as in Servals.
Due to crossbreeding with various domestic cat breeds, the Savannah cat can have other coat colors, as well.
According to the TICA breed standard, recognized coat colors with this breed are brown spotted tabby, black, black smoke, and silver spotted tabby. Additionally, there are some other possible colors, although they are considered nonstandard, such as chocolate, blue, and seal.
Body And Facial Features
Savannah cats resemble Servals with their long legs and athletic bodies.
They also have an exotic and graceful look which can make people easily mistake them for Servals.
Another common trait they share is a small head. Both these breeds have long ears, while the Serval has longer ones.
Temperament And Behavior
These two cats can look a lot alike in physical appearance, but their temperaments are far from each other.
The Serval cat is a loner. It enjoys living and hunting on its own. They’re only interested in other Serval cats during the mating season. Of course, a mother Serval cat takes good care of its kittens and this is also a situation when a Serval will live with other cats.
However, once their kittens are old enough, they will find their own territory and will be separated from their mother. The mother isn’t likely to miss her kittens after the separation, and vice versa.
Owning a Serval cat as a pet is a controversial issue. According to the World Population Review, some US states prohibit keeping them as pets, while others require specific permits.
Some of the states that permit to own a Serval cat without obtaining a permit are Alabama, Michigan, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Washington.
Here it’s essential to understand that it will never be possible to entirely domesticate a wild cat like Serval. Some of these cats could bond with their owners, but there is really no guarantee.
On the other hand, there is the Savannah cat. Since these cats have been domesticated for years, their temperament is now adjusted to living with humans.
These felines are active and intelligent, as well as friendly and loyal to their owners. They enjoy receiving cuddles from their humans, and can even get along with other pet cats. Savannah cats are highly trainable and capable of learning commands quickly.
However, Savannah cats still retain some of the instincts of Serval cats.
This cat still has a strong urge to hunt, which can even get problematic if it has free outdoor access.
Savannah cats differ from Serval in regard to health problems.
Some of the most common health problems with this breed are dental issues. Also, the Savannah could suffer from Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency.
PetMD explains this condition causes anemia and other blood-related issues in a cat. Some of the most common symptoms of this disease are weakness, elevated heart rate, and muscle wasting. Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency is typically caused by a genetic defect.
Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy is another health condition specific to the Savannah breed. This condition causes the muscular walls of a cat’s heart to thicken and is the most commonly diagnosed cardiac issue in cats.
Some of the health issues typical for Serval cats are gastrointestinal problems such as vomiting and diarrhea.
Another possible issue with them is swallowing foreign objects that can get stuck in their throat or anywhere in their gastrointestinal tract.
On some occasions, this health issue requires surgical removal. It’s even possible for a Serval to choke if surgical removal isn’t successful.
Savannah cats typically live 12 to 15 years.
Serval cats in the wild have an average lifespan of 10 to 12 years. However, living in captivity can prolong their life expectancy even up to 20 years.
There are some obvious differences between a Savannah cat and a Serval cat’s lifestyles. This also indicates that they have different care requirements.
So, let’s look at them and see how challenging it is to take care of both of these cats.
The Savannah cat’s soft and short coat is pretty easy to maintain.
It doesn’t shed a lot, but there are potential causes of increased amount of shedding with this breed, such as seasonal changes.
Brushing this cat once a week will be enough to keep its coat looking nice and neat. Bathing is only necessary if a veterinarian recommends it, or in case a Savannah cat’s coat gets seriously dirty.
Of course, nail trimming and teeth brushing should be a regular part of taking care of this cat.
The Serval cat also isn’t likely to shed a lot. Wild cat breeds like this one usually shed their coats twice a year. They do a good job grooming themselves, just like the domestic cats do, too.
Servals, of course, aren’t used to people taking care of their coats. They are loners and enjoy doing their care on their own terms.
Both the Savannah cat and the Serval are highly energetic and active breeds.
Still, their activity levels cannot be equalized. Servals are agile jumpers that can leap over 5 feet in the air, as explained by the Spruce Pets. They are large, active predators that need a lot of space to roam freely.
This means that a small household is definitely not an eligible place for them. Owning a wild cat like the Serval necessitates having a large, secure outdoor enclosure where they can engage in their natural behaviors and have ample alone time.
Although the Savannah breed is fully domesticated, it still has high activity levels and certainly isn’t a breed for everyone.
This cat is curious and active, and tends to get bored easily. Therefore, it will need a lot of physical and mental exercise to stay healthy and happy.
These should include play sessions, a variety of toys, scratching posts, cat trees, and a lot of their owners’ attention.
It’s even a good idea to have an additional pet in the household to provide a good playmate for a Savannah cat.
Finally, these two cat breeds differ in nutritional needs.
Just like all cats, both domestic and wild, the Savannah and Serval are carnivores. However, the Serval cat hunts its prey in the wild, meaning that their diet includes birds, rodents, antelope, etc.
On the contrary, Savannah’s diet is like that of any other domesticated cat, consisting of meat primarily. This cat can eat kibble, wet food, or even raw food.
Of course, animal protein should be a number one priority in Savannah’s diet. These cats will still enjoy hunting, but this isn’t their primary way of getting food.
The Bottom Line
What’s the final conclusion on the Savannah cat vs Serval debate?
Well, these two cats are related, but are different in many ways. The most important thing to understand here is that a Savannah is a domesticated cat. The Serval cat is a wild breed.
Although Savannah has serval blood, it has been living alongside humans for years now. This means that it has similar temperament traits to other domesticated cats.
So, this cat is friendly, affectionate, and loyal to its humans. However, it still has some wild cat instincts, such as an extremely high activity level and love for hunting.
Contrary to Savannah cats, Servals are solitary and aloof animals. They aren’t fans of other animals or humans.
Despite the fact both these cats are extremely energetic and active, they have different lifestyles. You can please a Savannah cat’s activity levels within your household.
On the other hand, a Serval cat won’t thrive without a large, fenced enclosure where it will be permitted to jump and run as much as it wants.
The biggest physical difference between these two cats is their size. Also, a Serval always has a tawny spotted coat, while the Savannah cat can feature a couple of other colors as well.
Now, what do you think of a Savannah cat for your pet? And would you ever dare to own a wild cat like Serval?
We’re looking forward to reading your answers!