Many pet owners also have kids, and one of the questions they may have before bringing home a new furry friend, is whether or not they will be able to coexist. Savannah cats have very unique temperaments, and so it’s worth asking if Savannah cats get along with kids.
Savannah cats do tend to get along with kids very well. However, it is important that your Savannah has been socialized well as a kitten by you or your breeder. Under socialized Savannah cats have a much harder time adjusting to others, and this can include kids.
Below, we will expand more on the personality of Savannah cats and their behavior, as well as how you can help build their social skills. Together you and your family can ensure that your Savannah feels welcome and included, making them a loyal companion to you and your kids.
Are Savannah Cats Domestic?
Savannah cats are not quite domestic and are referred to as a hybrid species, being a cross between a domestic cat and a wild African serval. Their wild genes make them a little different from domestic cats both in size and personality. So, while not fully domestic, Savannah cats have become a standardized breed and are domesticated in that they reside with humans.
The domestic cat is formally known as Felis catusand is the only species in the cat family that has been domesticated. Humans are thought to have started domesticating African wildcats as early as 7200BC in the Fertile Crescent. Cats were used to help deter rodents and other pests and quickly became known as companions.
Over time through selective breeding, we now have what we know as the domestic house cat today. While these cats can range from indoor pets to free roaming feral cats, even the wildest of the breed is considered domestic. Being so far removed from their wild ancestors, their personalities, temperaments, and physical attributes have evolved very differently.
The Effects Of Domestication
As a domesticated species their temperaments are much less wild and more likely to be friendly towards humans. Even feral kittens, if socialized early on, have a better chance of being sociable with humans than a wild African serval. While both domestic and wild species share some key natural instincts, domestication tends to lessen the intensity of those instincts.
When thinking about hybrid species like the Savannah, the goal is often to capture the wild look of the selected wild breed and the tameness of a domestic cat. African servals are a relatively small wild cat breed, making them a more acceptable choice than say a cheetah, but you are still able to obtain a similar coat pattern when you breed them with domestic cats.
So, Savannah cats are really partially a domestic cat, and depending on what generation they are they could be more domestic than serval. Earlier generations of Savannah cat can be up to 87.5% serval (average 62%), exhibiting more serval characteristics. But as F3s and later are only around 12% serval, they behave much more like a domestic cat.
What Is The Temperament Of A Savannah Cat?
The temperament of your Savannah will depend greatly not only on what generation they are but also how well they were socialized as kittens. Naturally, earlier generations are going to be a bit more wild and share a lot in common with their serval relatives, while later generations will be much more tame, like the domestic house cat.
The generation you decide on will depend on what kind of lifestyle you have, your home environment, and whether you have kids or other pets. If you are a homebody who likes to spend lots of time at home, you may opt for an F1 Savannah, while someone who works or travels a lot may want to instead choose an F4 or F5.
When speaking about “F” generations we are referring to how many generations removed they are from their serval relatives. So, an F1 Savannah would be the first generation with a serval father and domestic or Savannah mother, while an F3 would be three generations removed with a serval great grandfather. The later the generation the more domesticated the Savannah becomes.
If you are considering an F1 Savannah keep in mind that it takes an incredible amount of responsibility to care for them as they are much more wild in their temperaments. Early generation Savannahs are very needy and will become bored or lonely very easily. If you are someone who isn’t home a lot, an F1 may not be for you.
Because they can become bored so easily, F1s tend to get into a lot of things they shouldn’t if they don’t have a proper environment to keep them entertained. Their large size and agility allow them to jump heights of 7 feet, granting them access to areas where they may damage your belongings, eat your food, or pose a danger to themselves. Being intelligent, they can also learn to open cabinets.
F1’s need lots of exercise and playtime as well, which is dependent on your dedication to spend time with them. An under socialized F1 Savannah can be irritable, more likely to scratch and bite or become aloof or anxious, which could create an unhealthy environment for both you and your Savannah. Many F1s have been surrendered because their owners did not understand the responsibility required.
An F2 Savannah will have a similar temperament to an F1 but tend to be a little more social and willing to be picked up, or at the very least lay on your lap. They are also a little more independent and can handle short periods of separation better than an F1. With that said, they still have a lot of energy and require a lot of daily interaction.
F3s And F4s
The F3 generations are where we start to get to the sweet spot between wild and domestic. F3s maintain that larger build and exotic look, while they exhibit more domestic traits, being much more affectionate. They enjoy cuddles and belly rubs while still enjoying doing their own thing, whether that’s napping in the sun or playing with their favorite toy.
Once we start moving into the F4 generation Savannahs will start looking smaller but still have that serval coat pattern so many people love. These cats are very playful and intelligent, and they will still want to be around you constantly. They are easily leash trained like the earlier generations and love accompanying you on walks.
F5 generation and onward are considered to be the perfect Savannahs for any family. These cats mostly exhibit their domestic traits, while being very loyal, cuddly, playful, and all-around great companions. Their temperaments are mostly calm, having the energy levels typically associated with a domestic cat. They still enjoy play time but can also spend hours lounging with you on the couch.
These Savannahs are also able to handle being left alone for long periods of time, be it long work days or family vacations. That’s not to say they never get lonely, but they handle being separated much better than the early generations and won’t find new ways to destroy the house while you’re gone! They are perfect in that they look exotic but have all the best qualities of a domestic cat.
Do Savannah Cats Get Along With Kids?
As with any pet you want to educate your children on the importance of pet care and interaction prior to bringing your new friend home. Young children especially should learn what is acceptable behavior around an animal and what is not. This is particularly important if you are considering getting a hybrid like a Savannah.
Because earlier generations can be a bit more wild in their play, it’s important to socialize your Savannah as a kitten. You should also teach your children how to encourage healthy play to avoid creating habits of biting or scratching at you or the kids. Some people recommend early generations only for kids that are 12 and older, but that’s not always necessary if the proper steps are taken.
In some cases, early generation adults may not have been properly socialized and can be more unpredictable in their behavior. These Savannahs may not be the right fit for you and your family and are better suited as the only pet in a home without young children. It’s not to say you cannot train an under socialized Savannah, but it could present more risk if you have kids.
However, Savannah’s are generally great family companions, especially the later generations with more domestic tendencies. When you bring your kitten home make sure everyone in the household has a chance to handle them every day. Having your kids interact with their Savannah kitten will make your Savannah realize they too are companions.
After a while your Savannah will readily follow your kids around the house and want to be included in what they are doing. Because they love water so much there are even cases of kids sharing their kiddie pools with their Savannahs! This provides playtime for both as well as some great bonding opportunities.
Encouraging Healthy Play
Be sure to also teach your kids not to let your Savannah bite or swat them when playing, and to instead offer toys or treats to redirect their focus from them. They should also understand that retaliation (swatting back) is not an option. This encourages healthy play and reduces the chances of one of your kids getting injured.
In the same respect your kids should know how to read your Savannah’s body language. Cats can tell you a lot just by how they are expressing themselves, be it with a swinging tail, focused eyes, or perked ears, these can all be signs your cat is about to strike. If your kids know the signs of when your Savannah isn’t in the mood, they will be less likely to annoy your cat.
Anyone who has owned a cat has probably been swatted or bitten at least once, but with the proper precautions it can be easily avoided. Usually, a Savannah scratches or bites purely out of play, and they are not known to be aggressive unless they’re really pushed too far. So, all in all, Savannahs can make great family pets.
If you are willing to take the proper steps and precautions, introducing a Savannah to the family can be very rewarding. These cats are very loyal and can become close long-time companions with your children. It is recommended however that you start out with a Savannah kitten, to ensure they are properly socialized.
While not fully wild your Savannah still has wild tendencies, and it’s important for both your cat and your kids to be properly educated in safe play. In a way it comes down to being respectful to one another and creating a healthy environment for your Savannah, keeping both your pets and your kids safe.