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Do Savannah Cats Have Long Tails?

Savannah cats have various features that can help you determine that they are in fact a Savannah. Physical attributes most people will look for initially are their long slender legs, large ears, and spotted coat. But many prospective owners wonder if Savannahs have exceptionally long tails.  

Savannah cats don’t have exceptionally long tails. In fact, their tails are actually much shorter in comparison to the rest of their body. Savannahs share a blood line with wild servals that are also known for their short tails and thus have passed this trait on to their hybrid relatives.

So, while their tails are not longer than the average cat’s, Savannahs still rely on their tails for everyday functions. Additionally, their tails still have some distinguishing features that can help identify them as a Savannah in combination with other physical attributes.  

How Long Is A Savannah Cat’s Tail?

Ideally, when selecting a Savannah cat or breeding Savannahs, you are trying to stay as true to the breed standard as possible, which is meant to reflect the physical features of the wild serval. While there will always be some variation due to genetics introduced by domestic breeds, Savannah tails are typically short and thick.

According to The International Cat Association (TICA) breed standard for Savannahs, their tails should fall into this description: “Medium to thick in width. Medium in length, ending between the hock and just above ground level when standing with preferred length just below the hock. Tail should taper slightly to a blunt end. Whippy tails are not desired.”

Sticking To The Breed Standard

If you are serious about sticking to the breed standard, these are the characteristics you will be looking for in your Savannah’s tail. Breeders that are breeding pure breeds via Savannah to Savannah will look for queens and studs with shorter serval-like tails whose parents more than likely also had this trait. This will decrease the chance of breeding a Savannah with a longer than average tail.

On the other hand, some breeders will still use other domestic breeds such as Egyptian Maus, Ocicats, and Oriental Short hairs by breeding them with a serval or a Savannah. These added genes can sometimes alter results and leave your Savannah with a longer whippier tail, and while it may not be desirable in a show cat, they are genetically still a Savannah.

Overall, most Savannahs are going to have a much shorter tail that is relatively thick. While there isn’t a set measurement, on average most Savannah tails will be around eight inches in length. Compared to their other physical features, their tails are probably smaller than most domestic house cats, while their legs, ears, and overall size tend to be much larger.

Can A Savannah Cat Be Identified By Their Tail?

While their tails are included in TICA’s Savannah cat breed standard, which is used to identify the breed, it should not be used as the main identifier. There are plenty of other domestic tabby breeds that can have similar characteristics to a Savannah, including a short tail. However, looking at the breed standard as a whole can help identify a true Savannah.

Like other purebred cats, it’s rare that their genetics are crossed over into mixed breeds unless it is to select desirable physical traits to further the breed standard. To find a stray with similar traits is more than likely a coincidence and not a case of having a Savannah parent.

Not Necessarily A Savannah

Savannahs in general do share some similar genetic characteristics with other cat breeds including their spotted tabby-like coat that can be seen in many domestic cats. However, domestic cats that share similar genetics are not Savannahs. So, while your rescue kitty may seem very Savannah-like, it more than likely just shares some similar qualities.

A more common reason someone may inquire about Savannah identification is to see whether or not their breeder provided them with a true Savannah. This is especially true if you are in the market for an early generation such as an F1, which are intended to look the most like their serval relatives. Unfortunately, there are some breeders out there falsely advertising their Savannah cattery.

Not all breeders will hold to the breed standard either and will experiment with different colors, patterns, and even physical characteristics while breeding Savannahs. This can result in some interesting combinations including a longer tail that may lead you to question whether or not it is a Savannah.

Don’t Rely On One Trait

When identifying your Savannah do not rely on one trait alone including the tail length, especially if you have a later generation Savannah. Sometimes domestic genes can affect the tail length while the rest of their appearance remains in accordance with the breed standard.

Tail length will probably be the least dependable identifier and you will want to instead consider more prominent features. Many show Savannahs are closely looked at for their coat pattern, color, ear size, length of legs, and even their eye shape before moving onto the nose. Essentially you want to look at all the traits as a whole to identify your Savannah versus just one trait alone.

What Does A Savannah Cat Use Their Tail For?

A lot of animals have tails, and many have different uses for them depending on their environment and lifestyle. They come in different shapes, sizes, and even different ranges of mobility and flexibility. Cats have what we call a non-prehensile tail, meaning they can’t use it to grab or hold like some other animals. However, they are still a necessary part of feline life.

The most basic use for a cat’s tail is for balancing purposes. Just as humans will hold their arms out to help balance when walking along a tightrope, a cat uses their tail in much the same way. So, when you see your Savannah walking high up on a perch or even a branch in their enclosure, their tail is maintaining that balance.

Landing On All Fours

Additionally, their tails contribute to their landing on all fours reputation by acting as a counter balance when falling. As your Savannah leaps or slips from a high place, their tail helps maneuver their body to ensure they land on their feet. Of course, this is not fool proof and your Savannah can still have the occasional accident.

While their tails are useful for maintaining their physical needs, Savannahs, like all cats, use their tails as a way to communicate as well. Like humans, Savannahs don’t always use vocal means of communication and will implement body language too.

Tail language is incredibly useful in the feline world but it can also be very useful to you as a Savannah owner. The more you understand your Savannah’s tail movements the better you can serve their needs.

Conveying Their Mood

Savannahs often use their tails to communicate their current mood and emotions which can help you determine how they are feeling. Movements can include swishing, rattling, standing tall, lowered, light twitching, or even wagging like a dog. All of these mean different things from irritation, happiness, relaxed, content, angry, or even scared.

Generally, if your Savannah walks up to you with their tail raised and slightly hooked at the tip it is a friendly greeting and they are probably feeling pretty relaxed. This is the same for a Savannah with a relaxed demeanor and holding their tail in a neutral low position.

However, if your Savannah is swishing their tail rapidly like a whip (not to be confused with wagging) or puffing it up like a bottle brush, they may be feeling irritated or fearful. This is them telling you to back off and that they are not in the mood. If you pursue further, you could end up being scratched – or worse if they are really wound up.

Wagging Their Tails

Savannahs, unlike most other cats, are also known for wagging their tails much like a dog, but does it mean the same thing in cat language as dog language? In this case yes, as Savannahs often wag their tails to signal that they are happy or excited. Many Savannah owners will even note that their cats will greet them when they come home with a wagging tail, happy that they have returned.

Final Thoughts

Savannah cats don’t tend to have exceptionally long tails. Savannahs actually have fairly short tails when compared to the rest of their body, and this is in large part down to their genetics. Sharing a blood line with African servals that have short tails too means Savannahs also show this trait.