If you’re a first time Savannah cat owner, you have probably come across “F” ratings. You may be wondering how their behavior and personality is affected by the rating, and what the F ratings of Savannah cats mean.
The “F” stands for “Filial”, a system that measures the amount of wild Serval genes in Savannahs. For example, an “F1” Savannah would be a first generation with one serval parent and one domestic parent. The higher the numerical value the further removed from servals the generation is.
If you are thinking of purchasing a Savannah or if you already own one, knowing more about their F rating can be helpful in understanding your cat’s personality. We’ll discuss these aspects below, along with the legal effects that an F rating may have in certain areas too.
What Does The “F” Mean?
The “F” in a Savannah rating stands for the word “filial”, which is used to describe the generations following that of the parent generation in a controlled mating environment. The filial system dates back as far as Gregor Mendel, the “Father of Genetics”, who originally tested crosses of garden peas.
F For Filial
So, the two original parents would be labeled as the parental generation (P-generation) and each new generation would be a filial generation (F-generation). F-generations start at one and continue in numerical order. The further down the line in generation the less genetic material relates back to the original p-generation.
Creating several F generations can help us understand an organism’s different phenotypes and genotypes. These are both visible(phenotype) and underlying(genotype) traits that an organism can possess. Breeders of both plants and animals use this knowledge to obtain specific genetic traits in their offspring.
The filial system is used for Savannah cats because they are a hybrid species, meaning they’re a cross between a domestic and a wild cat. Their F rating indicates how many generations removed they are from their wild relative the African Serval. An F1 Savannah would be 50% Serval while an F2 is between 25-34% Serval, and this continues to decrease with each generation.
There are additional rating systems that apply to Savannahs such as the “Stud Book Tradition”(SBT) which is a purebred Savannah resulting from at least four Savannah-to-Savannah generations. Other ratings include back crosses like Savannah to Serval and other parental combinations. However, for this article we will focus on the “F” rating system as it is the most common.
How The F Rating Affects The Savannah Cat
The F rating of your Savannah can have a large effect on its behavior. For example, an F1 Savannah will share many more traits with a serval than, say, an F5. A Savannah with more wild genes will often display behavior similar to a serval, including higher energy levels and enhanced hunting instincts. Other differences between generations will be their size, color, and coat patterns.
If you are planning to breed Savannahs, it is also important to mention male F1-F4 Savannahs are considered sterile and cannot reproduce. Because Savannahs are the result of a wild serval and a domestic cat, there are some reproductive challenges to contend with. For example, the gestation period for domestic cats and Savannahs are different, which can affect the development of the kittens.
Serval cats typically have a longer gestation period compared to the domestic female. Ideally, a way to solve birth defects would be to breed male domestics with female servals. However, female servals have never successfully chosen to breed with a domestic male. Therefore, F1 Savannahs are only produced by a male serval and domestic female.
The survival rate for F1 kittens is much lower than later generations and they are often stillborn or need to be hand raised. Because it is so hard to breed F1 kittens they are much rarer and more expensive than later generations. Once a breeder has produced a healthy F1 generation they will often stick to breeding F2 generations and back crosses.
If you’re selecting an early generation Savannah such as an F1-F2,you may want to consider whether or not they are the right fit for you and your lifestyle. Early generations require a lot more attention and will often get lonely. If you are someone who is not home often and can’t spend hands-on time with your cat, an F1-F2 Savannah probably isn’t for you.
However, if you are someone who spends a lot of time at home and can give your Savannah lots of attention, an early generation is the perfect fit. These Savannahs are very loyal and love to spend lots of time following their human companions wherever they go. They are also the largest of the breed, reaching up to 25lbs and a height of 20 inches.
Play time is essential as they have very high energy levels and need lots of exercise. Be sure to have plenty of cat towers or other climbing areas to keep your F1 or F2 entertained.
These cats are known to get up to no good by climbing on cabinets, refrigerators, ledges, and other high areas. They are incredibly intelligent and will find all sorts of ways to keep themselves entertained if left alone for long periods of time.
It is also important to note that, while very loyal and playful, the early generations are less likely to want to be held or lay on your lap. This is more of a domestic trait that is not usually present in F1-F2 Savannahs, though they do enjoy being petted and scratched. Additionally, an F1 will be slightly less social than an F2 and will often only pick one human as a companion.
For many, the F3 generation offers a perfect medium between the wild and exotic look of the F1 and F2 generations, while taking on the calmer friendlier characteristics of the domestic tabby. F3 Savannahs tend to be very social and friendly towards their families and even house guests. They are also slightly smaller, usually weighing between 14-20lbs and reaching a shoulder height of 17 inches.
Like the earlier generations, an F3 will still have a very playful demeanor, a love for water, and the ability to be leash trained if desired. Unlike the earlier generations, these Savannahs are more prone to wanting to sit on your lap or be held while being petted. This makes them a great family pet while still giving you the exotic look you desire from the Savannah breed.
As you work your way down to the later generations like F4 and so on, you will start to see more pattern variations and personality differences. These generations have often been crossed with other domestic cat breeds with certain coat patterns or colors. This makes them unique while still keeping some of the younger generation’s exotic looks as well.
Very Intelligent Cats
Because these generations share less genetic material with the wild serval, they also tend to have less energy and exhibit less of the serval’s natural instincts. However, these cats are still considered more intelligent and interactive than an average house cat. Their temperament is considered similar to an F3, but you are usually able to handle them much more.
The later generations are definitely more suited to someone who works or travels more often and needs to be able to leave their cat unsupervised for longer periods. F4 and onwards are more independent and less likely to get lonely and seek out attention from their human companions. However, they still have that Savannah cat loyalty and love spending time with their owners when they are around.
The Legal Side Of F Ratings
No matter what type of Savannah cat or kitten you are thinking of bringing home it is important to check your local laws concerning hybrid breeds. In the United States each state is different in what they require for you to own a Savannah cat. Some states may only allow later generations while others may not allow Savannah breeds of any kind.
Where They Are Illegal
Savannah cats are legal in most states except Nebraska, Georgia, and Hawaii. Those states do not allow for any generation, with exceptions only for zoos and other wildlife rescue centers. Additionally, although their corresponding states allow for F4 generations, both New York City and Denver have made it illegal to own any Savannah breed.
There are a few states, including Washington, Idaho, Texas, Colorado, Alaska, Iowa, New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Delaware, and Maryland that have restrictions in place for Savannah cats. Most restrictions require that you own an F4 or later.
Legal In Most States
The majority of states allow for hybrids without restrictions but strictly prohibit any wild animals such as servals. This lowers the chances of people trying to breed F1 hybrids by possessing a wild animal and not having the proper experience. Furthermore, there are some states that will require a permit if you want to own an F1-F3.
So, be sure to look up not only your state’s laws on hybrid breeds but also your local county or city’s laws. This ensures you do not end up being heavily fined and having your Savannah cat confiscated from you. Being aware of local laws can also help you spot scammers in your area trying to pass off or illegally sell savannahs.
Understanding the F rating system is important for all prospective or current Savannah owners. It can help you determine which Savannah generation is best for you based on their unique differences in personality, size, and pattern. Additionally, knowing your local laws will also help determine which Savannah breed you are allowed to own – if any.