The Savannah cat—a cross between a domestic cat and an African Serval—is a very unique kind of feline and there are several different types, beginning from F1 and going all the way down to F8. If you’re unsure what the “F” means, each type of Savannah is assigned a “Filial Designation” number based on their generation.
For example, an F1 Savannah cat is a first-generation Savannah, meaning they were bred directly from a domestic cat and an African Serval. F1 Savannahs have around 50–75% Serval blood, though this percentage can be higher under certain circumstances. On the other hand, an F2 Savannah cat is a second-generation Savannah and has about 25–37.5% Serval blood.
As the two earliest generations, the F1 and F2 Savannah have several common traits, but there are also some differences that you’ll want to take into account when deciding which type is best for you.
At a Glance
F1 Savannah Cat Overview
The F1 is the type of Savannah closest to African Servals, so they have a rather unique array of both Serval and domestic cat traits and a very distinctive look. They’re a pretty special case in the cat world, and owning one is even illegal in some states, so be sure to check your local laws on F1 Savannah ownership before you acquire one.
F1 Savannah cats are highly intelligent, inquisitive, playful, and energetic, and have a tendency to bond very closely with one or two people in the family. They’re known for being fiercely loyal to their “chosen” people and greatly enjoy spending time around them.
The cat world is somewhat divided as to whether or not F1 Savannahs are family-friendly, with some claiming that they get on really well with kids as long as they’ve been socialized alongside them and children treat them with respect, though the Savannah Cat Association doesn’t recommend F1s for families with young children (children under 3–5 years old).
One thing’s for sure, though—F1 Savannahs are likely not suitable for first-time cat owners because, though they have some wonderful traits that make them great companions under the right circumstances, they are known for being somewhat challenging in a variety of ways.
In particular, F1 Savannahs can be quite demanding of human attention, and they’re so intelligent that some get into habits like opening doors and getting into places or getting their paws on objects they shouldn’t. They’re also not suitable for homes with small animals due to their strong prey and hunting drive.
Health & Care
First, the good news—Savannah cats are generally a healthy breed and are pretty easy to care for in terms of coat care. They only need to be brushed weekly because their coats are short and don’t shed much. They do, however, need regular nail trimming, since overgrowth can develop into a lot of pain and discomfort for cats.
For the not-so-good news, Savannahs are prone to a serious heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which is a thickening of the heart walls. There is a higher chance of a Savannah cat suffering from this disease than a domestic cat. For this reason, it’s prudent to select your breeder carefully—make sure you choose a reputable breeder who takes health screening seriously.
Moreover, Savannah cats are large, energetic cats that need a high-quality diet to maintain their general health and energy levels. They should also have permanent access to clean water.
Exercise & Play
If you’re hoping for a cat that will spend a lot of time snoozing on the couch, an F1 Savannah is not for you! These cats are highly active and energetic and are prone to destructive behavior if they don’t get enough exercise and play.
Savannahs love to climb and jump, so it’s a good idea to provide large cat trees and high-up spots for your F1 to explore. You can also exercise and mentally stimulate your Savannah by offering toys like obstacle feeders, chaser wands, and lasers, by playing games like “fetch”, and by taking them for walks on a leash outdoors.
Keep them close while outside, though—Savannahs are notoriously territorial. For this reason, you might want to choose private, quiet areas to walk your F1 on a leash and harness.
F1 Savannah cats are undoubtedly the most expensive of all generations. You can expect to pay between $15,000 and $20,000 to a breeder for an F1 Savannah cat.
You could always try exploring Savannah cat rescue organizations to see if there are any F1s available, though, from our research, they seem to be harder to find for adoption than Savannahs of later generations. This is likely because F1 Savannahs are quite rare due to difficulties in breeding domestic cats and Servals.
An F1 Savannah cat would be best suited to an experienced owner who is up for a bit of a challenge. If you have very young children or small pets or don’t have the time to commit to a cat that can be quite demanding in terms of exercise needs and the attention they require, you might want to go for another type of cat instead of a Savannah.
The Savannah Cat Association recommends F3 Savannahs and later generations for families with children, as these generations tend to be more domestic cat-like than earlier generations.
F2 Savannah Cat Breed Overview
F2 Savannahs are second-generation, with one of the grandparents being a Serval. In terms of appearance and temperament, they’re pretty similar to an F1 Savannah. The F2 can also grow to be quite large, though some may be a tad smaller and lighter than F1s. Like F1 Savannahs, F2 Savannahs are banned in some states.
The F2 Savannah shares many character traits with the F1, including playfulness, high energy, trainability, and the tendency to form strong bonds with the family, but F2s are considered by some breeders to be more affectionate and more sociable in general than F1s. This may mean that some F2s are somewhat less suspicious of strangers than F1s are.
Like F1s, however, the Savannah Cat Association notes that F2 Savannahs can be “challenging for a household with small children” because of their need for a lot of attention and their tendency to be “aloof with strangers and children”.
If you’re considering getting an F2 Savannah cat but aren’t sure if this would be the right choice for you, it’s a good idea to meet with a responsible breeder, spend some time with their F2 kittens, and ask the breeder any questions you may have.
Health & Care
Like the F1, F2 Savannahs are generally healthy, but they are at risk of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. If you buy from a breeder, it’s important to make sure your F2 Savannah comes from a responsible one. In terms of general care, the F2 Savannah’s needs are the same as those of an F1—ear, nail, and tooth maintenance are necessary to help keep infections and oral health issues at bay.
A high-quality diet is another crucial part of keeping your F2 Savannah healthy and preventing issues like taurine deficiency. Cats’ bodies aren’t good at producing taurine, which is why this is an essential nutrient in all cats’ diets.
Exercise & Play
An F2 Savannah’s exercise needs are the same as those of an F1. These cats are known for adapting well to wearing a harness and leash because they enjoy getting out and exploring, but you should always keep your Savannah leashed and close to you when out and about to avoid issues with other animals and strangers.
Remember that these cats can be pretty territorial and, since they’re larger than a standard cat, may be able to inflict more damage if they get into a scuffle with another neighborhood cat or dog. In addition to getting your F2 used to a harness, they’ll also need plenty of play sessions and places to climb and explore around your home.
The higher the Filial Designation, the more expensive the Savannah cat will be, which is why F1s and F2s cost a lot when you buy from a breeder. F2s are less expensive than F1s, however, and typically cost anywhere between $4,000 and $12,000 depending on the breeder.
Again, adoption is always an option to consider, though, as with F1s, it’s harder to find an F2 up for adoption than an F3, F4, or F5 Savannah cat.
Though F2 Savannahs are often considered to be a little more mellow than F1s, they’re still far from the easiest cats to parent, so they’d be best placed with an experienced owner who is well-prepared for the challenges that may come with owning one of these cats.
The Savannah Cat Association does not recommend F2s for homes with very young children because they can be quite demanding, but it really depends on their socialization. If you are welcoming an F2 into a home with kids, it’s important to always supervise them together and socialize the Savannah cat with the children from kittenhood.
Which Breed Is Right for You?
Both the F1 and F2 Savannah are gorgeous, exotic cats that form solid bonds with the people closest to them and will show love and loyalty for life to these people. They’re also both playful, curious, companionable, and fun-loving. Some breeders consider the F2 to be a little easier to manage than an F1, but both generations come with both great points and challenges.
If you’re considering sharing your life with an F1 or F2 Savannah cat, we strongly recommend communicating openly and honestly any questions and concerns you have to your breeder or the rescue organization you’re adopting your Savannah from. A responsible breeder would not lie to you just to get your money if they don’t think you and a Savannah would be a good fit for each other.
On that note, if you do buy a Savannah from a breeder, we’d like to reiterate just how crucial it is to choose a responsible and reputable one that socializes its kittens and screens for health issues. Never buy from a pet store or backyard breeder as this could lead to any number of serious issues down the line.
See also: Are Savannah Cats Illegal In Georgia? What You Need to Know
Featured Image Credit: Top – Savannah F1 Cat (Kolomenskaya Kseniya, Shutterstock) | Bottom – Savannah Kittens F2b (Lifeatthesharpend, Wikimedia Commons CC0 1.0)