Are you interested in the Savannah cat breed but are not sure whether they may be too aggressive for you and your family? Besides, they are a cross between a wild serval and a domestic cat, with wild ancestry, after all. This is all you are going to need to know.
So are Savannah cats aggressive? Savannah cats are not naturally aggressive animals; however, it is true that the closer your cat is related to its wild ancestors, the more likely it will be to display unpredictable tendencies and aggression in response to triggers. For this reason, F1 (first generation) Savannah cats are considered the most aggressive of all the subsequent generations (F2, F3, etc.).
Savannah cats can make loving pets; however, you need to ensure you can provide the proper care they require. Otherwise, these cats can become unpredictable and potentially show signs of aggression.
This is likely why they are illegal to own in several states, while there are stipulations or permits on the generations you can keep in many more.
They are large cats and have a high prey drive, after all.
So, if it is legal and you do decide to own one, it is essential that they are socialized properly and given plenty of opportunities for exercise.
And while this breed will not be for everyone, they can make wonderful loving family pets in the right contexts and with the right care and approach.
Let us now explore the temperament of the Savannah cat in much greater detail.
We’ll also be looking at potential causes of aggression if this breed is known to bite and how to discipline them appropriately should you take one on (owning, that is).
What Is The Average Temperament Of A Savannah Cat?
Savannah cats are highly intelligent and active animals, often referred to as being dog-like in personality. However, Savannah’s temperament will be dependent on its generation.
In numerous states and countries around the world, F1, F2, and F3 Savannah cats are considered to be potentially dangerous and not suitable for a captive home environment.
These cats can still be purchased in some areas, interesting in California, but are best suited to professional wild cat keepers due to their specific needs and unpredictable wild behaviors.
F4 Savannahs and beyond will have lost the majority of the traits displayed by their wild ancestors, so they are considered to be more adapted to life as a pet.
Unlike other cat breeds, Savannah cats are incredibly active and need constant attention and play opportunities to thrive in captivity – Savannahs are not your average lap cats!
Even the most energetic owners may find themselves exhausted looking after a Savannah cat!
So, if you are considering buying one of these magnificent animals, it is essential that you do your research on the breed to ensure you have the time, money, and commitment to care for one properly.
One of the most important considerations for these cats is the provision of sufficient vertical territory which can be achieved with the use of cat trees or shelving.
To thoroughly assess the average temperament of a Savannah cat, we need to delve into the traits of their wild ancestor – the Serval.
Servals can be found across grasslands and savannahs in 35 African countries.
They have the longest legs, compared to the body size of any breed of cat, which gives them the amazing ability to jump over 10ft in one leap!
They have also been clocked at running speeds of up to 50mph.
Their long oval ears are perfectly adapted to be able to hear rodents running under the ground and are adept at hunting fish and frogs.
Servals are incredibly proficient hunters, with 50% of their hunting attempts being successful (compared to 10% for many other large cat species).
The way they hunt is fairly unusual, compared to other big cats, as they perform a high vertical hop to stun their prey as they land back on the ground.
Servals roam territories of 3-9km for females and double that for males.
This is perhaps one of the most prolific issues in domestic Savannah cats, as they have been known to become incredibly territorial if there are other cats in the neighborhood, even attacking them.
For this reason, it is essential that you introduce your Savannah cat to other household pets very slowly, and they should never be trusted with small pets such as hamsters because of their high prey drives.
Due to their high intelligence, Savannah cats have been known to learn how to open cage doors and as they are not afraid of water, they are more than happy to dip their paws into a fish tank to grab the tasty creatures inside.
So you should ensure that any small pet enclosure you have is secure and even double-locked where necessary.
The best option is to ensure your Savannah cat cannot access their cages at all by keeping them in separate rooms.
Surprisingly, Savannah cats are highly social animals who love to follow their owners around looking for attention.
This is in stark contrast to the solitary nature of wild Servals and is down to the intense socializing process that all purpose-bred Savannah kittens have to go through before they can be sold.
Do Savannah Cats Bite?
Savannah cats can bite if provoked, just like other cats; however, you need to be extra careful with F1 Savannah cats because of their size and unpredictability.
Wild Servals have a bite force of 172 Newtons, which is high compared to the 56 Newton bite force of feral domestic cats.
Saying that an F5 or F6 Savannah cat will behave in very much the same way as any other domestic cat.
Savannah cats with a high proportion of Serval genes in them are not considered to be suitable for families with young children, as they may lash out in defense if play gets too rough.
Also, remember that Servals are incredibly strong, active cats, so a Savannah can easily injure a young child with his claws whilst playing.
It is very unlikely that your Savannah cat will bite you as they are generally very loyal towards their owners. However, it is better to be safe than sorry with these large, strong natural predators.
It is important to note that, as an owner, it is your responsibility to ensure your Savannah cat is appropriately trained to deter any acts of aggression.
These cats are very smart, so they can be easily trained using positive reinforcement and target training methods.
Before you purchase a Savannah cat, you should familiarise yourself with the body postures exhibited by this breed to ensure you can recognize the signs of aggression, defense, and anxiousness in your pet.
Cat aggression is often misunderstood, with many people believing that cats can attack suddenly without provocation.
This is not true.
Prior to any attack, the cat would have been displaying subtle behavioral signs and body postures to indicate something is wrong.
Learning to recognize these signs will help you to assess how your cat is feeling and help you to know when to intervene.
Here are a few signs to watch out for:
- Arched back
- Ears flat against the head or pulled back
- Tail swishing
- Showing teeth
- Crouched down
- Inappropriate urination or territory marking
- Hissing or growling
In addition, male Serval cats have been observed performing an aggressive ritualistic behavior which has been seen in F1 Savannah cats.
They sit and face each other as one cat puts his paw on the other’s chest.
The second animal may bob his head in response, but the situation can escalate when the second cat bites the upraised paw.
This can lead to a full-blown fight, but more often, it results in a prolonged staring competition until one cat backs off.
What Can Make Savanah Cats Aggressive?
Savannah cats are not inherently aggressive; however, they can display aggressive tendencies if they feel threatened or frustrated. More often than not, aggressive tendencies in Savanah’s are caused by inappropriate socialization when they are young.
This is why it is so important that you purchase a Savannah cat from a reputable breeder and avoid backyard breeders at all costs.
Backyard breeders are just out to make money, so they usually have very low welfare standards.
The process of breeding Savannah cats is very tightly regulated because of their wild ancestry.
Savannah kittens require regular handling and constant human interaction in the early weeks of life, which means that breeders have to spend hours with them every day to ensure they are appropriately socialized.
Savannah cats may also begin to display aggressive behaviors if they are not given enough opportunities to exercise and stimulate their brains.
If you are out during the day, you need to ensure you give your Savannah cat plenty of interactive toys to keep them fully entertained and ensure toys are rotated regularly to prevent boredom.
Bored Savannah cats can become very destructive! Introducing your Savannah cat to your other cats or dogs too quickly can also result in aggression as your Savannah will feel the need to actively defend his territory.
Slow introductions, build up over the course of several weeks, are the best option for Savannah’s as well as other cat breeds.
This will allow them to get used to new scents and individuals in their territories without feeling the need to resort to aggression.
If your Savannah hisses at you, the best course of action is to move away until the frustration subsides.
More aggressive behaviors may warrant intensive training, or it could indicate a medical issue. If you are unsure, it is best to seek the advice of a vet.
How Do You Discipline A Savannah Cat?
Savannah cats are known to respond well to positive reinforcement, which is the best method to train your cat. You should NEVER punish or hit a Savannah cat, as this is likely to make your cat defensive and potentially aggressive.
Understanding that your Savannah cat has specific needs is the first step towards ensuring you raise a healthy, happy cat.
Savannah cats need to run, jump and climb, so it is not appropriate to discipline your cat for these behaviors.
Instead, you can try to redirect their behaviors away from your precious vases and ornaments by providing plenty of cat-friendly shelves, cat posts, and cat trees, as well as plenty of interaction with you as the owner.
Savannah cats can also be trained to walk on a harness and lead, which will give them plenty more opportunities to explore!
With positive training, it is essential that you offer treats or rewards every time your cat performs the desired behavior.
As incredibly smart cats, they will soon pick up on the behaviors that result in tasty rewards!
Always remember that Savannah cats (especially F1, F2, and F3 generations) are partially wild animals.
For this reason, you must do your research to ensure you understand the needs, spatial requirements, and behaviors of these cats.
Despite their popularity as pets, they remain very controversial, and it is important to remember that they can also be unpredictable.
These cats are stronger than your general domestic cat, so you should refrain from using your hands during playtime, as this will just encourage your Savannah to bite your hand.
Instead, try using a wand toy or laser pointer to help your cat burn off some of that excess energy!
If play gets too rough, the best course of action is to stop play and walk off.
Savannah cats live for attention from their owners, so they will quickly realize that something went wrong if you leave.
If you find that nothing works and your Savannah cat continues to display aggressive tendencies, then you may need to seek the expertise of a cat behaviorist, or you can also ask your vet for advice.
Savannah cats are stunning, loving creatures, but you must respect the wild nature of this breed and ensure that you can cater to their specific needs.
At the same time, it is crucial to become familiar with the generations and opt for one accordingly.
A family with young children, for instance, will typically do much better with a kitten from a latter generation (F4) and later.
And once in your care, you need to look after and care for them properly.
Respect your cats’ natural behaviors, learn to read their moods, and be aware that Savannah cats are naturally wary of strangers.
By doing so, you can have a devoted and loving pet for years to come.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.