Serval Cats Vs Savannah Cats: What are the Differences

A Savannah cat sitting in front of a grey wall.

Serval and Savannah cats are not the same. A serval is a wild animal from Africa. On the other hand, the Savannah cat is a hybrid of a wild serval and a domestic cat. This article explores the differences between Serval Cats vs Savannah Cats.

Crossing between small feral cats and domestic breeds is not a novel. In fact, the Bengals (a cross between a domestic cat and an Asian leopard cat) are rank as a separate breed by the International Cat Association’s (TICA).

Breeders have created an opportunity for pet parents to raise a pet that looks like a wild cat but has a sweet house kit temperament. Is this balance possible? Here, we will look at the key differences and similarities between Savannah cats and their wild cousins, i.e., Servals.

Are Serval and Savannah Cats Related?

While savannah cats have serval ancestors, Savannah cats are domesticated while servals are wild. This is an important distinction to remember.

Wild animals have a different set of needs that are met by different habitats, foods and behaviours, and are not suitable for living in a house. On the other hand, with the domestic influence of domestic cats, Savannah cats can become a perfect pet and lifelong friend.

1.     What is a Serval Cat? Vs, What Is A Savannah Cat?

The Serval Cat:

A Serval Cat walking through a grassy area.
Serval Cat

The Serval (Leptailurus serval) is a feral cat of Africa. It is uncommon in North Africa and the Sehal but is widespread in all rainforest regions except sub-Saharan countries. It is found in protected areas within its borders, and its hunting is either prohibited or regulated in range countries.

The Serval is a lone carnivore who is active both day and night. It preys on rats, especially valley mice, small birds, insects, frogs, and other animals, using their sense of hearing to find prey.

It jumps 2 meters (7-8 feet) off the ground to land on its prey and eventually kills it by cutting its neck or head.

  • Thin, short and long, the servals (Leptailurus serval) stand out beautifully in a hollow shape even though their coat hides them in the African savannah bushes.
  • Servals are the ultimate pouncer and move his legs vigorously. Their name derived from both Portuguese and French, which means “wolf that hunts the stag.”
  • Notable features include a small head, large ears, a spotted and striped coat, long legs and a black pointed tail that is 30 cm (12 inches) long.
  • Servals have the enormous ears and longest legs in proportion to its body compared to any other feline breed. They have long legs because they have long and robust bones which support running and hunting.

The Savannah Cat:

A Savannah cat walking across a desert
Savannah Cat

In contrast, their wild cousins, the savannah cats, have been domesticated. While they have serval blood in them, domestication makes them very different animals. The Savannah is a hybrid cat. It is a cross between Serval and a Domestic cat.

There are different breeds of Savannah Cat. They are all relatively similar, but the first generation has retained the serval’s large size. Although it is still possible to buy first-generation Savannah, they are much more expensive than future generations.

The Savannah cat is beautiful and slender, with a lovely neck and long legs, which makes her look big, even though they are really the same size as most domestic cats.

Humans have long been fascinated by wild cats. So it is not surprising that there are many attempts to breed domestic cats (feline cats) from feral cats.

In addition to the Servals, humans have tried to cross the species: Fishing cats, Caracals, Asian leopard cats, and Ocelots. The purpose of any cross is to capture the aesthetic environment of a wild cat in the form of a house kitty. These efforts have met with various amount of successes.

The Savannah Cat, however, is a success story. The first hybrid was bred in the 1980s. The kitten’s name was Savannah, which gave the breed its identity. The savannah cat is the largest of the cat breeds.

The Savannah Cat is a cross between a serval and a domestic cat, a medium-sized, large-eared wild African cat.

It was not until 2001 that the breed was adopted by The International Cat Association (TICA).

2.     Serval Cat Vs Savannah Cat: Physical Appearance Differences


With a beautiful short coat, decorated with spots and stripes, it is not surprising why they became so popular in such a short time. Like a cheetah, their yellow eyes emphasized by a dark line from ear down to the nose.

Their huge ears both look attractive and help them on the prowl. Long legs and a slim body are other recognizable factors

Finally, they have beautiful yellowtail with a black ring.


Savannah’s long, slender build makes it more significant than its original weight. Size depends a lot on generations and sex.

An exotic look of savannah is often due to the presence of many distinguishing serval features.

The most prominent of these are the markings of body parts with different colours. These cats have long, deep, cupped, wide, round and erect ears; very long legs; fat, puffy nose; and hooded eyes.

Savannah’s bodies are long and tall. When the savannah stands, its back end is often higher than its prominent shoulders. The head is more elevated and less expansive, and the cat has a long, slender neck.

3.     Serval Cat Vs Savannah Cat: Size Differences

Serval is a medium-sized cat weighs between 20-42 pounds. This cat stands about two feet tall on his shoulders. Their females are shorter and thinner than males.

While Savannah males range from 15 to 20 pounds, stand 15 to 17 inches at the shoulder, and are 17 to 18 inches long. Females range from 11 to 13 pounds on a lean, tall frame. 

4.   Serval Cat Vs Savannah Cat: Habitat Differences

Native to the African continent, Servals are commonly found in sub-Saharan Africa. In North or South Africa, the Serval is known only from Morocco and has been revived in Tunisia, but it is in danger of extinction in Algeria. It is found near the Mediterranean and in semi-arid areas and cork oak forests, but avoids rainforests and arid regions. It is also found off the coast and is widespread in South Africa.

A Serval cats head shot with his ear facing backwards.
A Serval Cat

Servals are found in 36 different countries. These wild cats love grass – predominantly grassy areas along the river. These ecosystems are diverse by tall savannah grasses and shrubs. Servals don’t just enjoy riparian plants; these cats love to play in the water! In addition, if water and prey are available, the serval performs well even in agricultural land.

Savannah cats are rare but they can be found all over the world depending on cat owner demands.

5.     Serval Cats Vs Savannah Cats: Diet Differences

All members of the Felidae family are obligate carnivores, and Serval or Savannah are no different. But the Serval is wild so its diet usually consists of mainly small rats, although it will also eat birds, amphibians, reptiles and invertebrates.

The Savannah Cat has a very high energy level, which means that a high-protein diet is recommended and you’ll want to provide plenty of exercise time to maintain exercise levels. Savannah cats must be fed a high-quality cat food in wet and dry form.

Savannahs cat’s diet is usually a combination of wet, dry and raw meat. Kittens must get a high nutrient, well-balanced wet and dry food, as well as cooked chicken. Adults get dry grain food offered throughout the day, as well as several wet meals and raw meat once a day.

Serval cats by Shannon E. is a study on the complete history and nutrition of Serval cats. Is it a great read for anyone interested in knowing exact details of what Serval Cats eat.

6.     Serval Cats Vs Savannah Cats: Hunting Behaviour Differences

The Serval’s long legs and large ears are the keys to its hunting strategy. These cats are most active during the crepuscular hours (dawn and dusk). Later they will listen and wait for the prey before going for a dramatic pounce. And it’s dramatic!

The serval can jump 7-8 feet in the air to snatch the birds as e discussed above. With the help of long, flexible toes, they hunt the frog very quickly from bushes.

Servals can stay active for more extended periods on cold or rainy days. On hot afternoons, they rest or groom themselves in the shade of bushes and grass. Although they may be less careful when large carnivores or predators are not around, they are cautious of their surroundings.

While Savannah cats are somewhat domestic and have less desire to hunt, they never let other small pets with savannah cats if they are not familiar with each other from the beginning.

7.     Serval Breeding Vs Savannah: Breeding Differences

Just like many solitary animals, Servals are rarely seen in groups. They will mark their areas with scents and scratches, and they mostly accommodate each other. The ranges of males and females homes will overlap, and when they come together for the breeding purpose, they live together for a short time. After mating, they soon go to their separate paths.

The female Serval will usually have 2-3 kittens, and she provides all the care and protection to kittens. She is also a good mother! In fact, female hunting’s success increases when they have cubs, perhaps because they have to spend most of their time hunting to feed their hungry mouths.

While savannah results from a cross between a serval and domestic cats and there are many sub-species of savannahs nowadays, and each savannah breed is marked with a filial generation number. For example, cats produced directly from a serval and domestic cat cross are called F1, and they are 50% serval and 50 % another breed. Similarly, F2 has 75:25 ration and so on.

[icon name=”info-circle” prefix=”fas fa-2x”] You may also be interested in our article on Cat Breeds Originating In Canda

8.     Raising A Serval Cat Vs A Savannah Cat:

Raising wild serval cats with domestic cats can be a daunting challenge. Although more savannah cat breeders are developing exemplary methods for Servals, the initial cross is rare. In general, the connection to the serval will be more distant.

While the raising savannah is comparably easy. They can adjust to their environment very quickly and love their owner. You will need to keep in mind that Savannah cats are part wild cat so more care is needed compared to a regular domestic cat.

9.     Serval Cats Vs Savannah Cats: Grooming Difficulties

Servals are wild cats, and they groom themselves when required, especially in hot season grooming frequency increased to provide a cooling effect to the body and remove dead hair.

While Savannah is a low-shedding cat breed that requires less grooming than other cats, but their coat should be kept healthy and brushed weekly without loose or dead hair.

Owners must trim their nails as needed. Usually, weekly trimming is preferred. Make it trouble-free for both you and your cat to get in the habit of trimming their nails and start trimming when they are a kitten.

You must check their ears weekly for infections that will present themselves with unusual redness, odour, and occasional discharge. To prevent infection, clean them when the cotton or use soft cleanser with cotton recommended by your pet doctor.

Finally, brush their teeth frequently to reduce veterinary clinic visits for expensive dental treatment or avoid tartar build-up and gum disease.

10.Serval Cats Vs Savannah Cats: Threats

A significant threat to serval cat survival is the degradation of grasslands and wetland areas. The skins trade, although in decline, is still found in countries such as Senegal and Benin.

In West Africa, it is essential in traditional medicine. Livestock breeders often kill servals to protect their livestock, although servals do not usually prey on livestock.

While savannah cat has no such threat because they are domestic cats and their breeding is being done excessively

11. Serval Cats Vs Savannah Cats: Temperament Differences

A Savannah cat sitting down against a grey wall with bright yellow eyes
Savannah Cat

Serval cats are very aggressive towards human or other animals. They love to live alone and want a peaceful and quiet life.

While in addition to Savannah’s attractive appearance, one of the reasons for their popularity is its dog-like character. These kitties form a close relationship with their family. They will greet you at the door, retrieve you, and even walk the stranded paths!

12. Serval Cats Vs Savannah Cats: Ideal Owners

Serval cats are not allowed as pets, and you have to take a license and pass some tests to carry them as pets. These cats are not for domestic purpose.

While Savannah is a powerful, intelligent, and naughty cat and may not be the best choice for the first time owner, this cat requires a lot of attention and can sometimes be challenging. The practise requires an experienced hand to provide the proper training.

They have retained their wild cat ancestors’ hunting instincts, so they are not suitable for homes with small pets such as rabbits, birds, or even fish.

As well as being experienced, their owner should also be someone who has a lot of love and experience and is happy to play and interact with them. If they don’t get the play and attention that they demand, you will find that they will require your attention in not so subtle ways or develop some behavioural problems

With proper socialization as a kitten, Savannah cat can feel great with other cats, dogs, and children.

13. Environmental Changes: Serval Cats Vs Savannah Cats

The Serval does not like any environmental changes. It means a change in home, people or routine. They like a calm and quiet place. Any modification is reflected in the behaviour of the serval cat, which is not a good sign.

The Savannah originates from serval. However, they are domestic and accept any environment change very easily.

14. Serval Cats Vs Savannah Cats: Need For Attention

As a wild cat the Serval cat does not need or crave attention from humans. They would much rather be left alone.

Savannah is very interactive, playful and loving. However, they do not rely on their human to the same extent as a serval.

15. Travelling with Servals & Savannah Cats:

The legal status of travelling with Serval falls under the USDA decision, and special permission is required to travel with Serval. Travelling without permission is breaking the law.

A Serval cat side profile. The Serval is licking his lips.
Serval Cat

Most of the time, early harness and leash training allow savannahs to travel without any tension. Also, very few regulations with a domestic cat make travel with a savannah easy.

16. Servals in Captivity vs Savannahs in Captivity

The Servals are quick, smart and curious. All valuables must be kept safe, and objects that Servals may damage must be protected or kept off-limits.

Again, Savannah is very interactive. They will play fetch and chase toys with their human family and friends. It is impossible to keep them happy and busy 24/7 so you can expect Savannah to get into mischief. Savannah Proofing is the same as for Serval but not as extensive unless you have an F1 generation.

17. Use Of A Litter Box (Serval vs Savannah Cats)

With a lot of work and training, a serval will use the litter box in a short time. They are not pets, and when their instincts take over, the best practice falls short. Then their spraying is somewhat found in the litter box.

Like any domestic cat, if the litter box is cleaned regularly, the savannah cat is happy to use its litter box regularly.

It is worth noting that Savannah cats are notorious for spraying inside their homes. Both male and female Savannahs participate in this annoying habit.

18. Price of Serval Vs Price of Savannah cat

As discussed above, Serval cats are not daily pets and not allowed for owners unless the permit is given. Serval has a considerable price ranging from 3000 USD to 8000 USD.

If you are interested in getting a Savannah Cat, experts warn you not to do a “deal”. Often, if the cat is less expensive, a lot of shortcuts were taken in the breeding process. It’s a good idea to make sure the breeder is TICA registered. Faulty or wrong breeding can lead to long-term health problems for savannah cats.

Savannah cat price depends upon its filial generations. Usually, F1 generation cost 16000 USD, F2 cost 6000-10000 USD, and F3 cost 2000-3000 USD respectively.

For the most recent case study on savannah cat, check this, “Assessing Risks to Wildlife from Free-Roaming Hybrid Cats: The Proposed Introduction of Pet Savannah Cats to Australia as a Case Study.”

19. Serval Cat Vs Savannah Cat: Vet Requirements

Not all vets will treat/check the serval. A specific exotic feline vet must be seen, and he must agree to deal with the serval when required.

Savannah cat vet is the same Veterinarian to whom you would take a Siamese or Persian. They will require a lighter form of sedative and all other features are the same such as proper vaccination or deworming.


Rochelle is a self-claimed crazy cat lady and proud cat mum to Owlie! She has owned, rescued, and fostered cats throughout her whole life. Rochelle created Cats On My Mind as a hub for likeminded cat parents to get all the information they will ever need to give their fur babies their best life!

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