My kittons are very diverse in both personality and looks. We have a fearless bossy Siada, a loving silly Layla and a Malik practices daily to be the best butthead he can be. I can tell which one of them is making a mess in the next room just by the sound of the thud them make when jumping from a forbidden counter to the floor. And yes, I can even tell who just made that awful smell without looking.
What I did not realize though, is that not everyone is schooled in how to differentiate between kittons! When I share photos online there is a series of questions about "which one is that?" and often friends (who are more learned in the ways of kittons) will chime in with identifiers ever before I can.
In an effort to make everyone a pro at this, I submit the following guidelines below. (Perhaps we should even have a certification course in "Kitton ID"?)
Note that in all of the comparisons below that order will be Siada, Layla, Malik.
The Savannah breed standard aims for a very servally type cat, so the eyes are ideally medium sized and have a slightly hooded brow, with the top of the eye having a bit of a boomerang shape. All eye colors are allowed. Servals typically have browish or greenish eyes, but blue-grey and gold are also possible.
In the Kittons, Siada has very pretty eyes. They yellow-gold with green around the pupil and very clear and bright. (They bely her wicked intelligence and can strike fear into the hearts of her enemies, or at least Malik!) Layla's eyes are huge, round and more green than gold, but not the gooseberry green of a Bengal or an Isis. (These orbs look at you with adoration!) . Malik has the hooded eyes of a serval that are brown like Nimar's were, with only the tiniest hint of hazel in their depths when looking at him in full sunlight. (Alas, his hooded eyes often give him a wounded-puppy look that pretty much means he will get whatever he desires.)
A Savannah's face should form a triangle in profile and also if you look down at it from the top with the muzzle the point of the triangle. The bridge of the nose should either be straight or have the slightest concave curve to it.
Siada's face is all triangles, with a beautiful line to her jaw and a delicate muzzle. (She will even lift up those dainty muzzlepuffs to you for kisses!). Her nose is long and has the slight curve mentioned above. Layla has a short, blunt face, with a wide muzzle that is more reminiscent of a Bengal, or cute stuffed animal, than a Savannah. (That is ok though, that mouth is built perfectly for carrying theived bananas through the house!) And of course Malik, being only one step removed from a serval, has a very triangular face, as well as the long nose with the slight slope that Siada has. (He is handsome and he knows it all too well!)
Nose (arguably one of the cutest parts)
The standard is wide across the top, with a slight downward turn at the end. Yup, this babies have perfect noses! In Savannahs, these snufflers can have a variety of colors, including pink, red "leather", black or even black with a pink stripe!
Siada has a dark, heart shaped nose, that she turns up over chicken that is not properly minced enough for her pristine tastes. Layla has a red leather nose, perfect for sniffing out the bananas. Malik has a puffy pink nose that you just must kiss, even if he thinks otherwise.
"Remarkably Large" that is the description in the official breed standard. They should also be wide at the bottom, sit high on the head (some servals have ears so close together they almost touch at the base), and noticeable ocelli ('night eyes') on the backs of the ears is desirable.
These babies all have big ears. Heck, Siada was specifically chosen for her ears! Malik has very servally ears, that we wide, with very round tops and that sit quite close together. Siada's ears have very slight points at the top and the very tiniest of ear tuffts if you look closely. Layla's ears are somewhat between the two and while not quite as large, they are, in fact, quite adorable. (Bonus of baby kitton ear photos!)
Below you can see the striking contrast of an F1s ocelli, with the F3 girls who only have the slightest shading on the backs of their ears. (Layla and Siada in the left photo and Malik and Layla in the right.)
Can you tell them apart yet? Maybe? If not, Part 2 of the Definitive Guide to Kittons (covering the build, feetsies and fur) will be coming soon!
One of the funny things about forums online is that, over time, you really feel as though you get to know the other participants on those groups, or at least you get to know their pets. There are a number of Savannah cat groups the I regularly check and so many cats that I love seeing photos of or hearing of their antics. I laugh at the silliness and mourn the loss of those whom I have adored for years.
One of my favorites is Luna, the Savannah who survived FIP. For those who are fortunate to have not been touched by this disease and who might now know about it, Cornell University describes Feline Infectious Peritonitis as a condition caused by the feline coronavirus. A small percentage of cats with this virus will progress to FIP where the body's own white blood cells transmit the virus through out the system. This causes inflammation in the affected areas that is almost always fatal. It is a horrible illness which progresses very quickly. (Yeah, there is more too it than that, but you can read the full explanation in the Cornell link.)
Luna had the typical FIP swollen belly and was not feeling at all well, but she was actually very lucky. She was lucky to be diagnosed when she was, and even more lucky to be in the perfect position to begin a drug trial to see if they could halt this devastating disease. And best of all, the drug worked and Luna won the battle. She has been free of the disease for 19 months. This sweet Savannah is living the life she was meant to live, traveling and hiking and even now has a Savannah brother and sister!
If you want to read the full story of her miraculous recovery (I highly recommend it) as well as the team who got her there and the hope for the future in the battle against FIP I please check out the links below:
If you would like to assist the fight against FIP, you can donate directly to the research efforts at UC Davis. The funds will go towards research, treatment and prevention of this disease: https://give.ucdavis.edu/Donate/YourGift/V483516
Every now and again I am asked why we don't just get an African Serval (especially when people find out they actually cost less than an F1 Savannah). I would be lying if I said I didn't love the idea of sharing my life with a serval, but I have also done my research and understand that there is a whole lot of reality that goes along with it. And responsibility, even more crazy amounts of it than comes with living with three high-energy Savannahs.
There is also a matter of logistics. We have our kittens trained to travel well, it could possibly be done with a serval as well, but there is a chance it would not work. What then? Further, servals are not legal everywhere (hell, Savannahs are not legal everywhere either), including the two states where we spend our time. They are also often unwelcome in campgrounds or parks, and we love to take the feline herd camping.
Tracy Wilson, from the Serval Education Group on Facebook has put together a great starting list of things you need to do or consider before getting a serval and she has given me permission to share the information here. Below is her list and some other information.
DISCUSSION TOPIC of the week for our expert panel: PROPER STEPS TO OBTAIN YOUR FIRST SERVAL. I have listed here some bare minimum first steps to take towards getting your first serval, if our experienced people will elaborate on each step in detail and add anything additional that should be done BEFORE a new person obtains their first serval. I'll edit the steps below if I left something out.
Other points she added are that you also need to check local laws in addition to state and to check with your home owner's insurance to make sure that they allow exotic animals.
I think that her list above is very good, and anyone seeking to bring an animal (ANY animal) into their life needs to be willing to take full responsibility for that creature, as well as its health and happiness. And yes, that means by starting with making sure that it is even legal to have it. Do you really want the heartbreak of having your cat taken from you by the authorities? Imagine how that poor animal would feel were it removed from a loving home and placed in a cage outside in a rescue shelter, separated from the only family it ever knew. What if it turns out to be more than you can handle? What if the serval sprays everywhere (some thing many of them can do, even if they are fixed at a young age). One needs to really assess how the reality of this cat can impact one's life as servals, or even Savannahs, are not for everyone, and yes, you might have to change your lifestyle for your pet.
So yes, I am very content to live happily with my clowder of kittons, and will just instead just continue to follow the photos of people who do share their homes with beautiful servals such as Vader (of Tarkin and Vader).
In my Signs of Affection post I tried to describe Layla's silly way of getting SO excited that you are talking to her (or even looking at her) that she will try to headbutt anything nearby. This often results in a spill to the floor if she is near the edge of something (as my mom saw over Thanksgiving when Layla fell off the bed). In that post I did get a little clip of the heatbutting cuteness, but I FINALLY got The Slinky on film tonight.
When we get home from work she runs halfway up the stairs and starts headbutting... the stair below her. Eventually she starts slinky-ing down the entire flight. And yes, this is a super short video, but I did catch some Layla Luvin' Slinky Action! (11/17/18 EDIT -- ADDITIONAL slinky action, along with a barrel roll!)
Cats have such diverse personalities that I am always amused that they seem to have a solid reputation as being aloof, or only wanting to be around people when they need fed. Every cat in my life has been different. They are different in their needs for interaction with both the people and with each other.
Isis and Reeses are well bonded to each other. I actually worry about the day we lose one of them, because I think the other will be quite forlorn (they had no interest in Nimar or the new Savannah clowder). They come to you on occasion for petting and purring, but are not as needful of people time as any of the Savannahs.
Siada is interesting. She loves having Layla as a playmate, but is possibly the most solidly "people oriented" cat I have ever met. She wants her people time, all the time. She likes to play chase with me as much as she does the other cats (maybe even more) and she plays very rough so they can try to avoid her when she gets amped up. Her quarantine for recovery from surgery has been very hard on her in this respect, but now that the incision is healed, we are giving her lots of lap time.
Malik and Layla on the other hand, HAVE to have companionship. It really doesn't matter who it is with, but neither of them like to be alone. For example, I was deveining shrimp last night and had to lock Malik in the back of the house because I would be fighting him off and likely losing half the shrimp. The old gals were in a room alone so they could eat their dinner in piece and Siada was still in quarantine till after we ate dinner. This meant Layla was running around the house with no cats, and Malik was in the back with no cats. It sounded for all the world like Malik was trying to rip the toilet off the wall while he wailed, whined and howled to get out.
Layla, on the other hand was running around as if possessed and slamming into the three doors where they other cats were (even the old cats, who she really has little interaction with). I eventually managed to catch her and toss her into confinement with Malik and I cooked (and we ate) in peace.
When we were first looking at getting Malik I had even said that we should get our boy sooner, rather than later, because Siada having surgery (which we knew was coming) would be hard on Layla. I had no idea at the time how correct that statement was.
Layla Squashin' Time is a very real thing in our household. It just happens and no one knows why. The adorable marbled kitton will be sleeping peacefully and Malik will decide, out of nowhere, that it is clearly, most definitely, time to utterly squash the Layla.
This has happened since the beginning of time, and yes, he started small with nudges and cuddles and then, in mere weeks, the full-on squashing began. And as for poor Layla Beans, she is so sweet of temperament, that she just lets it continue. I can only hope she manages to not get flattened too much as this little boy continues to outgrow her.
When we went to pick up Malik from the breeders house, she gave us an awesome gift bag full of goodies (for him and for us). When I saw it though, I had to choke back tears because on the top was a large, stuffed white rat. She noticed me looking at it and said she likes for the Savannahs to have larger toys to play with. She didn't know I was reminded of Nimar at that moment, as he had that very same rat, but I was and my heart ached with both the loss we had and the joy of bringing a new baby home.
It was one of those rare toys that actually survived for quite some time in our house. I think he got it when he was 5 or so years old, and we still had it (missing feet, ears, face and tail, and covered with gross cat food) when he passed. He carried it around before his illness and it became victim of his excessive chewing habits after the tumor started to take over. But I can say he loved that thing
Savannah Caretaker who is honored to do the job.