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!
Kittens grow quickly. Savannah kittons grow very, very quickly, especially early generation ones. We joke that you can actually watch them grow. Malik is no exception. He has put on over 2lbs in the 5 weeks we have had him. (He is 5.36lbs at 14 weeks old.)
Savannahs, like some other large breeds such as Maine Coons, can also often grow for three years. Just when you think they are done, they might have another growth spurt. I actually think that Siada, at almost 15 months, is probably pretty close to being done though. Her weight has stalled out at just under 9lbs. She will likely continue to fill out a bit, but I think she will continue to be the very leggy, yet petite princess that we have today. Layla is still growing a bit and at 8lbs is almost Siada's weight. She is so muscular though, and doesn't have the lean Savannah build that Siada shows off so well, but she is a powerhouse when it comes to leaping.
Malik, well, I am pretty sure Malik will surpass Nimar's size. At 18 weeks when we got Nimar, he weighted 4.5lbs. In less than two weeks, he was 5.5lbs and continued to grow for three years hitting his peak at 21lbs (he was up to 23lbs at one point, but was a bit, um, fluffy at that weight). People actually thought he weighted a lot more than he actually did, because he was so tall (something not uncommon with perception of size in Savannahs). Malik though, he is getting big. In about two more days he will outweigh Reeses...
I sometimes wonder if Nimar did not have the best diet as a baby. He, in theory, should have weighed more when we got him, though he did not seem too thin nor malnourished. Malik was raised on raw food with a good supplement, and he continues that as well as quality cat food (I will talk at length about diet in another post). He can shovel in the food like crazy and it is hard to keep up with him! You can see below that he is almost the size of Layla (who is well over 8lbs), even though he does not yet have her muscle mass. He is very nearly her height as well.
Someone unfamiliar with Savannahs recently asked me if I was sure Malik was really a first generation (because I keep posting pics of him cuddling with me). One look at him and you can see the serval traits like crazy. Those ears, the coat, the size! Yup, my little mostly-serval is absolutely what he is (and that is mostly a huge pain in my rump, lol).
I have a chart at home with weights for the cats over the last few months, mostly because I am tracking the weight of our older girls as they start to have old-cat problems. I might need to make a graph of Malik's growth just for fun ;-)
Of course this whole post reminds me of the meme that people love to share to my wall (and that is ok, as I laugh every time I see it).
One of the appeals of Savannah (and Bengal cats) is their wild patterning. These hybrid cats get this from their wild ancestor (the Serval for the Savannah and the Asian Leopard Cat for the Bengal). The Serval typically has a clear gold or tawny coat with small inky black spots, while the Asian Leopard cat has patterns of rosettes like a larger leopard.
The breed standards for both detail what type of spotting is permitted in the cats (for show purposes). For Savannahs, they can be penalized for having Rosettes in their coat, as the breed standard (according to TICA) for coat pattern is "SPOTTED PATTERN ONLY. The spotted Savannah pattern is made up of bold, solid dark-brown to black spots, which can be round, oval, or elongated. A series of parallel stripes, from the back of the head to just over the shoulder blades, fan out slightly over the back and the spotting pattern follows the line of the stripes from the shoulders continuing the length of the body. Smaller spots will be found on the legs and feet as well as on the face. In the black Savannah ghost spotting may occur. A visible spotting pattern on the smoke Savannah is preferred. In all divisions, any visible pattern must be spotted."
The reason rosettes show up in Savannah coats, is that when the breed was started, Bengals were sometimes used as outcrosses. They are no longer acceptable in the breed, but, some lines carry strong markings that give away their Bengal lineage.
For me personally, I love the bengal heritage. I think it is largely because Nimar (who was born in 2006) had a Bengal cat for a mother, his face and build were very much Savannah, but he had a bit of an orange tinge to his coat and a few hints of rosettes in his patterning. He was beautiful and perfect to me, and I admit freely that I loved those rosettes.
Siada has lots of rosettes, and a pattern that looks like lace on her shoulders. It is unlikely that she would have been chosen by someone as a breeder, but we were looking for a certain personality, giant ears and a pretty face. Rosettes, despite being unwelcome in the breed, were actually a bonus for me.
TICA Standards for Savannahs: http://tica.org/cat-breeds/item/260-savannah-introduction
TICA Standards for Bengals: http://tica.org/cat-breeds/item/184
Kittens are tiny. I actually forgot that. Isis was 6 months old when we got her from the rescue corner of a TICA cat show. Reeses was 1.5 years old when she was discovered by us at PetSmart. Nimar came to us at 16 weeks, but he was 4.5lbs at the time, and also, that was 10 years ago and he was SO big for so long that I just for got what it was like to hold a tiny kitton!
So yes, Siada looked so bitty to me when she came home. Not only because she was a baby, but she already was forming that lanky, lean Savannah cat build and just looked fragile. (Note that she certainly does not act fragile as she goes blazing through the house bouncing off of things!) She was 2.3lbs, we learned, as we took her to the vet on June 3rd just for a quick kitten check up.
And she had no fear at all at the vet. She stood proud in her little ferret harness (as all the kitten and puppy ones were just far to big on her little kitton self) while the vet examined her and listened to her heart.
Oh, and the harness? We had no issues putting it on her. We tried for years to get Nimar to wear one. We tried pretty much everything and that little dude could Houdini right out of any contraption, toss it back at you and flip you off as he stroll out of the room. Even after he got sick and became much more laid back, it was just a no-go with him.
We had made it our mission to work her into it early. Get her into it (rewarded with treats) and would let her wear it for just a short span of time a day. She surprised us by taking instantly to it. She rarely fusses over it and does all her normal cute kitten things while wearing it. This is just delightful because it means traveling with her is (so far) no stress at all!
She was not done with the surprises though, she apparently is a total lap (or shoulder, or belly) cat! On the very first day she pretty much passed out on her papa's shoulder! Savannahs are well known for being independent and totally stubborn. The early generations often bond very strongly with one or two people, and can sometimes be hesitant with strangers. Nimar was very good with people, but we were definitely THE people in his world. Even so, he was not a lap cat. He did have to be near you (and always sat next to his papa on the sofa), but not much for laps. Siada, on the other hand, seems to prefer the warmest seat in the house for her naptime.
t all started with Nimar NimarusRex, the cat that was more than a cat and who proved that my world needed spots to be complete. I will share his story later, but I do have to note that Siada's story starts with losing him. There was a hollow place in my heart (which is still there) and an emptiness in the home, and so we started looking for another companion to fill it.
I love all of my cats, but Savannahs, well, they are special. If you look at any of the sites dedicated to them, or any of the breeders' descriptions of the breed, they note that there are personality traits common to the breed. Included in these are descriptions of "dog-like personalities" and comments about how intelligent and social they can be. These things, as well as the wild looks that come from a Serval ancestor are what draw most people to the breed. Nothing could bring joy to my darkened world the way a spotted kitten could.
So Nimar was our first. He was an F1, which means that his father was an African Serval (making him 50% serval) with a Bengal cat mother. Little Siada is an F3, meaning her great-grand father was a Serval (as well as several other more distant ancestors). She was chosen because of her giant ears, sweet face and the breeder's description of her being a fearless, 100mph kitten (we wanted those crazy Savannah antics).
The breeder is located in Illinois, and we are in the mid-Atlantic area, so the options were to go there and get the kitten or have her flown to us. I will confess that I was terrified about the idea of putting a baby kitten (only 10 weeks old at the time) on a plane alone! We were trying to work out either driving there or having me fly out there to get her, but the breeder soothed my fears about the process.
She only uses certain airlines that have a PetSafe system. There is a special cargo area that is climate controlled for transport. They are even in air conditioned or heated vehicles going from the terminal to the plane! We were told that in 15 years, they had never had an issue (and they ship kittens to new homes frequently), so we decided it would be safe.
I think Friday, June 2 might have been one of the longest days ever. We arrived too early and had to kill time while waiting for our new little kitten. When she finally arrived, we were greeted with a tiny face in a little kitten crate. She was seated on a pile of shredded paper towels and was eagerly peeking out at the world around her. She truly had no fear at all! I thought at the least she would be hesitant (as Nimar was when we got him) about new places, smells, noises and people, but she showed no signs of hesitation.
She chatted at us on the drive home (still in her crate), and took turns looking out the sides at us, and further shredding the paper towels. At home we had a Kitten Quarantine Area set up in the back bathroom (as it is best to let kittens adapt to a new home a bit at a time). When we arrived we opened the door to her prison and let her step into her new world.
I think there might have been all of one second of hesitation, though in reality, I might even have imagined that as after only a minute out of the cage she was happily trying to play with a feather wand and was ready to start exploring her new home.
Savannah Caretaker who is honored to do the job.