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 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
Savannah Caretaker who is honored to do the job.