Are Savannah Cats like Dogs?

Savannah Cats are one of the coolest breeds of cats that you can own. People often make the comparison that Savannah Cats are like dogs. As the owner of two very social F5 Savannahs, I’ve been told countless times by “dog people” who don’t normally like cats that my Savannah Cats are totally awesome and are nothing like other cats they’ve known. I love being able to convert cat-hating dog lovers simply by introducing them to my Savannahs. But before you run off and get a Savannah Cat because you think they’re some cool mutant cat-dog, you should be aware of a few things.

Are Savannah Cats as social as Dogs?

Savannah Cats are high-energy, attention-loving, and incredibly intelligent animals. Those are a few characteristics that Savannah Cats share with dogs. But at the end of the day, my Savannahs are definitely more cat-like than dog-like. And as a life-long cat lover, that’s perfectly fine by me.

Cats in general tend to get a bad rap because they are often not properly socialized. Most cats are private and cautious around strangers. If you’re a cat person, you fully understand and accept this quality. Dog people on the other hand, consider anti-social cat behavior a shortcoming.

My Savannah Cats were raised by a breeder in a home full of children, dogs, and other cats. Then when I got them as kittens, I made sure to introduce them to as many people as possible. Savannah Cats are curious by nature, but getting them to be socially extraverted takes a lot of work on the part of the owner. But the reward is well worth the commitment. I now have 2 fearless Savannah Cats that welcome strangers at the front door with affectionate headbutts and loud purrs.

Are Savannah Cats Devoted to their owners?

Savannah Cats form very strong bonds with their owners. When it comes to the amount of attention they require, Savannah Cats are a lot like dogs. They may not show their devotion in quite the same way as a dog, but once you’ve formed that bond with your Savannah Cat, you’ll know it. Whether they’re greeting you at the door when you come home, following you around from one room to the next, or bringing you cat toy “presents” in the middle of the night, your Savannah Cat knows you’re their human.

F1 and F2 Savannah Cats that are more closely related to the African Serval will generally only bond with a single human in their lifetime. Rehoming one of these Savannah Cats can be a very difficult process. Savannah Cats on the more domestic end of the spectrum (F5 – F8) will typically form a close bond with one or 2 humans, but they are less averse to changes in their environment.

Will Savannah Cats walk on a leash?

A lot of owners take the time to leash-train their Savannah Cat. Giving your Savannah Cat an opportunity to explore the outdoors in a safe and controlled manner is a terrific idea. Since Savannah Cats are a lot more curious and fearless than average domestic cats, they tend to lack “street smarts”. If you live in the city or in a densely populated area, it is unadvisable to allow your Savannah Cat outdoors without a leash for their safety.

If you do decide to leash-train your Savannah Cat, keep in mind that walking your cat will be a far different experience than walking a dog. Once outside, cats will want to explore at their own pace and in the direction they choose. If you’ve ever heard of the expression, “it’s like herding cats”, you’ll understand what I’m talking about. You may be able to coax your cat in a specific direction with treats, but for the most part, walking a cat is more like supervised wandering. It can be fun and entertaining as long as you realize your Savannah Cat is not a dog.

Can I train a Savannah Cat?

Savannah Cats are highly intelligent animals that require a good amount of mental stimulation. One way to keep your Savannah Cat entertained is to spend time training them. Both cats and dogs can be trained to do a number of things, but the method you go about accomplishing that is completely different.

Food and treats are a common motivator for both cats and dogs. With dogs you train them by getting them to associate a verbal command with an action by rewarding them with a treat. The most successful way to train a cat is by using a clicker. First, you get your cat to associate the sound of the click with a treat [Click = Treat]. Then you can build upon that by clicking when they do a behavior you’d like to reinforce.

Say you want to encourage your cat to scratch their new scratching post (instead of your couch). Stand near the scratching post, treats and clicker in hand. Gently scratch the post with your fingernails or dangle a toy over the post. As soon as your cat makes contact with the scratcher, Click, then immediately present them with a treat. After a few times your cat will start to associate scratching the post with the sound of a click and a positive reward. Start small and gradually build to more complex behaviors. Clicker training takes time and a lot of patience but it can be a very rewarding experience for both you and your cat. Here’s a great book on the subject of clicker-training cats:

So are Savannah Cats more like Cats or Dogs?

Savannah Cats can be socially extraverted, taught to walk on a leash, and trained to play fetch. They’re devoted, expressive in their own unique way, and full of rambunctious energy. They’re smart enough to open doors and help themselves to a bag of treats. They even know how to use a litter box. Whether you consider these to be dog-like or cat-like behaviors really makes no difference at all. The bottom line is that Savannah Cats make amazing pets if you’re willing to be committed pet parents.