A Savannah kitten can be brought home 12 weeks after its birth. Up until that moment, it has spent its entire life with mother and siblings. Your little Savannah has spent all of its time since birth becoming thoroughly familiar with its surroundings, and feels safe and secure there.
Now imagine how scary it would be to suddenly find yourself alone in an unfamiliar place! All its sense of feeling safe and secure will vanish, and it will be up to you to restore that balance to your kitten’s world. Of course, spending a great deal of time with your new pet will help ease its fears, but you must also be sure it will be safe when you can’t be there to monitor its every move.
A Special Space For Your Savannah
Your first job will be to prepare a room for your Savannah, one that is completely safe while it explores its new surroundings. It’s important that your kitten has boundaries for its new territory. These need to be boundaries that it can discover, test and understand. Turning your Savannah loose to roam your entire house when it first comes home is not recommended. It would be very much like setting a toddler down in the middle of a large department store and turning it loose. Before long, that toddler would be into a lot of mischief, not to mention how fast you would loose track of him! The same thing would happen to any Savannah kitten left to roam through an entire, unknown house.
This will serve to keep your Savannah from wandering into less safe areas of your house, and to keep other animals or children out of your Savannah’s space. Bathrooms, a designated area of the master bedroom, or a small office would work fine as your kitten’s first “home ground”.
Start the Process Of “Kitten-Proofing”
Once you have selected an appropriate place, your next step will be to make sure it is thoroughly “kitten-proofed”. Keep in mind the Savannah’s natural traits, including their fondness for water and their highly developed athletic abilities—even as kittens.
That small, loveable kitten will soon be able to jump to the top of a toilet, low counter, dresser or desk. Don’t forget to check your vents, closets, any access behind or under furniture, or any place a small, pliable kitten body may be able to squeeze into or through. If your room has windows, be sure they are securely closed and locked.
With all the interesting holes to explore plugged up or covered up, you can turn your attention to any small items or knick-knacks.
Any shampoos or other hair products should also be moved up high enough so that your kitten cannot get to them. Kittens love to scratch and they will climb, so hanging towels must also be kept high enough they are out of reach.
Playing with toilet paper or Kleenex exposed in boxes is a favorite Savannah past time. If you don’t want your room covered in toilet paper or bits of tissues, take the necessary precautions to keep both items out of your kitten’s reach.
Kittens are curious, and Savannahs are more so than most. They will explore everywhere and everything they can reach. Pencils, rings, erasers, and runners on top of dressers are all fair game to be played with, chewed and even swallowed in your Savannah’s view of the world.
The final, major hazard you will need to protect your new Savannah from are wires. This includes any cords for lamps, televisions or small appliances (such as clocks, hair dryers and curling irons). Kittens love to chew, and your Savannah will be no exception. For items which need to stay plugged in, you should take steps to ensure the wire has no attraction for your kitten. A good spay of bitter apple will usually do the trick.
Making The Rest Of Your Home Safe For Your Kitten
While your kitten is acclimating to its new living space, you will have time to go through the same process for the rest of your home.
It can seem like a daunting task to ensure you have all your household vents, chimney accesses, crawl spaces and other open holes or crevices plugged up or completely covered. Always keep in mind that it’s better to be overly cautious to ensure the safety of the kitten, then to have an avoidable accident.
With their long legs and superior jumping skills, your Savannah kitten will be able to easily explore the tops of coffee tables, chests, dining room chairs and tables, as well as open levels on bookshelves and entertainment centers. All these surfaces should be clear of any breakable items, or heavy, decorative pieces which could fall over and injure your new, high energy, extremely playful pet.
Other hazards to be aware of are anything your kitten could swallow that would be harmful to their health. This includes paper or plastic bags, cloth grocery bags, and any type of ribbon or string. Chewing and even accidentally swallowing any part of these objects could cause your kitten to suffer from intestinal blockage. This will mean a big vet bill for you, and may possibly be fatal to your kitten!
Absolutely be sure to lock-up or put away any medications, open liquor bottles and all cleaning products. Your kitten getting into any of these items could also end in a tragedy.
Other things to consider are any areas or items with standing water. This could include fountains, filled water glasses or flower vases, and most especially uncovered fish tanks. Savannahs are natural hunters, and will carefully track the movements of fish through the clear glass of the tank. It is essential that fish tanks be sturdy enough to withstand some playful (and maybe not so playful) “battings” by your Savannah, and most especially should be kept securely covered at all times.
That same hunting instinct will hold true for any other small pets such as birds, turtles, mice, gerbils or lizards. Savannahs will also follow any animal living near, or passing by, the outside of your home. For this reason, you should be sure you have windows, glass doors and especially screens that will keep your Savannah safely inside.
Plants Can Be Poisonous To Your Savannah
The final items in your home which must be thoroughly scrutinized are any flowers or houseplants. Many varieties of plants are poisonous to cats, and this includes your Savannah. Popular plants which may not be good for your kitten (or as time goes on, your cat), include Ferns, Baby’s Breath, some types of Daisies, Daffodils, Hibiscus and Poppies.
Once you have gone through the checklist to kitten-proof your home, you will be ready to introduce your Savannah kitten to the rest of its domain.
When Your Savannah Comes Home
Introducing your Savannah to its new home should begin before your kitten leaves the breeder’s care. Be sure that you have an in-depth talk with the breeder about the personality and habits of your kitten. You should also pick-up some tips for training, as well as any recommendations for the right care for the newest addition to your family. Your kitten’s breeder will have the best interests of your kitten in mind, and be happy to share any information and answer any questions you have to make the transition of your Savannah as easy as possible for both you and your kitten.
Tap? Bottled? A specific brand of bottled water? You also need to know what brand of litter your breeder uses, as well as what he or she recommends for toys.
All Savannah’s have a distinct personality. This can include very specific likes and dislikes. Some kittens are more playful and outgoing, while others may have a more difficult time adjusting to new people and places. One Savannah kitten may be very selective in what it will eat, while another of its litter mates will eat just about anything presented to it. Knowing and understanding the unique personality of your kitten will help make its transition to your new home smooth and easy for both of you.
Keeping the emotional well-being of your kitten in mind, be sure to introduce new experiences gradually and carefully. This is especially true when the introduction includes other family members and pets.
Once your kitten has reached the special space you have prepared for your it, place the carrier gently on the floor, leaving the door to the carrier open. Let your kitten come out to explore its surroundings on its own. If your kitten is a bit shy, it may take some time for it to venture out of its carrier into an unknown space. If this proves to be the case, you might try a “tickler” to lure it out. This is a feather tied by string to a rod or stick, and is a favorite play toy of a Savannah.
After your Savannah has stepped out of the carrier and explored a few feet around it, gently pick up your kitten and place it in the litter pan. If you have a pan in the same dimensions and filled with the same litter as your kitten is use to, it will help your Savannah realize what the litter box is for. Once the kitten has sniffed and explored the litter box, repeat the same procedure with the food bowl, water bowl and bed. All of these items should be placed in close proximity to each other within your Savannah’s special space.
Keep in mind that Savannahs, even Savannah kittens, love water. And to them, everything is a potential play toy. Your Savannah may very well spend time simply batting the water out of its water bowl, or dragging its food bowl around the room. You may want to consider purchasing food and water bowls with extra heavy bases which won’t tip over easily.
Bedding is also very important. Your kitten has always snuggled up to its mother and litter mates to sleep, so you will need to give it the same inviting and cozy place to rest. Soft and fluffy bedding with an added warm blanket will help ease your kitten’s transition to its new sleeping arrangements.
In addition to food, water, bed and litter box, your kitten will also need a “scratching” post. Savannah’s not only use the post to keep their claws trimmed and in good shape, but also to stretch their long legs and spine. Savannahs are very athletic animals, and much like a runner needs to stretch his muscles on a regular basis to keep them supple and in-shape, Savannah’s also need to stretch their spine and legs for the same reason. Their favorite time to stretch is right after taking a nap or eating, so the scratching post should also be close to the kitten’s food bowl and bedding.
An issue to be aware of with the scratching post is the material it is made of. Scratching posts made out of the same material as objects in your house may lead to your Savannah using those very same objects as a scratching post as well. Carpeted scratching posts, or posts covered in fabric similar to that in your couches or chairs could lead to damaged carpeting or furniture. Many breeders recommend scratching posts that are made of sisal rope, which will hold up over a long period of time. You should also be sure that the post is solid, will not move around easily, and is high enough to give your Savannah a good stretch, even as it grows from kitten to adult cat.
Being active and playing is a big part of a kitten’s day, and is especially critical for a Savannah. A variety of toys must be an essential part of your kitten’s new environment to keep it engaged, stimulated and emotionally happy. Because a Savannah is very athletic and plays hard, even as a kitten, all its toys must be able to stand up to some rough and tumble play. Remember that a Savannah loves to chew, so your typical cat toy may fall apart in no time. It’s recommended that you purchase toys made by Nyla Bone. Coming in a variety of shapes and sizes, these cat toys are made of a DuPont product which cannot be chewed to pieces or ingested.
Other toys can include tennis balls with rattles or bells inside, or stuffed animals specifically made for big, heavy chewing dogs. Some of the favorite toys for Savannahs, as well as many other breeds of cats, are cardboard boxes, paper bags, or just simple, crumbled-up pieces of paper. Your kitten should never be left unsupervised with any toy that can be chewed up or ripped apart and ingested.
Since you will spend time playing with your kitten, interactive toys are also a “must have”. Feather teaser toys, such as the one that you may have had to use to lure your Savannah out of its carrier, are always popular with kittens. So is chasing the bouncing red light produced by a laser pen, as well as other types of “chase” toys. It’s also important to know when to stop playing. Your Savannah should not be run around to the point of panting for breath or exhaustion.
Of course, there are toys which should never be given to your Savannah, even with supervised play. This includes ribbons, cords, string or any other material which can be easily shredded and therefore difficult to find all the pieces to keep your kitten from ingesting the material at some later time. Foam balls or any type of foil should also be on your permanent list of “inappropriate toys”.
Your kitten’s special space is also the only place you should introduce your Savannah to during its “quarantine” or acclimation period. Most breeders recommend a period of two weeks for a Savannah to be in its new home before introducing it to the rest of the house, or other members or pets in the household.
This time is just for you and your Savannah. It allows your Savannah to explore and get to know its new environment on a more miniature scale, giving it time to regain the feeling of security and confidence it had at the breeder’s facility. It’s also an opportunity for you to spend quality time with your kitten, to become familiar with its habits and personality, and to develop a strong bond of affection and trust between owner and pet. Savannah’s need and expect their human to spend quality time with them, and now in a confined and quiet environment, is your chance to do exactly that.
Meeting the Rest of the Household
Now that your kitten has had a chance to acclimate itself to new surroundings, it is time to broaden its horizons a bit. With the proper introductions, your Savannah will do fine around other members of the household.
Remember to slowly introduce your kitten to the rest of the house and its residents. Staying with the introduction to just one new room for a few days, before adding on additional rooms, might be best. This will give your Savannah time to become familiar with the new surroundings at its own pace. Being placed in too much space all at once, it may start to feel lost and frightened. That feeling will trigger its natural instinct to hide and protect itself. With all that additional space, it can take you quite a while to find a small kitten intent on staying concealed.
Before introducing your kitten to children or other adults, you may need to remind them of a few, basic traits of your Savannah which will need to be respected. The first and foremost, especially if you have young children, is that the Savannah is not necessarily a “lap” kitten. While fiercely loyal to their owners, some Savannahs, especially those in the Foundation Generations, do not like to be held or carried for any period of time. They are not the type of household pet that will lay limply in a child’s lap, or passively go along with being dressed up or be a part of a game they don’t understand.
Savannahs may need to understand the interaction between themselves and humans, but they certainly do love to play. However, they are very active, play hard, and they do have claws. If your child (or another adult) is playing with your Savannah, remind them to keep several feet between themselves and the kitten. The feather ticklers, which Savannah’s enjoy very much, will give you a good distance and still allow both human and animal to enjoy the playtime. The same reasoning applies to laser pens and chase toys.
Savannahs can adapt to, and learn to socialize with, most household pets, especially when those pets are also very active and playful. However, they seem to prefer the company of dogs, even over other breeds of cats. In fact, new Savannah owners are often surprised at how many “dog-like” traits their cat will display. This includes following them tirelessly about the house, its love to play in water, boundless energy, and even waiting at the door for its owner to come home.
Be sure to carefully and continually monitor the interaction between your kitten and other household pets until you are absolutely sure it is safe to leave them alone together. At first, most of your other pets will be much larger than your kitten. Any sign of aggressive behavior by these larger animals will send your kitten scurrying to find a safe, well-protected hiding place. However, once everyone has grown accustomed to each other, you just might find your little kitten snuggled next to the family dog, perfectly content and fast asleep.
No matter how happily your Savannah and other pets play together, they are still animals. There will be an adjustment period to establish the place of the new member in the hierarchy of the “pack”. Usually, Savannah’s will expect to be the “alpha”. During this time, and especially as your Savannah grows into its full height, weight and athletic capabilities, there may be some hissing and posturing going on between your pets. This is natural among animals. As long as it doesn’t get out of hand, and fur starts flying, you should allow them to establish their own rank in the household. Just keep in mind—no matter how entitled your Savannah may feel to being the head of the pack, you should always be sure you are established as the ultimate “alpha” in the household.
Always be prepared to put your kitten back into its own room if the introductions are getting too rough. The safety of your kitten and other pets and members of the household should continue to be your first priority.
On occasion, your Savannah may show some aggression toward the other pets in your family. This will usually be over what it perceives as an encroachment on its “territory”. If your Savannah feels a room or rooms in the house are part of its personal space, and another pet does not act appropriately in that space, the Savannah may give it a warning sound or hiss to clearly communicate its claim over that space. It may also jump on the other animal, or give it a nip, as a way of establishing its authority. If you feel your Savannah is being too aggressive, then once again—place it back in its own room as a way of calming down the situation.
A Speech and Body Language All Its Own
Savannahs have sounds and physical behaviors which will are indications to you of its current emotional state. They often “speak” with a chirping sound, inherited from their Serval father, or the more familiar meow that comes from their domesticated cat mother. If you listen and watch the associated behavior when your kitten is “speaking”, you will learn which sounds mean your Savannah is happy, upset, scared, annoyed, or just babbling.
Savannahs have interesting ways of communicating with people. They are often prone to head butting their owners as a type of greeting. Much like a dog, your Savannah may wag its tail to show pleasure. A common trait in a Savannah is to fluff out the base of its tail as its unique way of saying “hello”. This is a friendly gesture, and not to be confused with hair being raised on the entire length of their spine and tail. That indicates fear and a feeling of being threatened. A Savannah will also emit a hissing sound, more reminiscent of a snake than a cat, to show its displeasure. This strange sound coming from a cat may often startle people who are visiting you. Also, and once again much like dogs, Savannah’s can growl!
You need to be aware of your Savannah’s general reactions to strangers. Good socialization will minimize the natural reaction of “fight or flight” when confronted with something new and much bigger than your kitten or cat. However, some Savannah’s have the type of personality that is instantly fine with any human, while others need to be introduced more slowly to newcomers. Whichever way your cat acts, you should always be present for any new introductions. This will not only allow you to monitor the introduction, but give your Savannah a greater feeling of security since its favorite person is nearby.
As Time Goes On
As your Savannah becomes more comfortable roaming about its new home, you will want to keep some practical matters in mind.
It would be advisable, at first, to place one or more additional litter boxes throughout your house, and be sure to show your kitten where they are as you introduce it to new rooms. For a small kitten in a large house, a single litter box located at the other end of the house can be a very long way to have to travel. To avoid accidents, it is best to give it a close option during this learning and growing time in its life. As your Savannah reaches maturity and becomes familiar with the layout of the entire house, you can gradually reduce the number of litter boxes until you have just one or two, depending on the size of your home.
Never forget those phenomenal, athletic abilities of your Savannah! It can jump to a height of seven feet or more from a standing position, and is tireless in its desire to play. It can, and most likely will, wear out your less energetic pets, and you may need to give them a rest break from your Savannah.
Another interesting capability of the Savannah, and reported by a number of breeders and owners, is that your pet can learn to open cupboards and other doors that have handles which do not need to be turned. If this proves to be the case with your Savannah, you may want to invest in the child safety devices made for these types of doors.
Keep in mind that your kitten is small. Like any small creature, it will have a tendency to put itself in some very unusual places. Be sure to check behind that rocking chair or lounger before you sit down. Also be careful opening doors lest your kitten just sneaks right by you and into that new opening it just found. This is especially true when opening a doors which leads to the outside of your house.
While it is great to idea to take your Savannah outside for walks and fresh air, it should still be considered an “indoor” cat. If allowed to roam free outside, your Savannah may easily decide to locate a new “territory” elsewhere.
One of the best parts of owning a Savannah is watching how alert and aware it is of its surroundings. This kind of attention to everything going on around it is a constant reminder of the cat’s wild ancestors. Once fully acclimated to all members of your family and to your home, you will have many years of enjoyment living and playing with your Savannah!