Bringing Home Your new Savannah Kitten
How old should the kitten be when you receive him or her.
All cats are unique and mature at different rates to some degree, as do humans, so it will be up to the breeder to determine what is the right age for his or her ‘baby’ to leave the nest so to speak and start a new life with you. Having said this there are some guidelines that are generally accepted and it is critical that the breeder be aware of those that affect the health and development of their kittens. For the first eight weeks or so of their lives kittens will go into very strong deep sleeps almost continually, at this point in their development they are producing the hormones that will affect their growth, kittens should be disturbed as little as possible during this time and should never be abruptly awakened. It is possible that a kittens growth can be affected by waking them suddenly from deep sleep during these critical weeks. During the following weeks ‘kittens sleep will vary between deep sleep and light sleep. Cat’s sleep anywhere from sixteen to eighteen hours a day, usually incrementally so this is quite normal. Obviously then a kitten should still be relatively undisturbed with it’s mother for at least the first couple of months. The nest environment and the litter must be protected from disturbances in the home, excessive changes in temperature, unusual visits, stress etc. can have a detrimental effect.
More and more reputable breeders and vets are spaying or neutering kittens early, this is not a new procedure (it has been done in the United States for the last fifty years) but now that true research has shown such positive results from it (and recovery time is so much faster at an early age) pet owners can expect to receive a kitten who has already been altered. Early spay/neuter is usually done between 10 –12 weeks of age. With all things considered, your new arrival will probably be between twelve and sixteen weeks of age, this would also fall between the generally recommended ages of The International Cat Association (TICA), who state in one of their publications 'Most responsible breeders allow their kittens to go home at 12 weeks of age or older.’
In addition to being spayed or neutered your kitten should be fully litter box trained, vaccinated, eating well and well socialized. The new owner should not have to worry about these things and can be somewhat assured of having a healthy kitten who has already gone through the stresses involved in the afore mentioned, before leaving the breeder, but good habits must be reinforced within a new home environment.
Preparing your home for your new arrival.
At a minimum you should already have on hand the following:
(1) A cat litter box.
(2) Water and food bowls.
(3) A sampling of the food your kitten has been eating.
(4) A scratching post.
(5) A bed and blanket.
So now it is time to bring the baby home, is your home ready? In addition to making sure your house is safe we also want to continue reinforcing the good habits that your breeder has (or should have) established. It is recommended not to give your Savannah the full run of your home immediately, everything is going to be new to this baby, suddenly for the first time in his life he is without his mother, siblings and the scents and sounds of familiarity. Until confidence in his surroundings has been achieved he may try to hide away and possibly, if he cannot find the litter pan, accidents may occur. If you can, locate your Savannah in a small room or bathroom, place the kitten immediately into his litter pan so that he knows where it is, supply his food and water (do not switch the food he is used to at this point in time) supply a scratching post that is fairly close to the food location and a snuggly bed and let the acquainting begin. Little by little the kitten should be exposed to the rest of the house until he is fully familiar with it. If the house is very large, perhaps the placement of two litter pans would be a more reasonable consideration.
Some plants are poisonous to cats and curious babies may want to nibble, remove all toxic plants from the rooms your kitten will have access to. Check to see if you have cat friendly plants in your home, as a rule, when in doubt remove them. See Link to 'Poisonous Plants.
In addition all electrical cords that can be bitten into need to be covered or removed until your kittens teething days are over, usually around seven months of age. Wire can be covered easily with plastic tubing or flexible plastic pipe. Any breakable ornaments should be put out of harms way. It cannot be over emphasized how curious a new young kitten can be.
When your kitten arrives he will have been eating a particular variety of food and his diet should not be changed abruptly, the breeder may have included a sample of the cats regular food, however not every breeder necessarily feeds what is best for the kitten and some research on your behalf may need to be done here. Dietary changes should be made slowly so as not to upset the kittens stomach, but certainly if the need is there then changes should be made. Studies indicate that raw meat diets offer the best health benefits to these pure carnivores, extending their lives considerably in many cases. There are many resources and chat lists on the internet these days that attest to this and people who have been feeding raw meat for twenty five years or more have cats who are living well into the mid to late twenties and beyond. (This throws out the age comparison charts which indicate that a twenty year old cat would be one hundred in human years, now that we see cats living until they are twenty five to thirty years of age!) The biggest problem with dry food, in some peoples opinion, is that in order for a kitten to properly digest it he/she must drink considerably more water, (which cats generally don't) kidney problems seem to be on the rise and perhaps this is due to diet. Some dry foods are very high in salt which has drawn some researchers to make a correlation between water retention and heart problems. Other foods are high in corn, which is used as a filler, obviously a pure carnivore would not fill up on cooked corn or rice, perhaps trace amounts would be consumed in the wild state via the preys consumption habits, but corn or rice is not something a cat would hunt. Many pet allergies are associated with foods and some research on your behalf may need to be done. We do believe in variety and realize that not all pet owners will grind fresh meat for their cats or kittens (as we do) . We believe that at a minimum a high quality moist food should be factored into your feeding routine. It seems to us that many of today’s foods create problems for which another food is manufactured to rectify. Our experience allows us to recommend some food choices but it may not be prudent to publicly endorse specific brands in this particular website. Research what is best for your cat; there are a host of good resources out there, including the Internet.
The more the better, but generally place your scratching post 2 to 3 feet from the food and or the place where your Savannah likes to nap, cats and kittens enjoy stretching and scratching after eating and sleeping, the trick is to place the post or posts where your kitten wants to use them. Sisal rope posts seem to work best, some say there is no point in training your cat to scratch a carpeted post while at the same time discouraging them from scratching on a carpeted floor but the choice is ultimately up to you and your kittens likes. Cats need to scratch in order to remove the outer part of their nails but as importantly they use the post to really stretch out their spines and muscles, this health benefit unfortunately is not available to a declawed cat, you can read the facts about declawing by going to our link on Declawing. As your kitten grows he may need a taller post, and cats like solid posts that do not move around while they are using them but I say with emphasis, be sure the post is tall enough for that really nice stretch.
Exercise and cat toys.
Savannah kittens love to play, feathers, toys, balls or crumpled paper, it doesn’t seem to matter. For the sake of safety (and accidental bites or scratches) it is always advisable to play at a short distance, so to speak. Little fishing poles with feathers on the ends are a great way to interact with your kitten/cat. Savannahs can at times become very tunnel visioned when stalking a feather, so it is a good practice to keep hands out the way. A great way to play with and exercise your Savannah is with a laser light, I call this the arm chair exerciser, kittens and cats will practically run up the walls in pursuit of that little red laser dot. Another all absorbing toy is a plastic ring with a ball inside of it, the cat can bat at the ball that will continually roll around and around the track, it’s hilarious to watch the intensity with which these natural predators hunt their toys, but by far one of the most interesting playgrounds for a kitten seems to be an ordinary brown paper bag or cardboard box, our girls also enjoy chasing and fetching a ball or rabbit fur toy.
Savannah cats, like other purebreds, are strictly indoor only pets and are very happy being that way, if a Savannah has never been let outside they will have no desire to seek it, what they don’t know does not worry them and they are happy to be in doors with you. The risks to free roaming cats is extremely high, not only due to diseases from other animals including the possibility of rabies, panleukopenia, intestinal parasites ear mites, fleas etc., but It has been observed that indoor cats live longer than free roaming outdoor cats (and the stresses of life are minimized) so it is in the best interests of your Savannah to stay safely inside. If you truly love your Savannah you will never allow him outside alone. Some Savannahs can however be leash trained and quite enjoy an out doors walk, we feel that an enclosed outdoor run is perhaps the safest and healthiest way for your Savannah to get some fresh air and some good exercise but we realize that not everyone has the means to facilitate one. The exercise requirements will be determined to some extent by the filial generation of your Savannah realizing that the Hybrids of higher Serval percentages (i.e. F1 and F2 generations may require a slightly different regimen. Ultimately your Savannah will let you know what their needs are.
Health and Prevention
The Savannah cat is not known to have any breed specific health problems but by virtue of it being a cat it is subject to all of the potential feline diseases and maladies that affect the general cat population. You can be proactive and prevent many of the problems associated with cats from occurring by making sure vaccinations are up to date and a healthy immune system is encouraged through proper nutrition and exercise. Cats mask pain and discomfort better than most animals, a cat will purr if it is happy or in pain, so reading the body language of cats and kittens can sometimes be very difficult. It is desirable to have a vet who knows and understands the needs of Savannahs but at the same time over exposure to potential problems at the vets office need to be considered and visits kept to a minimum.
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A California Breeder of Excellence since 1987