The first known Savannah was born April 7, 1986 when Judee Frank’s female domestic cat gave birth to a kitten sired by an African Serval. This F1 (first generation hybrid cross – see FAQ) was the first on record. This unusual female kitten had both domestic and Serval like qualities. Both the kitten and breed were named “Savannah” by Suzi Wood (the breeder who came to own her). Suzi was interested in attempting to breed Savannah back to a domestic cat. At the time nothing was known about the fertility of an African serval / Domestic cat hybrid. As it turned out Savannah was fertile and produced a number of litters of F2’s (second generation hybrid crosses) which proved the Savannah might have hope as a new breed.
Suzi Wood wrote two articles for animal publications about her Savannah. This attracted the attention of Patrick Kelley who had hopes of starting a new breed of domestic cat with a wild spotted look. Patrick contacted both Suzi Wood and Judee Frank but neither were interested in taking the breed any farther. Patrick therefore purchased the only female kitten Savannah had produced, and began approaching several breeders of Servals and encouraged them to attempt the development of this new breed along with him. Initially, very few breeders were interested. But Patrick persisted and finally convinced one breeder, Joyce Sroufe, to join him in his efforts. During this time Patrick’s F2 Savannah was bred back to a domestic and produced the first F3 Savannah kittens , giving further hope to this new breed. Patrick and Joyce wrote the original Breed Standard and presented it to the TICA (The International Cat Association) Board of Directors in February 1996.
Joyce Sroufe went on to become a very successful Savannah breeder and is often credited with helping to develop the savannah breed. Due to Joyce’s diligence, perseverance, and faith in this breed, along with her extensive knowledge and skills in cat breeding, she produced more Savannahs than any other breeder at the time, and was one of the first breeders to breed down to the later generations and produce fertile males. Joyce was also the one who first introduced the breed to the public via exhibition at a major cat show in Westchester, New York in 1997.
Another person who deserves recognition as being instrumental in the development of Savannah Cats as a very successful and popular breed is Lorre Smith, the first TICA Savannah Breed Chair person, whose dedicated efforts helped launch Savannahs forward within the ranks of TICA. It was through Lorre’s efforts during a moratorium on hybrid breeds within TICA, that this breed was eventually accepted into TICA’s New Breed program.
Together, Joyce Sroufe, Patrick Kelly and Lorre Smith, founded the Savannah Cat Breed. The founding of any breed is not in a vacuum and many people are responsible for the Savannah Cat development, but these three were instrumental in founding the breed.
The response of TICA Judges and the general public has been overwhelmingly favorable over the past few years, establishing Savannah Cats, with their elegant, exotic looks and interactive personalities, as one of the most sought after companion animals in the world today.
Read about our history as chronicled by The Feline Conservation Federation below…