If you seek a tame lap cat, the Savannah is not the right breed. Behaviors that people view as destructive in other breeds are completely natural characteristics of the Savannah, which has a wild heritage that brings high energy and personality quirks.
While Savannahs are excellent cats to train, they also carry some traits that are just part of their genetic makeup. As their owner, it’s your job to understand these quirks and adapt your environment to satisfy their needs.
What Is The Temperament Of A Savannah Cat?
Savannahs are a playful breed that shares many of the wild characteristics of their ancestors. You’ll need to provide your cat with plenty of attention and interactive play to prevent their behavior from becoming destructive.
Many owners report Savannah’s hiding and lying in wait for their owners before jumping out to pounce on and scare them. Additionally, your Savannah may climb onto high spaces and drop things down onto you as a way of playing and interacting.
Why Does My Savannah Cat Bite?
Biting is an instinctive behavior for a Savannah cat as part of its natural hunting and self-defense system. While it’s natural for your Savannah to bite, it can be dangerous if they engage in this behavior too often or become too rough.
In the wild, biting is an essential skill for survival; without possessing the ability to hunt down and kill their prey, cats would soon die of starvation. For this reason, Savannah kittens are taught to bite from an early age.
Additionally, the more “wild” traits your cat possesses, i.e., how closely related it is to the Serval, the more ingrained these aggressive behaviors will be to their character.
For kittens, hunting practice begins as young as eight weeks old when they will stalk, pounce on and bite their siblings to prepare for real-life encounters.
And biting is not just a means of increasing their hunting abilities. Savannahs will bite to assert dominance within their pride or family. They will also bite to warn that they are getting annoyed by behavior.
Some behaviors that can annoy them are too much petting or being pestered by another pet.
If you possess a Savannah kitten, it’s essential to teach them the difference between playful biting and unhealthy biting from a young age so that you can support them in practicing their natural hunting instincts while maintaining a safe environment for you and your family.
How Much Biting Is Too Much Biting?
Savannah cats possess an abundance of energy, and sometimes an intense play session can lead them to become overstimulated, meaning that they may redirect their biting onto you.
It’s common for owners to allow gnawing of the fingers or arms when a Savannah is only a kitten. This seemingly harmless behavior can be cute and often goes unpunished.
However, if you let your kitten think that biting is an okay form of play, your adult cat will also come to this same conclusion.
As your cat matures and begins to reach full size, these little nibbles soon turn into hard bites, which can cause harm or injury to yourself or others.
If you notice that your cat is becoming overstimulated. It’s vital to deescalate the play rather than allowing them to turn their energy into aggression. Common signs of overstimulation are adrenalin surges that see them hurtling around the house, knocking over furniture, or panting.
When these signs start to appear in your Savannah, allow them to catch their “prey” and play with it for a little while. This will let them calm them back down again.
How Can I Avoid Aggressive Behavior In My Savannah?
Training a Savannah is much easier when they are a kitten rather than a full-grown cat, and early socialization is a must for this breed to ensure that they can build healthy relationships with humans.
As a kitten, ensure that you handle your Savannah often to get them used to human interaction. This handling can include playtime, picking them up, or sitting them in your lap. Never use your fingers, toes, or other body parts as “prey” to tease your kitten when playing.
If you do this, you’ll provoke them into biting, scratching, and attacking you; by telling them that this is okay and acceptable behavior. So instead, use toys such as strings, mice, or small bells as an incentive.
Whenever your kitten tries biting you, replace your body with a toy to redirect their attention and help them understand that your body is not a toy and biting is unacceptable. If you do this, they will grow up to know that they shouldn’t bite you or other humans.
If you purchase an adult Savannah who is already accustomed to rough play and biting, it can be more difficult to train this behavior out of them, but it is possible.
One of the best methods to change negative behaviors is redirection. For example, whenever your Savannah tries to bite you, offer an alternative such as a toy. Once you’re redirected their attention, let them play with this toy for as long as they like.
When they’ve finished playing with the toy, you can reward them with a small treat to reinforce the positive behavior. Then, every time they try to bite you, repeat the process repeatedly until the desired behavior replaces the problem and becomes the new normal.
When training your Savannah (or any cat), never use physical force to reprimand them. Punishing them like this could go one of two ways: they could become fearful of humans and increase their antisocial behavior.
In addition, they may see your aggression as a challenge and try to counteract your behavior with a display of dominance, causing them to become more aggressive.
Either way, it often does more harm than good to punish your pet for bad behavior physically.
How Can I Change My Savannah’s Behavior If Redirection Doesn’t Work?
Redirection is among the most effective ways to train your Savannah, but don’t worry; you can try alternative methods if it doesn’t work. As every cat is different, some respond better to varying forms of training.
If your Savannah demonstrates repeated aggressive behavior, you can try isolating them in a time-out room. By removing them from your space, you send a message that you are not happy with their behavior, and it needs to change.
Savannahs are sociable creatures by nature, and they will quickly reflect on their behavior when they are separated from their family and start to experience feelings of loneliness. Once you remove them from isolation, observe their behavior and reward any positive actions with a treat.
How Do I Adapt My Environment For Housing A Savannah?
Savannahs are a naturally curious breed who love to run, jump and climb on anything available to them; this includes almost every piece of furniture in your home. For this reason, you mustn’t leave precious or breakable items anywhere in the open.
No matter how high you place the possession, a Savannah will be able to reach it; while they’ll have no intention of smashing your special keepsake, it will simply be a consequence of their playful nature.
Savannahs are, by nature, wild cats, and some playful and mischievous behavior is entirely normal. However, if this behavior is a cause for concern or begins to cause harm to you or any of your family, then it’s time to step in and address it.
Using redirection or isolation, you can train your Savannah to understand which negative behaviors you would like them to stop and reinforce the positive behaviors that make your feline a loving family pet.
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