The development of the Serengeti cat started with Karen Sausman, owner of Kingsmark Cattery in California as well as a conservation biologist. Sausman had observed the increasing trend of cat fanciers domesticating wild cat species. As a conservationist, Sasusman initiated an experimental breeding program in 1994 for the purpose of creating a wild-looking feline from domestic parents. It was hoped that cat fanciers would be deterred from buying exotic cats, thus, endangering the wild cat species.
Sausman engaged the help of friends and family to develop a feline with the look of a Serval, one of the popular cat species in the exotic pet trade. To achieve this look, Sausman crossed the Bengal with the Oriental Shorthair. These two breeds come from very diverse feline gene pools that include domestic breeds, such as the Abyssinian, Burmese and Siamese as well as a few wild relatives, such as the Asian Leopard Cat and the Egyptian Mau.
Unlike the makeup of the breed known as Savannah, the Serengeti has no Serval blood. Thus, it is considered a breed that holds the best of both worlds, that is, a domestic cat with the looks of a wild cat. Sausman had however named the breed Serengeti as an honor to the African plains where Servals thrived. The Serengeti is now recognized by The International Cat Association (TICA) and can be shown as a preliminary new breed. It is also being bred by individuals all around the world, which includes Australia, Europe, Russia, United Kingdom and United States.
Physical appearance and attributes
The Serengeti is a medium sized cat that weighs between 8 – 12 pounds. It possesses a body of semi-foreign type with a long and lean musculature. Its rump and shoulders should be of the same level, giving it a very upright posture. This breed is blessed with the longest legs of any fully domesticated cat, allowing it to jump up to 7 feet in the air. The legs are of medium boning and musculature, and taper into medium oval paws. Balancing the body is a long tail that reaches below the shoulders when laid along the torso. It tapers into a slight rounded tip.
The head appears longer than it is wide and is of a modified wedge. This wedged shape can be traced starting from the tip of the nose and flaring out in a straight line to the base of the ears. A slight whisker break can be noted. The face of the Serengeti is usually dwarfed by its strikingly large and rounded ears that sit upright and close together on the top of its head, giving it a look of heightened alertness. Serengeti has large round eyes that are neither protruding nor recessive. They are separated by a broad nose and the preferred colors are gold and yellow. However, hazel or light green is also accepted. The muzzle is moderately full with rounded whisker pads. It has a strong chin that lines up to the tip of the nose in a vertical plane. Viewed in profile, the perfect standard of the Serengeti should present a strong and thick neck with very little to no taper into the back of the head. The ears would also present a deep bell and a straight line can be traced from the forehead to the tip of the nose.
This cat wears a coat of short and even hair with fine and dense texture. The shaft of the hair is translucent, thus it appears to shimmer when looked at from a distance. They can come in any shades of brown, black and silver. Very much like a leopard cat, the Serengeti should have solid, distinct spots that contrast with the coat’s base color.
Personality and temperaments
The Serengeti cat is an open, friendly and self-assured cat. It may appear shy as it tries to adapt to the new environment and people, but when it has warm up to you, the Serengeti would start to become more responsive and outgoing. Its agile and active side would unveil, always on the lookout for something adventurous, climbing high places or seeking to follow its owner around the house. Taking after the Bengal, the Serengeti has a heightened sense and awareness of its surroundings. Though it can be vocal, this breed is not as talkative as its oriental ancestors. Its friendliness can be extended to young children as well as other family pets as long as they are properly introduced.
Care and health issues
While it is a generally healthy breed with a lifespan of 10 – 15 years, it does have a few health issues including the risk of urinary calculi or crystals. These uncomfortable and dangerous solids can form inside the cat’s kidneys or bladder. This can be aided with the right diet. Discuss the cat’s diet with the veterinarian, who will be able to make the best recommendation for your specific cat. It is also important to ensure that the cat has gone through the basic health checks by responsible breeders before purchasing it. An annual vaccination is also ideal to maintain the cat’s overall good health.
Grooming the Serengeti is fairly mild it needs only a weekly brushing to help keep its coat healthy. The teeth should also be brushed frequently with vet-approved toothpaste. For overall maintenance, trim the nail and clean the ears whenever necessary.
The ideal home
The Serengeti can be well suited for indoor living. It will certainly not reject the freedom to explore and play in outdoor gardens and spaces, however, you will have to ensure that such spaces are well-enclosed for the cat to roam and explore safely. Otherwise, allow for large indoor spaces that are equipped with cat gym sets, cat trees and interactive toys. The Serengeti has very high energy and agility level, thus, it is only meant for a family that will be responsive to its musing and ready to shower it with attention and care on a daily basis. It is one of those breeds that have the propensity to jump or clamber up furniture every once in a while. Thus, you might not enjoy this breed if you are easily startled. Otherwise, this feline with a wild look is certainly a rare one to have around the home.