A Savannah cat is a cross between a domestic cat and the serval, a medium-sized, large-eared wild African cat. The unusual cross became popular among breeders at the end of the 1990s, and in 2001 the International Cat Association accepted it as a new registered breed. In May 2012, TICA accepted it as a championship breed.
Bengal breeder Judee Frank crossbred a male serval, belonging to Suzi Woods, with a Siamese (domestic cat) to produce the first Savannah cat (named Savannah) on April 7, 1986. Frank’s Savannah attracted the interest of Patrick Kelley, who purchased one of Savannah's kittens in 1989. Kelley was one of the first enthusiasts who worked towards establishing a new domestic breed based on a serval/domestic cat cross. He approached many serval breeders to help in the development of this new breed, and finally garnered the help of breeder Joyce Sroufe to work with him in taking the steps needed to have the new breed recognized.
As Savannahs are produced by crossbreeding servals and domestic cats, each generation of Savannahs is marked with a filial number. For example, the cats produced directly from a serval/domestic cat cross are the F1 generation, and they are 50% serval.
F1 generation Savannahs are very difficult to produce, due to the significant difference in gestation periods between the serval and a domestic cat (75 days for a serval and 65 days for a domestic cat), and sex chromosomes. Pregnancies are often absorbed or aborted, or kittens are born prematurely. Also, servals can be very picky in choosing mates, and often will not mate with a domestic cat.