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The Serengeti is a new and very striking variety of shorthaired cat, which is a cross between the Bengal breed and an Oriental Shorthair, although it is still being developed as a breed. It originated in the USA with the intention of closely resembling the wild African Serval, but without introducing the wildcat genes that are present in the Savannah cat, which is a Serval cross in itself. Pure Serengeti are very rarely seen in the UK, although there are sometimes Serengeti x Bengal or Serengeti x Oriental Shorthair variant kittens available. As the Serengeti is not recognised by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF), it cannot be shown at GCCF shows.
The Serengeti was first created in 1994 by an American breeder, Karen Sausman (a professional conservation biologist), at her Kingsmark breeding cattery in California. This generated a certain amount of interest amongst breeders and in 1995 a breeding programme was launched which initially involved Australia, mainland Europe (including Russia), and even the UK on a very small scale. The Serengeti gained preliminary recognition with The International Cat Association (TICA) in 2002, allowing it to be shown at TICA shows.
The Serengeti should appear as a graceful, statuesque, squarely built cat in gleaming physical condition, strong and muscular. It is a large boned breed and most cats have distinguishing features of a clear yellowy gold coat with a widely spaced random black spotted pattern, very long legs and a long neck, and huge round-tipped ears held very upright on top of the head that usually have what are known as 'ocelli' on the backs, which are central light bands bordered by a darker colour giving an eye-like effect. Less common in the Serengeti is a grey coat with black spots, bright silver with black spots or even a solid black with ghost tracings of spots showing, but whatever the colour, the short coat is always quite dense with a soft feel to it. The large round eyes are normally amber to gold, although hazel to light green is acceptable under the TICA standard. Because of the bone conformation, the Serengeti gives the impression of sitting in a very upright position, and its size it resembles that of a large Oriental Shorthair rather than a Bengal, with males weighing between 10-15lb, and females slightly less.
This is a confident and friendly breed, which should get on well with other family pets if introduced carefully. They are very active, loving to climb and play with a variety of toys as well as rushing about at top speed and jumping on and off things in their way. Despite the high level of activity, the Serengeti is a very people-orientated breed that loves almost constant interaction with their human family, often choosing to follow their chosen favourite around the home. Although they are fairly vocal and love to chat with their owners, their voices are not quite as loud or strident as their Oriental forebears. They are usually happy to adapt to being indoor cats, as they tend to connect with people rather than the environment, although as they are such a large active breed, they need a reasonable amount of space to move around in.
The Serengeti is generally a very healthy breed of cat with no breed-specific health problems detected so far, and should live well into their mid teens. Kittens should always be purchased from a reputable breeder, and in common with other cats, they need annual vaccination boosters against the common feline ailments of flu and enteritis, as well as against Feline Leukaemia if they go outdoors. However, if they are allowed out it should be remembered that the Bengal in their breeding has strong hunting instincts, and wildlife trophies may well be brought home for their owners to admire.
The coat of the Savannah is short and sleek and they will need only the minimum amount of grooming to remove any loose hairs, although this time will be a bonus as they are a breed that loves human contact. They will eat most good quality brands of cat food, and most will enjoy treats of cooked meat and even grated cheese. However, cows' milk will probably give them a stomach upset, and a bowl of water should always be available.