The year 2010 so far has been personally very hard on me, however there has been a bit of shining light. Starting in mid January Megan and I started tossing around the idea of having an animal in our little Russian Hill cottage, after living with two awesome cats for the last two years things just didn’t feel right without the raw untainted animal presence to which we became accustomed. The land lord wasn’t keen on dogs on the property, and I can fully understand and appreciate that rule as dogs left at home for too long can cause quite a lot of noise. I was however a bit disappointed because I was really starting to get used to the idea of a Shibu Inu.
However, we were given approval to get a cat without any specification as to what kind of cat. I started googling for “cat leash walk” etc. and came upon Servals on many of the big cat websites. Unfortunately most of the write-ups concluded with “check your states legislation as to the legality of owning a big cat”. Of course California would be one of the states to completely outlaw and enforce the rules of not having a pet big cat. So then my search turned into “biggest legal cat in California” and I stumbled upon a news report in San Diego about this “new” and emerging breed called the Savannah cat. It turns out that starting in 1986 someone though it would be pretty neat to have a cat with the temperament and some of the physical features of a Serval cat without having to deal with your house getting sprayed and literally torn apart.
Don’t get me wrong, if I was living in any of the surrounding states I probably would have bought a full blown Serval cat.. but living in a small place in San Francisco it just didn’t seem like a smart move even if it was legal. So I started emailing various breeders across the entire US that I found on the Available Savannah Kittens Yahoo Group. I received a few really great responses, and had some really satisfying correspondence with very caring breeders. A few less than inspring responses simply containing a photo and a price tag and a little in between. One response didn’t show up until February 4th from Jungle Mountain Exotics based in the San Fernando Valley. February 5th was a pretty low day, and after a night of not being able to sleep and thinking about the pictures in the email I broke out my phone while still laying in bed pulled up the email and said “thats the one I want”. To make a long story short, 5 hours of phone calls later we were in the car driving to LA.
We arrived around 9AM Saturday morning at Jungle Mountain after a restless sleep at the Van Nuys Hampton. We were greeted by Bion Kirk and were led into an office with a litter box where we heard a squeak and meow from the corner of the room under a desk. After a few seconds of swinging around the feathers on a stick a little white spotted lightening bolt came cruising out from under the desk and went right up to Meg.. game over.
We took a tour of the compound and saw Kimta’s parents and the famous F1 Safari, as well as a hybrid wolf and various other cool animals.
We then headed back to the little office where we could watch little Kimta run around in circles while Bion told us how to take care of him, clip his nails, shots etc and then we stuck him a carrier and took him to the car. We made a quick stop by a pet stop to buy some goodies, food and litter box and then set on our way. For a little kitten he was surprisingly happy to sleep on our laps (total strangers) the whole 5 and a half hour drive up to San Francisco.
After a couple days of settling in, he pretty much runs the house and has become part of the family. I have been busily training him (or letting him train me) how to go on a walk. He currently loves to play fetch for hours and after a long day alone he has an insane amount of energy that needs to be burnt off.
As for the name, it represents a very special place to me that I spent time with my Dad as a kid on the Olympic Peninsula in the middle of the park just north of Lake Quinault. “Kimta Peak”, is a place where you rarely get good weather because it’s constantly surrounded by intense weather systems.. but when you do it opens up and is one the most amazing views you will ever see. At the base of the Peak is a small glacial lake full of freezing glacier water and ice bergs where you can take a morning dip to wake up and bask in the glory of the immensely hard work you put out to get there (on the Skyline Trail). The second I saw the pictures of the little cub the name jumped into my head.
As I have told this whole crazy story to quite a few friends and family at this point, I decided it was time to write it up before I start forgetting details. At this point I have noticed a few things about Kimta that are different from the cats I spent the last two years with. As long as I am in sight, he is okay pretty much anywhere he is (car rides, walks, new buildings/places). When he is getting ready to hunt one of his toys he will make an interesting chirping noise that sounds more like a bird than a cat. He plays in the shower and doesn’t mind getting wet (on his own terms, walking in the rain is not one of his favorite activities).
Kimta regularly head bumps me anytime he finds my head near enough to his, which I have read is normal behavior for the Serval.. but I still don’t quite know what it means. Many of the write-ups I read about Savannah’s really made them out to sound like a dog like cat, however they are still a cat and you need to keep that in mind. When walking, those giant ears are tuned to hear every single noise for miles and a screeching truck can really make them uncomfortable. I find that when walking if I continually talk to him, or have Pandora on my iPhone turned up as high as it will go (with some Mark Knopfler) that he will concentrate on that and continue his walk instead of constantly stopping to figure out what he’s hearing.
These animals attach to you, not to your house – so you will find them following you from room to room about 5 feet behind you to keep an eye on what you’re up to. They beg for scraps and go CRAZY when you have pungent cheese around, we found this out when opening a can of Cougar Gold (GO COUGS).
Kimta is a Silver Savannah with a coat similar to a Silver Tabby, however the stripes he has are thiner and more defined and he has many rosette’s (spots without an interior). I’m told that the Silver coat genetics are similar to that of the elusive white tigers. My understanding is that Kimta is somewhere around ~20% African Serval, but to me he’s the little dog cat that greets me at the door with a wagging tail.
A few people out there know that I have occasionally mentioned my dream of one day owning a ranch somewhere in the Northwest where I can raise some Mountain Lions.. I guess perfect practice makes perfect! It has been quite a trip so far, thanks for reading!