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How to Train a Savannah Cat — 6 Simple Steps

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By Nicole Cosgrove

savannah cat on a scratching post

The rare and beautiful Savannah cat is the ultimate prankster. If you’re lucky enough to have one of these wonderful animals as a pet, you’ll know that they’re always up to something. Whether it’s raiding the fridge, swatting at your ankles, or playing with their food, Savannahs are constantly keeping us on our toes.

While their mischievous nature can be frustrating at times, it’s also what makes them such unique and special pets. And, with the right training, you can harness your Savannah’s energy and intelligence to create a well-behaved companion with fun tricks up its spotted sleeve.

In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about training a Savannah cat. We’ll cover what you need to get started, the best way to approach training sessions, and some awesome tricks you can teach your Savannah. So, if you’re ready to start training your furry friend, read on!

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Can You Train a Savannah Cat?

Absolutely, yes! Savannah cats have the ideal personality for training. They’re curious, playful, and adventurous by nature, which means they love to learn new things. They’re also very active, so they have the energy to keep up with training sessions. These kitties are affectionate, too, so they’ll enjoy spending time with you during training.

On the flip side, these smart cats have a stubborn streak. They like to do things their own way and can be quite naughty at times. So, while they can easily learn how to fetch and walk on a leash, they’re not going to make it easy for you.

That’s part of their charm, though. It also makes it incredibly satisfying when your Savannah finally brings back that ball or walks calmly by your side.

savannah cat sitting on couch
Image Credit: Kolomenskaya Kseniya, Shutterstock

The 6 Basic Steps of Training a Savannah Cat

If you’ve never tried to train a cat before, you might be wondering where to start. The good news is that training a Savannah is very similar to training any other animal.

1. Use Positive Reinforcement to Train Your Savannah Cat

Savannah cats learn best when they’re happy and excited for training time. Only use positive reinforcement during your sessions, such as treats, praise, or playtime.

Never use negative reinforcement, such as scolding or punishment, when they’re not doing what you want. This will only make your Savannah scared or resentful, and it won’t help them learn.

2. Try Clicker Training

Clicker training is a popular method that uses a small noise maker, called a clicker, to mark desired behaviors. When your Savannah does something that you like, you click the clicker and immediately give them a treat. Over time, they’ll associate the click with getting a reward, and they’ll start doing the behavior more often to get the treat.

This method is great because it’s very precise. Your Savannah will quickly learn that they only get a reward when they do the specific behavior you’re asking for.

3. Make Training Sessions Short and Fun

Savannah cats have a short attention span, so it’s important to keep training sessions short and sweet. Start with just a few minutes at a time and gradually increase the length of your sessions as they get better at following commands.

It’s also important to make training fun for both of you! Use your Savannah’s favorite toys and treats to keep them engaged, and make sure to praise them often.

Savannah F1 kitten
Image Credit: Kolomenskaya Kseniya, Shutterstock

4. Schedule Regular Training Sessions

To make sure your Savannah doesn’t forget what they’ve learned, it’s important to have regular training sessions. A good rule of thumb is to train for 5–10 minutes a day, but you can do more or less, depending on your cat’s attention span.

5. Increase the Level of Difficulty as They Master Each Task

Don’t underestimate a Savannah cat—they’re smarter than they let on! As they master each task, make it more difficult so they can keep learning. For example, if you’re teaching them to sit, add a stay command. Or if you’re teaching them to fetch, have them bring the toy back to you instead of just dropping it at your feet.

6. Practice in Different Places and Situations

To make sure your Savannah is really comfortable with a behavior, practice in different places and situations. If you’re teaching them to sit, try it in different rooms of your house or even outside. Teaching them to walk on a leash? Take them for a walk around the block, around other people, and animals.

The more you can expose them to, the better they’ll be at following commands no matter where they are.

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What Tricks Can You Train Your Savannah Cat to Do?

The sky’s the limit when it comes to training a Savannah cat. They’re capable of learning all sorts of tricks, from simple behaviors like sitting and staying to more complex ones like fetching and walking on a leash.

a savannah cat standing outside on a backyard deck
Image By: Patrick Hatt, Shutterstock
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
  • Potty training
  • Respond to their name
  • Sit
  • Stay
  • Come
  • Down
  • Off
  • Fetch
  • Bring a toy to you
  • Walk on a leash
  • High five
  • Wave
  • Play dead

In the next section, we’ll go over how to train your Savannah cat to do some of these tricks.

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How to Potty Train Your Savannah Kitten

If you’ve just brought home a Savannah kitten, one of your first priorities should be potty training. This is actually one of the easiest things to train them to do because cats instinctively bury their waste.

savannah kitten
Image Credit: Kolomenskaya Kseniya, Shutterstock

Here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Prepare a Litter Box

The first step is to get a litter box that’s big enough for your Savannah to use comfortably. We recommend getting one they can grow into, as they may not be able to use a smaller box once they’re fully grown. Fill it with a few inches of litter and place it in an easily accessible spot.

2. Keep Them Confined

While they’re learning to use the litter box, it’s best to keep your Savannah kitten confined to a small area, like a bathroom or laundry room. This will help them learn to associate the box with going to the bathroom.

3. Set a Schedule

Cats are creatures of habit, so it’s important to set a regular schedule for feeding and bathroom breaks. Whenever you feed them, take them to the litter box and give them a few minutes to go. It’s also a good idea to take them after they wake up from a nap, and before they go to bed for the night.

Savannah cat
Image Credit: Lindasj22, Shutterstock

4. Guide Their Paws

If you see your Savannah kitten start to go to the bathroom outside of the box, quickly pick them up and place them in the litter. Gently guide their paws through the motions of scratching and scooping, so they know what to do.

5. Reward Them

Whenever your Savannah kitten uses the litter box, make sure to praise them and give them a treat. This will reinforce the good behavior and help them learn that using the box is something you want them to do.

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How to Train Your Savannah Cat to Respond to Their Name

You’ve spent days or months picking out the perfect name for your Savannah cat. Naturally, you want them to respond when you call them. While cats are infamous for ignoring their owners, it’s actually possible to train them to respond to their name. Here’s how:

savannah cat looking at something
Image Credit: Kolomenskaya Kseniya, Shutterstock

1. Get Their Attention

The first step is to get your Savannah cat’s attention. This can be done by calling their name in a happy voice or by shaking a treat jar. Once they’re looking at you, give them a treat.

2. Repeat the Process

Continue calling their name and giving them a treat until they start to associate their name with getting a reward. You may need to do this multiple times a day for a week or two before they start to respond consistently.

3. Make It Harder

Once your Savannah cat is responding to their name when you’re in the same room, start calling them from another room. If they come to you, give them a treat. If they don’t, try again later. Eventually, they’ll learn that their name means they should come to you, no matter where you are.

F1 savannah cat playing a toy
Image Credit: Katerina Mirus, Shutterstock

4. Ask Other People to Help

If you want your Savannah cat to respond to their name no matter who calls them, it’s important to get other people in your household involved in the training process. Have everyone who lives with you call them by their name and give them a treat when they respond.

5. Practice Regularly

Like any other skill, responding to their name is something your Savannah cat will need to practice regularly to stay good at it. Make sure to call them by their name every day and give them a treat whenever they respond.

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How to Train Your Savannah Cat to Wear a Harness

Savannah cats love to explore, which means they’ll take every opportunity to run off if they’re not properly restrained. That’s why it’s important to train them to wear a harness from an early age. This is also the first part of training them to walk on a leash, which is both a safer and more enjoyable way to let them explore the world outside.

Follow these steps:

a savannah cat wearing a red harness
Image Credit: Kolomenskaya Kseniya, Shutterstock

1. Buy a Comfortable Harness

The first step is to find a harness that’s comfortable for your Savannah cat. Avoid anything that’s too tight or constricting, as this will make them uncomfortable and more likely to fight against it. You should also look for a harness with a sturdy leash attachment, so you don’t have to worry about them getting loose.

2. Let Them Adjust

Don’t force your Savannah to wear the harness right away. Let them sniff it and explore it at their own pace. Reward them for any interaction they have with it. They walked near the harness? Toss them a treat! They sniffed it? Give them a head scratch! Before long, they’ll be associating the harness with positive experiences and be more receptive to wearing it.

3. Put It On

Once they’re comfortable with the harness, it’s time to put it on them. Start by putting it on for just a few minutes at a time. Reward them with treats and praise throughout the process. Slowly increase the amount of time they’re wearing the harness until they’re comfortable wearing it for longer periods of time.

4. Play, Feed, and Cuddle With Them While They’re Wearing It

The goal here is for your Savannah to learn that wearing a harness is a natural part of their everyday routine. So, while they’re wearing it, do all the things you normally do with them. Give them their meals, play with them, and cuddle with them. Again, the more positive experiences they have while wearing the harness, the more likely they are to tolerate it (and even enjoy it).

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How to Teach Your Savannah Cat to Walk on a Leash

Once your Savannah cat is comfortable wearing a harness, you can start teaching them to walk on a leash. Besides keeping them safe while outdoors, they look ridiculously cute strutting their stuff on a leash.

Use these tips for your leash walking lessons:

savannah cat on leash lying on green grass
Image Credit: Jarry, Shutterstock

1. Familiarize Them With the Leash

Like getting them used to the harness, you need to introduce your Savannah cat to the leash gradually. Start by placing it near them while they eat or play. As they get more comfortable with it, you can pick it up and let them sniff it. Eventually, you’ll be able to drape it over their back and let them walk around with it.

2. Get Them Used to the Feeling of Being Restrained

Walking on a leash requires your Savannah cat to be restrained, which is not something they’re naturally comfortable with. Don’t expect them to be okay with it right away.

Try holding the leash, then treating them whenever they take a step toward you. Reward even the smallest progress. If they take one step, give them a treat. Then, rinse and repeat, increasing the number of steps they need to take to earn a treat.

3. Reward Every Step

Remember to reward your Savannah cat for every step they take on the leash. Small rewards will encourage them to keep moving forward.

4. Start Walking

Now that your Savannah cat is used to the leash and the feeling of being restrained, it’s time to start walking. This is where a lot of patience comes in. They might try to sit down, run away, or just generally be uncooperative.

The key is to take it slow and not get frustrated. If they sit down, gently encourage them to stand back up. If they run away, give them some slack on the leash and let them explore a bit. If they look distressed, take a break, and try again later.

5. Walk Them in Different Places

To keep things interesting (for both of you), mix up your walking routes. Go for a walk around the block one day, and stroll along a nature trail the next. Remember that these are adventurous cats who love to explore. Next to treats, new sights and smells are their biggest motivators.

7. Practice, Practice, Practice

There’s no way around it: leash walking takes time, patience, and a whole lot of practice. The more you do it, the more ingrained the lesson will be. Try to practice every day, even if it’s just 5 minutes. Soon enough, your Savannah cat will be a pro.

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How to Train Your Savannah Cat to Sit, Stay, and Come

Harness and leash training are just the beginning. If you really want to impress your friends (and show off your Savannah cat’s smarts), you can teach them how to sit, stay, and come on command.

These are also the building blocks for more complex tricks and obedience commands, so we recommend prioritizing them. Teach them to sit first, then to stay, and then to come when called. Structure the lesson like this:

close up of a savannah cat sitting
Image Credit: AJR_photo, Shutterstock

1. Teach Them How to Sit

Your Savannah has no idea what you want when you tell them to “sit.” All they know is that you’re making some strange noises and motions, which probably isn’t all that different from their normal daily routine.

To get them to understand the concept of “sitting,” you’ll need to guide them to it. Hold an extra tasty treat in your hand, like a piece of chicken or fish, and slowly move it up over their head. As they follow the treat with their eyes, their bottom will naturally lower into a sitting position.

When they do, give them the treat and lots of praise. With enough repetitions, they’ll start to associate the word “sit” with the physical act of sitting, and they’ll do it on command.

2. Get Them to Stay in One Spot

“Stay” is probably the most difficult command for a Savannah cat to understand, simply because it goes against their nature. They’re curious creatures who love to explore, so asking them to stay in one spot is a tall order.

Still, they can and will learn it, especially in exchange for their favorite treat. Start by getting them to sit, then take a small step back. If they stay seated, give them the treat immediately. Repeat this process, gradually increasing the distance between you.

If they break their “stay” and move toward you, that’s okay! Just calmly guide them back to the spot where they were sitting and start again. For this command, keep the sessions very short or you’ll have a grumpy kitty on your hands.

Once they’re able to stay in one spot for a minute or two, increase both the distance and the duration of the “stay.” With enough practice, they’ll be able to stay put for as long as you need them to.

3. Call Them to “Come” When They’re a Few Feet Away

The final command is “come.” This one is relatively easy after they’ve learned how to respond to their name, as well as how to sit and stay. The real challenge is getting them to do it on command. This is a Savannah cat we’re talking about after all—they enjoy doing things on their own terms.

Like all commands, start small. Get their attention with their favorite treat, then take a few steps back. When they reach you, give them the treat and lots of praise. Use your happiest voice and make your Savannah cat feel like they just won the lottery.

Next, try it from a few feet away. Again, use their favorite treat to get their attention, then back away. Reward them when they follow you and come near.

After that, add the “come” command. Say it in a happy, excited voice as you back away. When they follow you, give them the treat and praise them like crazy.

Increase the difficulty by adding distractions, calling them from another room, asking them to come when they’re playing with a toy, etc. With enough practice, your Savannah cat will come whenever you call, even if they’re in the middle of something they enjoy.

4. Mix up the Commands

Now that your Savannah cat knows the basic commands, it’s time to combine them. This will keep them challenged and engaged, and it will help to solidify the commands in their mind. For instance, you can ask them to sit, then take a few steps back and tell them to stay. When they stay put, call them to come. You can also ask them to come, then sit before rewarding them.

Get creative and come up with your own combinations. You can even combine sit, stay, and come with harness and leash training, as well as other tricks.

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Final Thoughts

Training your Savannah cat won’t be a walk in the park, but it’s definitely worth it. Teaching them tricks and commands exercises their body and mind, strengthens your connection, and it’s just plain fun.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: AJR_photo, Shutterstock

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