Have you ever seen an adorable photo of a baby Jaguar and wished you just could take the little guy home? You’re not the only one!
Wild hybrid cat breeds such as Bengals, Savannahs and Safaris are created by crossing a domestic cat with a species of wild feline. The idea is to create a domestic cat with the loving personality of a typical pet kitty, plus the beautiful and exotic appearance of a wild animal.
That’s the idea — but the reality is always a little messy. While wild hybrid cat breeds do exist and can be wonderful pets, their heritage does give them unique needs. Wild hybrid cat breeds must be physically exercised, mentally stimulated, and fed a carnivorous diet of real, raw meat — like their not-so-distant wild ancestors!
Wild Hybrid Cat Breeds
Bengal Cat (Asian Leopard Cat x Domestic Cat)
The Asian Leopard Cat is one of the smallest (and cutest!) wild cats. Mating an Asian Leopard Cat with a domestic cat (usually an Egyptian Mau) creates the most popular wild hybrid cat breed in the world: the Bengal Cat.
Athletic, energetic and fiercely intelligent, the Bengal Cat is a fun yet challenging companion! Many domestic cats can be trained, but Bengal Cats especially benefit from training, mental enrichment and a lot of exercise.
Bengal Cats are crossed with other domestic cat breeds in order to pass on their gorgeous coloration and wild heritage. A Bengal Cat crossed with an Oriental Shorthair produces the hybrid known as Serengeti Cats.
Bengal Cats can also be crossed with Ocicats. Named for their resemblance to the wild feline species called Ocelots, the domestic cat breed Ocicat is actually not a wild hybrid — they are entirely domestic. When a fully-domestic Ocicat is crossed with a wild hybrid Bengal Cat, the resulting kittens are called Cheetoh Cats.
Bengal Cats can also be crossed with any tabby-colored domestic cat to create a mix known as the Toyger. This wild hybrid cat breed has the most tiger-like stripes of any pet feline (other than an actual tiger!).
Finally, Bengal Cats are crossed with Munchkin Cats to create an adorable wild hybrid cat breed called Genetta Cats.
Savannah Cat (Serval x Domestic Cat)
The Serval is a spotty, long-legged wild cat from sub-Saharan Africa. When crossed with a domestic cat (usually a Siamese) the resulting hybrid is known as a Savannah Cat.
Savannah Cats are one of the most popular wild hybrid cat breeds, second in popularity only to the Bengal Cat. These powerful felines often retain the lean, muscular build and spotted coloration of their Serval ancestor.
If you do any reading on wild hybrid cat breeds, you may come across the term “Ashera Cat.” Advertised as one of the most expensive cat breeds in the world, this wild hybrid cat breed is supposedly a mix of Serval, Asian Leopard Cat and domestic cat — creating some kind of Bengal Cat/Savannah Cat blend.
However, DNA tests have proven that the cats being sold as Ashera Cats are actually purebred Savannah Cats. In addition, the businessman who supposedly developed the Ashera Cat has a reputation for scams and fraudulent businesses. Therefore, the “Ashera Cat” breed is almost certainly a scam, reselling normal Savannah Cats at a much much higher price by claiming they’re a rare new breed.
Chausie Cat (Jungle Cat x Domestic Cat)
The Jungle Cat is a tawny-colored wild cat species from India and Bangladesh. When crossed with a domestic cat (most commonly an Abyssinian or Oriental Shorthair), the wild hybrid cat breed that results is known as the Chausie Cat.
The Chausie Cat was named in honor of their wild ancestry (the Jungle Cat’s scientific name is Felis chaus). Like Bengal Cats and Savannah Cats, Chausie Cats are intelligent and high-octane felines that need stimulation and daily challenges to solve in order to stay happy.
Chausie Cats are themselves crossed with other domestic cat breeds. A Chausie Cat crossed with an American Curl produces the Jungle Curl hybrid, while a Chausie Cat crossed with a Pixie-bob is known as a Jungle Bob.
Finally, a Chausie Cat can be crossed with a Bengal Cat to create a wild hybrid cat breed that is descencent from two different species of wild cat. This rare mix is called the Poljun Cat.
Other Wild Hybrid Cat Breeds
Bengal Cats, Savannah Cats and Chausie Cats are the most common wild hybrid cat breeds to keep as pets. However, there are a few others.
When a Geoffroy’s Cat (a small, wild cat from South America) is crossed with a domestic cat (usually an Egyptian Mau or Ocicat) the wild hybrid breed that is produced is called the Safari Cat.
At least one British cat breeder has crossed the Sand Cat (a tiny desert-dwelling wild cat) with domestic cats to create a wild hybrid cat breed called the Marguerite.
The Fishing Cat is a medium-sized wild cat from Southeast Asia, known for their expertise in scooping fish out of rivers. Occasionally, they have been crossed with domestic cats. The wild hybrid cats that result have been known by a variety of breed names, including Machbagral, Bagral, Viverral and Jambi.
Finally, there is a wild hybrid cat breed found predominantly in Russia called the Caracat. This rare and extremely expensive breed is created by crossing the lynx-like Caracal with an Abyssinian domestic cat. However, breeding this hybrid is controversial; thanks to significant biological differences between the species, it is often dangerous to the health of the mother and kittens.
Supposed Bobcat Hybrid Cat Breeds
There are several breeds of domestic cat that some breeders and feline enthusiasts have claimed are wild hybrids with Bobcat ancestry.
The most famous of these is the Pixie-bob, a domestic cat breed with a naturally “bobbed” tail. The breeder who developed the Pixie-bob genuinely believed that some of the stray cats she used as the foundation of the breed had been conceived in the wild through naturally occurring matings between domestic cats and wild Bobcats.
Several other domestic cat breeds also claim to have Bobcat ancestry. These include the American Bobtail, the American Lynx, the Desert Lynx, and the Highland Lynx or Highlander.
It’s not entirely outside the realm of possibility that wild Bobcats and stray domestic cats may mate. This kind of wild/domestic crossing is known to happen in Scotland, for example, where the naturally-occurring cross between Scottish Wildcats and feral domestic cats are known as Kellas Cats.
And, to be fair, Pixie-bobs and other domestic cats with a bobbed tail can strongly resemble a mini-Bobcat in physical appearance. In addition to the bobbed tail, they may also have tufted ears, a tawny coat, and large paws.
However, DNA tests of Pixie-bob cats and other cat breeds that are supposedly Bobcat hybrids have found no trace of Bobcat DNA. There has also been no recorded evidence of a successful Bobcat-domestic cat breeding, outside of stray litters assumed to be hybrids based on appearance.
Therefore the Pixie-bob and other bobtailed cat breeds are considered to be completely domestic cat breeds, not exotics or wild hybrids. All of their “wild” physical features are from carefully selected domestic cat genes — no actual Bobcats required!
Do You Really Want a Wild Hybrid Cat?
Feline behaviorist Jackson Galaxy discusses the complexities of a potential wild hybrid cat ban in the UK.
Generations (What’s With All the Fs?)
If you’re interested in adding a Bengal Cat or Savannah Cat to your home and you start searching for one, you’ll quickly notice that these cats are described with an F# prefix. You may see an advertisement for a litter of F6 Bengal kittens for sale, or an F4 Savannah Cat up for adoption. So what does that mean, anyway?
The F in this case stands for “filial.” It’s a breeders’ term, describing how many generations removed a hybrid is from the original cross.
For example: When an Asian Leopard Cat and an Egyptian Mau are bred together, their kittens are considered F1 Bengal Cats. These kittens are 50% wild, 50% domestic. If one of those F1 Bengal Cats is eventually bred to another Egyptian Mau, the kittens that result are F2 Bengal Cats. These kittens are 25% wild, 75% domestic. The pattern then continues with F3, F4, and so on.
With each generation, the wild genes from the original Asian Leopard Cat ancestor are more and more diluted. This brings each generation’s appearance and behavior slightly closer to that of a typical domestic cat.
Care and Behavior of Wild Hybrid Cat Breeds
Before you purchase or adopt a wild hybrid cat, it’s critical to know what you are getting into.
Thanks to the influence of their wild ancestor, hybrid cats are more likely than fully domestic cats to spray, urinate outside the litter box, be destructive with furniture and possessions, play too roughly, or have a strong prey drive. Even cats that are several generations removed from their wild ancestors may display some or all of these tendencies.
Adopting a Bengal Cat, Savannah Cat or other wild hybrid cat breed means making a commitment to spending at least a few hours each day on your kitty’s physical and mental enrichment. These are not cats that are content to simply “do their own thing” day in and day out!
Wild hybrid kitties need puzzles, games, and a variety of mental challenges each day. Old toys become boring quickly, so make sure to spice things up with new toys that are a variety of textures and shapes. Because of their strong prey drive, toys that move in different ways are sure to fascinate your wild hybrid feline. Get some toys that fly, some that wiggle, some that run, and so on!
Wild hybrid cat breeds also need a lot of physical exercise. They benefit greatly from leash training and daily walks, or even a giant cat wheel! Plus, it’s crucial to catify your home with places for your kitty to climb, jump, scratch, and hide.
If you don’t provide a sufficiently stimulating environment and enrichment, you run the risk of your wild hybrid cat getting bored and frustrated. An unhappy cat may quickly develop destructive or potentially even dangerous behaviors (such as making YOU their cat toy!).
Of course, lovers of breeds like Bengals and Savannahs will tell you they are well worth all the time and effort. These gorgeous cats are intelligent and loving. They learn tricks, are chatty, and often enjoy a good cuddle.
But, before you rush out and adopt one for yourself based on their beautiful appearance, it’s important to look at your living situation and lifestyle and honestly evaluate if a high-maintenance cat is the right choice for you.
If you do purchase or adopt a wild hybrid cat breed, make sure you are doing all you can to meet their needs both mentally and physically. That means enrichment, exercise, and of course — a nutritious diet of real, fresh meat!
Consider Adopting Over Shopping
Before you buy a wild hybrid cat breed, you should also take into consideration the ethical implications.
Remember that in order to create these hybrid breeds, truly wild animals like Servals and Asian Leopard Cats must be kept in captivity and bred. The wellbeing of these wild animals may not be fully considered, if profit is the breeder’s sole priority.
In many areas, cat hybrids that are F1 through F3 are still considered too wild to be appropriate domestic pets. However, in order to produce kittens that are F4 or later and able to be sold as pets, wild hybrid cat breeders must keep generations F1 through F3 on hand. The wellbeing of all these cats must be considered, as well. If they are only used for breeding, they may never receive sufficient exercise, enrichment or interaction to be physically and mentally well.
Ultimately, the sad truth is that there is very little oversight of cat breeding facilities, even for wild hybrids. “Kitten farms” or “kitten factories” — similar to puppy mills — are all too common, where the breeding cats are kept in inhumane conditions and not given appropriate care.
Therefore, if you do choose to buy a wild hybrid kitten, it’s important that you’re not buying from an inhumane breeder. Ask key questions, like if you can visit your breeder’s facility, how many animals they keep and how their cats from the earlier generations are treated.
If you truly have your heart set on a wild hybrid cat, a great alternative to supporting a potentially unethical breeder is to adopt from a hybrid cat rescue. Many Bengals and other hybrid cats are surrendered every year by families who underestimated these cats’ unique needs, or are otherwise unable to keep them. If you’re confident you would be a responsible hybrid cat guardian, consider rescuing your new best friend instead!
Plus, on a practical level, wild hybrid cat breeds are extremely expensive to purchase from a breeder. Many will cost you several thousand dollars!
Meanwhile, there are perfectly gorgeous, friendly and intelligent cats waiting for adoption in shelters and rescues across the country. Rescuing means you can still have the cat of your dreams, in a way that is not only more ethical but more affordable, too.
Wild hybrid cat breeds are gorgeous, fascinating and challenging kitties. If you’re interested in bringing a “mini Leopard” into your home, make sure you do your research and choose the breed that’s right for you. Adopt from a rescue if you can, or verify that you aren’t supporting unethical breeding.
If you don’t think you’re in a position to meet the unique needs of a wild hybrid cat, there are millions of loving cats in shelters across the country who may suit you better. Why not adopt an all-black cat and simply pretend they’re descended from wild Black Panthers? (If you say it enough, even your kitty may start to believe it!)
No matter what kind of kitty you bring home, all cats are united by similar nutritional needs. A protein-rich, high quality carnivorous diet will fuel your mini Tiger or little Lion’s strong muscles — so Whiskers can stalk and hunt that toy mouse like the apex predator they know they are!