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  • VIDEO:  Vince Gerasole reports.

  • Feb 19, 2004 4:06 pm US/Central
    CHICAGO (CBS 2) Some might call them the purrrr-fect pet. They'll run with you and play ball just like Lassie, but Tidy Cat also helps them keep tidy around the house. We're talking about a rare and in demand breed called the Savannah, and we found some "Inside Chicago."

    If you know cats, then you know the sight of one playing in the water is a bit unusual.

    “Probably my favorite thing though is to watch them interact with water,” cat owner Cynthia King said. “You start running the bubble bath water, and they come flying to the second floor from where ever they are in the house.

    And how many house cats have you seen who weigh 20 pounds and regularly go for a walk on a leash?

    “I've been walking through the neighborhood where cars screech to a stop to scream, 'oh my god, what are those?'” King said.

    They are Savannahs. A new breed of cat, big cat, that's only been around for about a decade, with some uncatagorical behavior.

    “These cats will greet you at the door,” cat owner Carol Streit said. "If you are up doing something, they follow you everywhere you go.”

    They'll jump high too. Sounds a lot more like Rover than Morris except Savannah's know how to use a litter box.

    “The way they handle themselves is so much like a dog that it's like, oh, wow, you can have a dog and you don’t have to take it out if you don’t want to,” Streit said.

    The inspiration for Savannahs is a Wild African cat with exotic markings, the Serval.

    “It's a spotted wild cat [that] looks very much like a baby cheetah except it has large ears,” Streit said.

    Breeders cross the Serval with a domestic cat and come up with the exotic looking and tame house pet that can sell for as much as $5,000 each.

    Cynthia King has two. Cesar is her oldest at six months.

    One thing is quite typical about Savannahs -- bring around a TV camera and they'll do their best to run and hide.

    “I started making jokes with my friends ‘I'm going to get a giant cat.’ Little did I know there was such a thing,” King said.

    How rare are Savannahs? Breeders estimate there may be less than 2,000 worldwide.



    Vince Gerasole

    (MMIV, CBS Broadcasting Inc., All Rights Reserved.)

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