Serval and Savannah Babies Cubs or Kittens?



Are Savannah babies’ cubs or kittens?  Are Serval babies’ cubs?  Let’s get it right and end the false advertising.

In 1992 when I first began to breed Bengal cats, I mistakenly called some Bengal kittens ‘cubs’ and got a new understanding from one of my mentors back then.  It was not as easy doing research then as it is now with the advent of Al Gore inventing the internet, ha-ha.

I always presume that everyone understands the difference between a kitten and a cub and if you do, this article is of no use to you.  However, if you think a serval or a Savannah is a cub please read on.


The Differences

Two Genus of cats exist; Felidae (true cats and most wild cats) and Panthera (tiger, lion, jaguar and leopard) The Cheetah is Felidae, subfamily Felinae, Acinonyx jubatus.  Cheetahs are a complete mismatch to any other cat in the world.  Panther technically refers to every cat in the genus Panthera. It is commonly used to refer to the black panther, a melanistic jaguar or melanistic leopard and the Florida panther, a subspecies of the cougar.

Interestingly, the cougar is genus Felidae.  So, you see how this can get quite confusing.  I still haven’t figured out though, how some confuse a leopard spotted cat as a tiger.  Leopards have spots and tigers have stripes.

The term ‘Big Cat’ is quite often used to refer to the Panthera genus.  The serval is Felis Serval. Sometimes referred to as Leptailurus serval and falls into the ‘most small wild cats’ category.

Despite enormous differences in size, the various species of cat are quite similar in both structure and behavior, Of course, that leaves out the cheetah, which is significantly different from any of the big or small cats.

Scientifically the difference between whether a cat offspring is a kitten, or a cub is determined by whether the parent roars or purrs.



The ability to roar comes from an elongated and specially adapted larynx and hyoid apparatus.  When air passes through the larynx on the way from the lungs, the cartilage walls of the larynx vibrate, producing sound. The lion’s larynx is longest, giving it the most robust roar.

All Panthera cats have elastic sections on both sides of the hyoid bone, a structure which supports the tongue and its muscles.  The elastic hyoid, combined with the fibro-elastic tissue on top of the big cats’ undivided vocal folds, acts like a slide trombone, enabling the big cats to roar.




The hyoid of smaller cats is solid bone. These cats can purr when breathing both in and out, but they can’t roar.  Servals purr.  Cougars purr.  Cheetahs purr.  Savannah cats purr.  All their babies are KITTENS, not cubs.  The ‘big cats’ chuff but cannot purr and their babies are called cubs.

As a future reference, Genus Panthera; i.e. tigers, lions, jaguars, and leopards roar, chuff and have CUBS.  Genus Felidae, housecats of all breeds, all small wild cats such as, Serval, Asian Leopard Cat, Sand Cat, Cougar, Caracal all purr. All babies are KITTENS.