Leo the Savannah cat

Leo relaxes at home in Locust Grove with Ray and Katharina Hoy.

There are fewer than 1,000 Savannah cats in the world, according to Ray Hoy of Locust Grove, and he and his wife, Katharina, own one of them: a lithe, long-legged fellow named Leonardo da Vinci, Leo for short. The Savannah is a hybrid breed that results from mating a domestic cat with an African wild cat called a serval. Though you might think a Savannah would be aggressive, Leo is living testimony to the breed’s gentle demeanor. Age 1½, he gets along well with the couple’s other three cats, loves the attention he receives from his owners and has such a loud, deep purr “you can usually hear it across the room,” Ray Hoy said. This is definitely not your average housecat, however. When Hoy holds a raw chicken drumstick aloft, Leo jumps six feet in the air to grab it from his hand. And when they venture outside, the cat’s vertical leap is reportedly 9 feet. He is faster and stronger than a regular cat, and his curiosity is “through the roof,” Katharina Hoy said of the kitty that routinely uses the ice dispenser and noses around in the cupboards at night. The couple enjoys taking their 17-pound, elegantly spotted cat on weekend trips across Virginia and on longer excursions far from home. Ray Hoy said that when they were in Miami Beach, walking Leo on a leash, some 40 people trailed after them on the boardwalk asking questions. After a year on Instagram, the kitty has more than 10,000 loyal fans. 

Hilary Holladay covers education and politics for the Orange County Review. The author of five books, she is currently writing a biography of the poet Adrienne Rich.

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