About the Breed
The Abyssinian cat breed is nicked name the Aby for short. This is a breed very well known for being one of the most active and intelligent domestic cats making it one of the top 5 most popular breeds in the US. Abys are extremely curious and want to check out everything from ceiling to the floor and everything in between. They want to know what you are doing and how they can play with anything you have. This cat is best for those who have an endless sense of humor because these cats are constantly on the move and typically want your attention making them also a very challenging breed to keep entertained. Luckily because of their agility they don’t usually knock to many things off shelves, but best to keep your valuable where they can’t break them.
It is recommended that in homes where all humans are away at work or school all day that they have a companion, preferably another Aby, to play with or you may come home to quite the mess they created while looking for something interesting to do!
In the words of Jackson Galaxy from an episode about an Abyssinian they are the “spider monkeys of the cat world, the most likely to be hanging from your chandelier”. These cats like to be up high and benefit from cat furniture that will take them all the way up to your ceiling.
Highly trainable you can teach these cats some of the same things people train dogs: walk on a leash for outside walks, fetch/retrieval, and sit for starters. Anyone willing to try, they are great candidates for cat agility as well.
Between their extreme curiosity, popularity, and friendliness toward strangers, it is best to keep the Aby indoors. If they insist on exploring the world outside you can build them a secure catio or take them on leashed walks outside.
Here is a fantastic video about Abyssinian Cats by Animal Planet: Cats 101 – Abyssinian
Body Types and Coats:
This breed is most noted for their slender build, long legs, large ears, almond eyes, wedge shaped head and small oval paws. They are a very graceful but powerful and muscular breed that can easily jump 6’ fences.
They are a medium sized cat ranging from 6-10lbs when at a healthy weight, females being smaller than the males.
Kittens are often born with darker coats that lighten up as they grow into maturity.
Coat Colors include:
Ruddy (“Usual in Great Brittan) is the breed standard. The blue and fawn coats have been recognized by the Cat Fancier’s Association (CFA) as breed standard and The International Cat Association (TICA) and the UK also includes the chocolate and lilac coats. The UK also recognizes the silver coat as well.
They get their unique looking coats as their fur is what is called “ticked” meaning they can have up to 6 bands of color on each hair typically growing darker toward the top. Usually they have 3 or 4 bands of color. The coat should be fine, dense, close-lying, silky to the touch and not excessively short.
A variation of the breed called a Somali is their long haired cousin (See www.tica.org for more information).
General Health and Care
These cats do have some health conditions. They are rated 2 out of 5 stars on both cattime.com and Vetstreet.com for their health.
Conditions may include:
- Early onset Periodontal disease
- Hyperesthesia syndrome – a neurological problem that can cause cats to excessively groom themselves, leading to hair loss, and to act frantically, especially when they are touched or petted
- Patellar Luxation, a hereditary dislocation of the kneecap that can range from mild to severe. Severe cases can be alleviated with surgery
- Progressive retinal atrophy, a degenerative eye disease
- Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency (PKD), for which a genetic test is available to identify carriers
- Renal amyloidosis, a heritable disease that occurs when a type of protein called amyloid Is deposited in body organs, primarily the kidneys in Abyssinians. It eventually leads to kidney failure.
General care of the Aby includes:
- Once a week brushing/combing to remove dead hair. A bath when shedding will also help to remove excess hair more quickly.
- Brush teeth to prevent periodontal disease, daily if possible, but weekly at a minimum.
If you choose the Aby and keep them healthy and safe you can look forward to up to 15 years with these affectionate, active, adaptable cats!
For more reading and resources please check out these sites below, which is also where I did all of my research:
Also, here is one resource for information and connections with responsible breeders dedicated to Abys!
Some other fun facts about the Abyssinian:
Abyssinians in Pop culture:
- Jake from The Cat from Outer Space
- Sergeant Tibbs from 101 Dalmatians and 101 Dalmatians II: Patch’s London Adventure
- In the 500th episode of The Simpsons, Abyssinian cats are described as intelligent cats who are able to “change channels” on TV.
- “Jackpot,” an episode of “CSI” (season 4, episode 7) features a blue Abyssinian named Isis as a significant clue. (Script here:http://www.losingintranslation.net/ToolBox/csi-4X07-jackpot.txt]
- BBC Broadcaster Desmond Carrington has an Abyssinian cat called Sam, and always mentions him in his radio broadcast
History of the Abyssinian
The cat is named after Abyssinia (now called Ethiopia) because it was believed they were first imported from there. In actuality there are no known records of the origins of the Abyssinian. Even as one of the oldest breeds there are only speculative rumors that suggest the cat may have been bread in Egypt as it bears a sticking resemblance to feline hieroglyphs and statues. The Abyssinian as it looks today was actually developed in Great Britain. Other theories have suggested it was also created in Britain by crossing silver and brown tabbies with cats that have “ticked” coats (meaning they can have bands of multiple colors on one hair).
With the advances in the study of genetics, there is more evidence to suggest that they may have originated from coastal regions of the Indian Ocean, Egyptian Coast and Southeast Asia (India). Genetic markers indicate that cats from both Asia and Europe were used to create the breed due to the presence of common genetic markers.
One of the first shows for it to appear was at the Crystal Palace Cat Show in 1871 in England and took 3rd place. The report on the cat show, published on Jan. 27, 1872 in Harper’s Weekly was the first known mention of the breed in print.