Intelligent? Check. Loving? Check. Beautiful? Check. The Abyssinian Cat is the full package. At first glance, this feline might seem quite regal, thanks to their glamourous ticked coats and bright, bold eyes. But you’ll soon discover that the Abyssinian is willing to make a fool of themself if it means getting you to laugh.
This is a playful and energetic cat breed that loves getting your attention. And trust us, they’ll always find a way! No area in the home is safe from this clever and hyper feline. Not even your shoulder! If you don’t mind going about your daily activities with a cat perched atop you, this might be the perfect pet for you.
Abyssinian Cat Breed Origin & History
The Abyssinian has been around forever. But where did this one-of-a-kind cat come from? The breed’s ancestors possibly came from Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) — hence the name. But others believe the Abyssinian came from the coast of the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia.
No matter their origin, there’s no denying that the Abyssinian was always a prized feline. Ancient Egyptians worshipped Abyssinians almost 6,000 years ago. They were believed to be physical manifestations of gods and were often depicted in murals and sculptures.
Abyssinians Around the World
Some believe that an Abyssinian was transported from Abyssinia to England in 1868, at the end of the Abyssinian War. The cat was named Zula. Illustrations of this kitty showed her small ears and unusual head type.
While she looked like an Abyssinian, there’s no proof beyond the pictures. Because of this fact, other experts believe that the Abyssinian died out at one point, leaving British breeders to recreate the breed with British Bunny cats (which have similar ticking).
Either way, the Abyssinian was a hit in Europe. But like many breeds, World War II completely wiped out the cat. British cat fanciers created the Abyssinian once again after the war ended.
In the early 1900s, two Abyssinians were brought over to America, immediately sparking interest. North American breeders started creating more Abyssinians in the 1930s with other imported kitties. The breed quickly grew in popularity. They are now in the top five most popular cat breeds in the United States, seventh in the world.
Abyssinian Cat Breed Personality
The Abyssinian is a loyal and devoted cat that wants affection on its own terms. They will become quite squirmy and agitated if you try to pick them up. And don’t expect them to curl up on your lap!
But this social kitty will follow you from room to room, never wanting to be too far away. And one of their favorite activities is getting some pets and scratches while sitting beside you on the couch.
The Social and Smart Abyssinian
Abyssinians are often called “clowns” because of their insistence on entertaining the entire family. They don’t mind making a fool of themselves if it means getting some attention. They’ll sit on your shoulder, run around under blankets, and sporadically race around the house. They are agile and playful cats, known to jump onto hard-to-reach surfaces like bookshelves and doors.
This is a clever cat that won’t back down from a challenge. Their favorite one? Figuring out how to open locked doors and cabinets. Baby locks might not even be enough to stop the Abyssinian from getting their paws in spots you deem off-limits.
The Abyssinian becomes especially determined to wreak havoc when left alone. This is not a cat that enjoys being left alone for hours each day and night. If you work long hours, the Abyssinian might not fit into your lifestyle. Their loneliness will soon lead to frustration and thoughts of revenge. And you don’t want to see a couch that’s come into contact with a vengeful Abyssinian.
Abyssinian Characteristics (Physical)
The Abyssinian’s magnificent ticked coat is what sets them apart from other cat breeds. But you’ll quickly realize that this cat breed has even more stunning qualities that make it a one-of-a-kind kitty. Abyssinians continue to capture the hearts of cat fanciers everywhere, and for good reason!
This is a medium-sized cat that can appear smaller than its actual size because of its slender build. They are usually between eight and 12 pounds, reaching a body length of 12 to 16 inches.
The Cat Fanciers’ Association describes the Abyssinian as “lithe” and “graceful.” They have well-developed muscles, giving them a look that’s between stocky and svelte. Their fairly long tail is thick at the base but tapers off.
The Abyssinian’s head is a slightly rounded wedge with gentle contours. Their head flows into their arched neck. Their ears are large and appear alert due to their cupped base and forward setting.
This breed has large, brilliant, and expressive almond-shaped eyes. They stand out thanks to the fine, dark line that encircles them. Their eyes are often a beautifully rich gold or green with a depth of color.
Legs & Paws
To match their agile body, the Abyssinian has slim and fine-boned legs. They often appear to be walking on tip-toes, giving them an elegant appearance. The Abyssinian’s paws are small, oval, and compact. There are five toes in the front and four in the back.
The Cat Fanciers’ Association outlines very specific breed standards when it comes to the Abyssinian’s coat. It should be soft and silky with a fine texture. You’ll notice a “lustrous sheen.” It’s described as medium in length, “long enough to accommodate two or three dark bands of ticking.”
The Abyssinian’s coat should be warm and glowing, with deeper color shades desired. Aside from dark shading along their spine from ticking, this breed should have no markings.
The Abyssinian is only accepted in four colors, although England, Australia, and New Zealand also recognize silver as a fifth color.
- Ruddy: The CFA describes this color as “burnt-sienna” ticked with black. They have an orange-brown undercoat.
- Red: Sometimes called “cinnamon,” cats with this coat are a “rich, warm, glowing red.” They are ticked with chocolate brown. They have a red-orange undercoat.
- Blue: Their coat is a warm beige ticked with slate blue. Their undercoat is described as a “blush beige.”
- Fawn: The Abyssinian’s coat is a warm rose-beige ticked with light cocoa brown. Their undercoat is the same blush beige.
Healthy Abyssinians live around 9-13 years. To live life to the fullest, Abyssinians must be given proper care and go to regularly scheduled vet visits.
Abyssinian Health Problems
This is a generally healthy cat breed, but they are prone to certain diseases and complications. Always make sure that you adopt Abyssinian kittens from reputable and registered breeders that can guarantee the health of their litters.
Pyruvate Inase Deficiency
Due to red blood cells failing to metabolize, your cat will become anemic or develop other blood-related disorders. Bone marrow transplants can treat this condition, but it first must be identified by a vet. You’ll notice your cat has pale gums and weakness.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
This is an inherited condition that leaves Abyssinians with vision loss. Night vision deteriorates first, but your cat may eventually lose their eyesight completely. If your cat is yowling in the night, they may be disoriented and unable to see correctly.
Overactive thyroids are quite common in Abyssinians. A fast thyroid burns their energy quickly, and you’ll notice extreme weight loss. Medication can help your cat deal with this complication. Your cat may appear weak or have an increased heart rate.
This condition refers to dislocated kneecaps. You’ll notice your cat having difficulty climbing, jumping, and moving in general. When your cat has a luxating patella, these movements can lead to arthritis. You might opt to have your Abyssinian undergo surgery, depending on the severity of the issue.
Chronic Renal Failure
This condition is also known as kidney failure. It’s hereditary, and older cats have a high chance of developing this serious issue. Make sure your Abyssinian kitten passed genetic health screenings to avoid this complication. You’ll notice bad breath, vomiting, sores around their mouth, and blood in their urine.
Dental diseases can produce bacteria that infect your cat’s heart, kidney, and liver. Tooth loss and inflammation around the gums are serious problems. Always make sure your cat’s mouth is cleaned properly.
Related: Cat Dental Care: The Complete Oral Hygiene Guide for Felines
Abyssinian Cat Breed Care
We recommend that you brush your Abyssinian’s teeth with a vet-approved toothbrush once a day. Talk to your vet about some options, including finger toothbrushes. You should also check their ears for buildup. Remove excess dirt and wax with a soft wipe lightly dipped in water and vinegar.
Abyssinians have a coat on the shorter side. They don’t require much grooming, but it’s great if you brush their fur weekly. Brushing will remove excess hair, reducing their hairballs, and keeping your home safe from shedding.
Abyssinians require a good assortment of toys. Provide them with a blend of classic cat toys (think jingle balls and feathery fish), interactive toys (motion-sensored toys, electronics that they can chase around), and bonding toys (like ribbons and laser pointers).
Your cat will also love puzzle toys where they have to figure out how to get treats out of a gadget. This game will help keep your Abyssinian busy and entertained if you can’t be around all day.
It’s always important to look for cat food brands with quality ingredients. What ingredients should you keep an eye out for? The first is a protein source. This should be turkey, chicken, salmon, etc. If the first ingredient is “chicken meal,” it’s probably not a high-quality brand.
The second ingredient to look for is taurine. This is an amino acid found in animal protein. Cats curiously don’t produce it themselves, despite needing it to stay healthy and active. The minimum daily taurine requirement is between 25 and 56 mg.
You want to avoid cat food heavy in carbohydrates, including wheat and corn. These ingredients are often called “fillers” because cats don’t need them in their diet. In fact, it’s often what makes cats overweight or allergic to their food.
A healthy alternative is wet food. Canned food has no carbohydrates. Instead, it contains over 70% water. Wet food is a great way to give your cat the liquids they need to ensure they don’t become dehydrated.
Children & Other Pets
Cats and Abyssinians make the perfect playmates. Abyssinians are playful and energetic, ensuring there will be hours of playtime. Kids will love throwing toys and watching your cat give chase. They will also get a kick out of watching Abyssinians flip and fly for ribbons.
Abyssinians are also known to be gentle, so they are great for just hanging out and chillin’ on the couch while a child plays games or watches television. You will still want to supervise them with younger children in case smaller kids are unaware of how to appropriately interact with a cat. Tail pulling and other painful teasing can lead to hissing and scratching if the Abyssinian can’t get away.
It’s highly recommended that you get two Abyssinians. Adopting two kittens will ensure that your Abyssinian isn’t as lonely for the times you have to be away. While it can never replace your presence, feline companions can ensure your cat has someone to cuddle and play with.
Abyssinians get along with most other cats and pets, including dogs. Just make sure to always introduce new cats slowly and patiently. Cats can get territorial and feel threatened if a new cat is suddenly in their space.
More About This Breed
Throughout the Abyssinian’s long and mysterious history, they have continued to be favorites amongst cat fanciers. In an 1872 issue of Harper’s Weekly, it was announced amongst the other breeds that an Abyssinian took third place at the 1871 Crystal Palace cat show.
The cat’s name was Aby. The magazine claimed that the feline was “captured in the late Abyssinian War.” True or not, the exotic and regal cat was a hit with cat breeders the world over.
It’s no surprise that the Abyssinian has continued to capture people’s attention all over the world. Their inquisitive face, unique and glamourous ticked coat, and intelligence has made them one of the most popular cats of all time.
The Abyssinian was also used to help further understand domestic cats. In 2007, scientists used DNA from an Abyssinian called Cinnamon to sequence the first “rough draft” genome for housecats. The study helped researchers discover more about cat disease genes.
Goofy, playful, and loyal, the clever Abyssinian has continued to fascinate families everywhere. This is a cat that will constantly entertain you, whether it’s watching them race throughout the house or hanging out with them on the bed. Just be aware that a cuddle session might quickly turn into your Abyssinian racing under the covers and bolting down the hallway. But they’ll be back!