The Somali cat may be beautiful, but this isn’t one of those fluffy, pretty kitties that are content just sleeping on your couch all day. You’ll find the Somali up on top of cat trees, running up and down the halls, investigating countertops, and basically anywhere else you are!
Somalis are playful, energetic cats with tons of personality! While their fluffy, fox-like appearance is sure to catch your attention, it’s their loving and hyper nature that will have you hooked. Let’s take a closer look at the interesting history and personality of the Somali cat.
Somali Cat Breed Origin & History
There’s a lot of controversy and mystery surrounding this beautiful cat. The Somali may simply be a longhaired Abyssinian, but it’s not quite known how the longhaired gene entered the Abyssinian gene pool in the first place.
Some believe that breeders became desperate to create Abyssinians in England during the 1800s. There was a low breeding stock at the time, and it’s possible that cat fanciers turned to longhaired cats to continue the breeding program.
In that case, longhaired cats perpetuated the breed in the 1910s during World War I and then the 1940s after World War II, when many cat breeds were nearing extinction. At that point, breeders had to turn to other cats to keep the Abyssinian line going once again.
Somali Breeders Continue the Legacy
A male Abyssinian named Raby of Selene was brought to the United States from the UK in 1953. This cat descended from Roverdale Purrkins, a female Abyssinian from England. Her mother, Mrs. Mews, was believed to carry the longhaired gene.
During World War II, Roverdale Purrkins was gifted by a sailor to a breeder named Janet Robertson. Robertson used Purrkins to start an Abyssinian cattery, which sold cats to people in Europe, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States.
Some of Purkins’ kittens were born with long fur. They were given away since breeders felt the longhaired gene was “tainting” the bloodline. But in the 1960s, cat fanciers started seeing an appeal in the longhaired cat as fluffy breeds became popular in North America. Breeders started working on longhaired bloodlines, although some breeders were heavily opposed to the longhaired Abyssinians.
One of the breeders that latched onto the longhaired Abyssian was breeder Evelyn Mague. She had two Abyssinians with the longhair gene, called Lynn-Lee’s Lord Dublin and Lo-Mi-R’s Trill-By. Mague is credited with naming this new breed, calling the longhaired beauties “Somalis” after the country bordering Ethiopia (formerly called Abyssinia).
In the 1970s, Mague founded the Somali Cat Club of America. This organization helped the breed’s enthusiasts come together to celebrate the new breed. By 1975, the Cat Fanciers Association founded the International Somali Cat Club.
By 1979, the Somali had championship status in the CFA. Most of today’s Somalis can be traced back to Raby Chaffa of Selene, now known as the father of the Somali breed in North America.
Somali Cat Breed Personality
Somali cats may be beautiful, but that doesn’t mean they are dainty or reserved by any means. In fact, the Somali is a bit of a clown. The Cat Fanciers’ Association notes that this breed doesn’t mind acting a fool even in cat shows.
“Nothing is more delightful to watch than an impeccably groomed Somali perform in the judging ring… A natural clown, the Somali will show itself to the fullest while playing with any toy a judge chooses.”
The Somali’s playfulness extends to their family as well. They are quite animated and energetic, just like their shorthaired cousins. Families often notice that the Somali has a sense of humor.
This is a cat that loves being the center of attention. No matter what room you’re in, you’ll notice the Somali isn’t too far off. Watching TV? Your Somali might sit in front of the screen. Trying to work? Your keyboard is your Somali’s new favorite bed.
Your Somali will become even more desperate for attention when it comes to playtime. This is a cat that will want to chase toys down the hallway over and over again. They will even bring it to you, demanding you toss it again! If they lose it under the couch, they’ll stare at you expectedly until you dig it out.
When you finish playing, the Somali might try a few tricks to get you to join them again. Find some creative ways to play with your Somali to rid them of their excess energy. Catnip is a great way to turn up the fun and stimulate your kitty’s mind. Try using some CBD catnip spray on your Somali’s favorite toys and hangout spots — you’ll have a blast watching them go crazy!
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Smart, Sneaky Somali Personality
This probably comes as no surprise, but Somali cats can be quite mischievous. A high-energy cat, no part of your home is off limits! Their determination to open every cabinet and drawer might drive you nuts. You might even want to consider baby locks! Somalis are also known to knock things over, so you might not want to keep valuables on countertops.
While people-oriented, Somali cats are not cuddlers. This is a cat that prefers to lounge on the couch next to you rather than in your lap (if you can get them to relax, that is). They won’t want to cuddle or be picked up but are more than happy to be pet.
This fiesty cat loves being involved in every aspect of your life — but let them do it on their own terms. This means sitting in your clean laundry piles or trying to be a sous chef at dinner time. This curious and hyper cat will remain this way well into adulthood, so be ready for a lifetime of spontaneity.
Somali Characteristics (Physical)
This is a striking cat that people often compare to a “little fox.” With a vibrant, ticked orange and ginger feline coat, a large, fluffy tail, and a striking, alert face, this comparison comes as no surprise. The Somali even has the personality to match! Even though the Somali derives from the Abyssinian, their breed standards are totally different and unique to this beautiful breed.
The Somali is a medium-sized cat breed, usually weighing 8-12 pounds. While they are not the largest, they are quite long.
Their torso is lithe and graceful, showcasing their muscles. Their back is slightly arched, adding to their playful and energetic look. They are overall long and svelte, but they’re not as thin as some other breeds. Their rib cage is rounded, and they can sometimes have a cobby look.
The Somali’s head is quite recognizable, thanks to its alert and inquisitive expression. Their chin is full with a rounded appearance. Their muzzle follows a gentle contour and shouldn’t be sharply pointed. There’s a good amount of width between their large, alert ears. The Cat Fanciers’ Association describes the ears as “cupped” at the base. Tufts at the end of their ears are very desirable.
The Somali’s eyes are almond-shaped and large. They are brilliant and expressive, making them appear curious. Their eyes stand out because of a dark lid skin and a dark line that continues from the upper lid towards their ears. Their proportioned face flows into their arched neck.
Somalis will have gold or green eyes, both popping against their coat (similar to the Nebelung cat). Their eyes have a rich, deep color.
Legs & Paws
Somali cats have legs in proportion to their torso, with oval and compact feet. There are five toes in the front and four in the back. The Somali often looks nimble and quick, thanks to its stance and agile legs.
The Somali’s coat is what really sets it apart from every other cat breed. Their double coat is soft to the touch and extremely fine. The CFA prefers a denser coat of medium-length fur. Unlike other breeds, the Somali comes in only a few colors: ruddy, red, blue, and fawn. Their fur is often described as “warm and glowing.” What makes their fur even more unique is the ticking. Their dark-colored bands should contrast with their lighter-colored bands. The deeper the color shade, the better!
When it comes to markings, Somalis should have unmarked undersides, chests, and legs. Their tail shouldn’t have rings. You’ll see darker shading along their spine, which continues through the tip of the tail.
These cats have darker shading up their hocks, as well as dark lines extending from their eyes and brows. Somalis also have cheekbone shading and similar shading on their whisker pads.
Somali Cat Breed Care
The Somali cat has a glorious coat that requires regular grooming. Frequent brushing ensures their fur stays tangle-free. You’ll also notice less shedding and hairballs, thanks to their lack of loose hair.
While their coat requires more maintenance than shorthaired breeds, it’s not as much as a Persian requires. It’s best to establish a brushing routine when they are a kitten and make sure to groom them weekly going forward. You will notice more shedding during molting season.
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Like all kitties, the Somali needs their ears regularly checked for wax and dirt buildup. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, use a vet-approved dampened wipe to gently remove it. Regularly trim their nails to keep them from shredding your sofa. You will need to implement these routines starting in kittenhood.
This is a unique-looking cat that should stay indoors – Somalis will often catch the eye of people looking to steal cats. Being inside will also ensure your Somali is safe from wild animals, dogs, feral cats, and diseases. It will also keep their coat cleaner and free of ticks and other pests. Indoor cats have another added benefit: saving the environment. Cats are an invasive species since they kill a lot of rodents and birds in their local ecosystem.
Since your Somali will spend so much time inside, make sure they have plenty of toys to keep them occupied. Remember: this cat needs playtime! Try some fun and interactive puzzles to keep them busy. Put some of our nutritious CBD treats for cats inside to give them extra motivation to figure it out!
Another fun exercise option is a cat wheel. These will let your Somali speed off some extra energy. Just make sure the wheel is the proper size so your cat doesn’t hurt their back trying to get in some mileage.
Somali Cat Health Problems
The Somali cat can live 9-13 years with the right care and regular vet visits. This is a generally healthy breed with few known hereditary illnesses. Still, there are some common cat complications to look out for:
- Gingivitis: Gingivitis occurs when plaque buildup causes gum inflammation. Treating this problem at the vet can cost up to $1,300, so it’s important to tackle this issue before it gets too far. Try brushing your Somali’s teeth every night — or at least once a week. This will bring any issues under control.
- Renal Amyloidosis: This occurs when kidney damage causes problems filtering waste and breaking down protein. When the kidneys become too damaged, your cat’s health will suffer, and kidney failure may incur. Always have a vet check for this common ailment.
- Diarrhea: Cats can be picky about their water source. Sometimes, if the water isn’t clean enough — or it’s not flowing — your cat will opt not to drink. This can lead to dehydration and other complications, including diarrhea. If your cat has liquid-like poop for more than a few days, you should immediately contact a vet. Loose stools can be a sign of a bigger issue.
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Somalis are not picky eaters. But like most cats, they love to eat! Make sure they are not overeating by implementing a timed feeder. This will provide your cat with the proper amount of food each day, split up throughout various meals. Multiple rationed meals ensure your cat is getting the right amount of food throughout the day. As a bonus, your cat may bug you less once they realize you are not the one pouring the food!
Always look for cat food with quality ingredients. The first ingredient should always be protein, like turkey, salmon, or chicken. Avoid brands where the first ingredient is something like “chicken meal.” Avoid food brands with an excessive amount of carbohydrates, like corn and wheat. These are “fillers” since cats don’t need them in their diet.
A healthy alternative is wet food. Canned food has fewer carbohydrates because it contains over 70% water. This is a great way to give your cat the liquids they need to ensure they don’t become dehydrated. Just make sure you have a proper way to store wet food, which doesn’t have as long of a shelf life as dry food.
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Children & Other Pets
Somalis love nothing more than being with their family — except maybe having some feline companions. Playful and energetic, this is a social breed that enjoys having other cats to prance around the house with. You’ll often see them chasing each other down the hall or curled up together in a cat tree.
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If your dog behaves around cats, your Somali will make a perfect friend for them. They love having a dog to pal around with. Dogs also make perfect pillows for a sleepy kitty. When introduced properly, your Somali will be pleased with their new playmate.
Children also make great friends for Somalis. Kids will love playing fetch with the hyper feline. Watching them endlessly play with ribbons will entertain younger kids for a good while. Just make sure to watch younger children’s interactions with the Somali to make sure there is no tail pulling.
More About The Somali Cat Breed
The Somali cat is sneaky and curious, kind of like a fox. What helps them be even more mischievous is their fuzzy paws. This breed can hold objects in their paws, kind of like a monkey! This not only helps them play and hunt, but also open cabinets and drawers with ease. Sometimes Somalis will even turn on faucets or flush toilets!
Without human interaction, the Somali can get a bit restless and resentful. That’s when they start putting these tricky paws to good — or bad — use! This is a cat that needs a homebody family with a lot of time and love to give.
The Somali comes with a price tag almost as hefty as their tail. They are usually around $1,200 from a reputable breeder. Of course, the Somali is very well worth it for families looking for a high-energy cat with a lot of personality. This is a cat that will always be at your side. Why not take a closer look at some of the different cat breeds that exist!