Abyssinian cat in elegant pose with shiny fur

Abyssinian cat – rocking red elegance

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At one glance
3.5 – 5.5 kg (7 – 12 pounds)
20 – 25 cm (8 – 10 inches)
30 – 41 cm | with tail 56 – 67 cm (12 – 16 inches | with tail 22 – 26 inches)
short – dense, ticked
gold or green
9 – 13 years
Ethiopia (Abyssinia)

Abyssinian cat look & fur – camouflage fur on Eastern grace

Her appearance, distinct yet reflective of her eastern breed origins, showcases a long, slim body. This particular body shape is advantageous in warmer climates, as it facilitates the efficient dispersal of excess heat, thanks to its large surface area in relation to volume.1

Abyssinian cat standing and watching something behind the viewer attentively

Her fur is a beautiful expression of her heritage, typically showcasing red or ruddy, ticked (agouti) coloration. The unique pattern, with alternating pigmented and paler bands on the hair shafts and always pigmented tips, provides an effective camouflage. Many wild cats and other mammals share this feature with her, and interestingly, her coat lightens as she matures.1

Young Abyssinian cat playing on a carpet and staring towards the camera with big eyes

The fur of these cats, being short, dense, and silky, lies close to their body, highlighting their sleek and agile build. Their ears are large and distinctively rounded at the tips, and they possess prominent dark facial markings around the eyes, adding to their expressive appearance. The long, tapering tail further enhances their elegant silhouettes.1

For those interested in the long-haired variant of this breed, the Somali cat shares many of these characteristics. The Abyssinian, being the short-haired variety of this breed, requires minimal grooming, though. Her fur’s short and dense nature means occasional brushing suffices, particularly for massaging and during seasonal fur changes.

She displays a range of color variations including ruddy, chocolate, sorrel, blue (diluted), fawn, and lilac. A silver division also exists, accepting black-silver, chocolate-silver, sorrel-silver, blue-silver (diluted), fawn-silver, and lilac-silver colors.2 Additionally, her color palette includes cream.

Abyssinian cat health – cardiac, diabetic, and vision risks

Cats of this breed share common health predispositions with many feline breeds. One such condition is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), where the heart muscle thickens abnormally, impacting its ability to efficiently pump blood. This heart condition necessitates vigilant monitoring for any signs of cardiac distress.

Swedish insurance data highlights that these cats face a heightened risk for diabetes mellitus. This finding underscores the importance of careful attention to their diet and weight management to reduce this risk. Moreover, they are prone to conditions that may cause anemia and muscle weakness. An additional significant concern for this breed is Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), a degenerative eye condition leading potentially to blindness, emphasizing the need for regular eye examinations.3

Other health issues pertinent to this breed include gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease, and pyruvate kinase deficiency, which affects red blood cell metabolism. Stress-related hair loss is also noted in these cats, indicative of their sensitive nature.4

An interesting reproductive characteristic of this breed is their tendency to have smaller litters with relatively larger kittens, a trait that may require special considerations during breeding and prenatal care.3

Abyssinian cat diet – high protein, for dental health and energy

The cat, with her distinctive needs as a carnivore, requires a diet that is rich in protein. This high protein intake is essential for her health and well-being, stemming from her natural dietary habits. Animal fats are crucial in her diet as well, providing omega-3 fatty acids, which are vital for maintaining her sleek coat and overall health. Low in carbohydrates, her diet should primarily consist of meats that are not only nutritious but also assist in the natural abrasion of her teeth. Feeding her chunky meat pieces can help in maintaining dental hygiene, an often overlooked aspect of feline health.

Variety in her diet is key to ensuring she receives a balanced and nutritious profile. It’s important to introduce different types of meats and formulations to provide her with a range of nutrients. This variety not only caters to her nutritional needs but also keeps her interested in her meals, which is essential given her intelligent and curious nature.

Furthermore, the type of food you provide is crucial. Wet food is highly recommended over dry food. This preference stems from the fact that cats, including the Abyssinian, are descendants of desert felines who had a low thirst drive. This trait has been passed down to modern-day cats, making them less inclined to drink water. Consequently, wet food plays a vital role in hydrating her, a crucial aspect of her health given her high activity levels. Speaking of which, this level demands a diet that can sustainably and consistently replenish her energy. The right diet supports her vigorous lifestyle, keeping her agile and lively. It’s not just about feeding her; it’s about providing nourishment that aligns with her ancestral needs and energetic lifestyle.

Abyssinian cat character – highly active and intellectually curious

With her distinct characteristics, this cat stands out as truly remarkable. Her high intelligence is immediately noticeable and requires an environment filled with stimulation to keep her engaged. Unlike some breeds that may tolerate solitude, Abyssinians do not enjoy being left alone at all. If you’re imagining a calm lap cat, it’s time to adjust your expectations. These vibrant furballs are constantly on the go.5

Known for her active nature, the Abyssinian requires various scratching surfaces and an engaging environment to thrive. She prefers activities that allow her to mark her territory with her scent, which gives her the feeling of being at home. While she does have incredibly affectionate moments, she is more likely to entertain with her agility than with cuddles. She demands ample playtime and a large area to exercise. Running is among her favorite activities, so if she doesn’t have access to a wide outdoor space, it’s crucial to provide a high-quality cat exercise wheel. Training her to use this wheel can be both fun and rewarding.

In addition to physical activity, consider adding vertical spaces to allow her to exercise her natural jumping and climbing instincts. This can include wall-mounted cat furniture and tall scratching trees. Be mindful, though, as your Abyssinian might engage in some playful “redecorating” at home, especially around shelves.

Mental stimulation is just as important for this breed. Cozy spots near windows can offer her the joy of bird watching, a pastime she finds immensely engaging. Enhancing her environment with agility courses and puzzle toys caters to her intelligence and need for mental challenges.

The way she vocalizes can vary significantly from one Abyssinian to another. While some may be relatively quiet, others are more vocal, often expressing themselves with chirps or squeaks rather than the typical cat meow.

Abyssinian cat history – significance and exotic ancestry

Abyssinian cat with smooth ruddy fur walking towards viewer

From her first recorded appearance, this cat has been known for her distinct ruddy brown ticked coat, a pattern that remains a hallmark of the breed to this day. Her notable presence at the Crystal Palace in London in 1871 marked a significant moment in cat show history. It was here that an Abyssinian cat was first introduced to the British public. This particular cat, who displayed a look of longing and melancholy, possibly yearning for her homeland, captured the attention of many and won third prize at the show.6 She was said to have been brought into the UK from Abyssinia, now Ethiopia, by British soldiers following the conclusion of the Abyssinian War in the late 1860s. This event at the Crystal Palace not only highlighted the breed’s exotic origins but also her adaptability and resilience in a foreign land.

Genetic Mysteries – from Africa to Asia

Despite this fascinating history, recent genetic studies have suggested that the modern Abyssinian may have ancestry that links back to cats native to regions along the Indian Ocean coastline and Southeast Asia.7 This new understanding adds a layer of complexity to her already intriguing lineage. Her resemblance to the cats found in ancient Egyptian tombs has fueled rumors about her being descended from the sacred cats of Ancient Egypt, further adding to her mystique.8

In addition to the Abyssinian’s rich history, there is an interesting note about the Somali cats, which are essentially long-haired Abyssinians, as mentioned. It is believed that Somalis might have always been present in Abyssinian litters but were initially overlooked due to not conforming to the breed standard, which favored short hair. This oversight points to the diversity within the breed and the evolving standards of cat breeding.

From the legends about her ancient descendence to her significant presence at the Crystal Palace show in 1871, it’s clear that the Abyssinian has always been a breed of both historical importance and enduring charm. Her journey through time only adds to the allure that makes her such an enchanting member of the cat world.

Suitable for experienced cat owners with large apartment or house and home-office or part-time work

  • Experience level: Medium 
  • Housing: large apartment/house
  • Activity level: High 
  • Energy level: High
  • Trainability: Medium 
  • Attachment: Medium 
  • Friendliness: Medium 
  • Playfulness: High
  • Talkativeness: Medium
  • Intelligence: High 

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