Nicknamed the Aby, Abyssinian cats are elegant-looking felines who carry a regal air about them. These medium-sized cats are muscular, colorful, active and social, enjoying spending time playing with their humans as well as with other animals. Keep reading to discover why the Abyssinian breed is one of the most popular breeds of shorthair cats.
Origin of Abyssinian Cats
The exact origin of Abyssinian cats is unknown. It is theorized that Abyssinian cats originated in Abyssinia (present-day Ethiopia). Others believe that Abyssinian cats originated on the Indian Ocean’s coast in Southeast Asia, a belief borne out by genetic studies done on Abyssinians today.
No matter where the first Abyssinians hailed from, it is thought that they descend from sacred cats who were worshipped by ancient Egyptians 4000 to 6000 years ago. They do resemble cats that are depicted in Egyptian sculptures and murals.
Abyssinians were bred in the United Kingdom for the first time. In the 1860s, soldiers imported the cats from present-day Ethiopia. A cat named Zulu was imported by Lord Robert Napier into Great Britain, and is believed to be the earliest known ancestor of modern-day Abyssinian cats. Early Abyssinians were first crossed with British shorthairs, and then with oriental breeds, throughout Europe and the United States and Canada. The two world wars almost decimated the Abyssinian breed in Europe, but new Abyssinians were imported to continue propagating the breed. The breed was almost decimated again in the late 1960s in Britain, by feline leukemia virus. Once again, more Abyssinians were brought to Britain to reestablish the breed.
Today, the Abyssinian breed is recognized by major cat associations such as the CFA (Cat Fanciers Association), ACFA (American Cat Fanciers Association), FIFe (Federation Internationale Feline), TICA (The International Cat Association), and CCA (Canadian Cat Association).
Physical Appearance of Abyssinian Cats
Abyssinian cats are regal looking, medium-sized felines. They have lithe, muscular bodies, which lend themselves well to playing, running and jumping. The Abyssinian is an active cat who is lively and interested in its environment.
The Abyssinian has a short- to medium-length coat that is silky and smooth. Their grooming needs are low, and simple brushing or combing is something that they tend to enjoy.
Abyssinians are considered medium-sized cats, with both males and females growing to 8 to 12 lbs. Their bodies are long and lithe with well-developed muscles. This helps the Abyssinian run, jump and play, things that this active cat is prone to do quite often. The Abyssinian has been called the “Energizer bunny” of cats.
The head of the Abyssinian is generally triangular-shaped.
The ears of the Abyssinian are large. They are situated tilted forward on the cat’s head, giving the Abyssinian a very alert, aware appearance, as if the cat is always paying attention to its environment. Tufts of short hair grow out of the Abyssinian’s ears.
The Abyssinian typically has green- or gold-colored almond-shaped eyes. An Abyssinian’s eyes appear large in its face.
The Abyssinian has proportionately slim legs and feet with fine bones. Their paws are small, compact and oval in shape, with five toes in front and four toes behind.
Abyssinians have tails that are thick at the base, long and tapering to the tip.
Abyssinians display a ticking pattern in their coat. Most of the Abyssinian’s fur has bands of color on each individual hair, which makes the coat appear darker-colored along the cat’s spine. The color on the Abyssinian’s body lightens under its neck and underside as well as on the insides of the legs. Colors of Abyssinians range from ruddy to red to blue to fawn to silver to cinnamon.
Abyssinian cats are active but are said to be “easy” cats to have in a household. They get along well with other animals and people, and enjoy playing on their own as well as with humans and other animals. A loving, affectionate, social cat, the Abyssinian has a soft meow and a loud purr and likes to enjoy snuggle time with its humans, on its own terms. They enjoy being involved members of the family, following humans from room to room and performing for them. For people who are not at home much due to work or travel, having another cat or pet around as a companion is good for keeping the social Abyssinian company.
Health Concerns of Abyssinian Cats
The life expectancy of an Abyssinian cat is the same as most other breeds, nine to 13 years. Abyssinians are generally healthy cats, but can be prone to the following:
- Renal amyloidosis, a genetic kidney disorder
- Blindness due to a hereditary retinal degeneration
- Thyroid disorders
Abyssinian Cat Cost
Purchasing an Abyssinian from a cat breeder can be costly, ranging from $500 to $1200. Adopting an Abyssinian from a rescue that specializes in Abyssinians might be a better idea. Searching online for Abyssinian shelters and rescues, or conducting a breed search at AdoptaPet.com, can help you to find an Abyssinian up for adoption looking for a good home.
Trivia About Abyssinian Cats
- Abyssinians are masters at learning tricks and can be trained like dogs
- Some Abyssinians have lived to be 15 years or more in age
- Abyssinians can be taught to walk on a leash
- The first recorded breeding of Abyssinians in the United States occurred in 1935
- Abyssinians can reach two feet in length
- The large ears of the Abyssinian give it excellent hearing abilities
- Abyssinians usually give birth to six kittens per litter
- The first Abyssinian to win in a cat show was in the December 1871 Crystal Palace cat show, where an Abyssinian won third place
Abyssinian Cats in Popular Culture
- In the musical film from 1998, “Cats,” that the mysterious cat, Cassandra, was Abyssinian
- Jake in 1978 film “The Cat from Outer Space” is Abyssinian
- On TV’s “The Simpsons” 500th episode, Abyssinian cats are described as intelligent cats who can change channels on the television
- In Season 4, Episode 7 of the TV show “CSI,” entitled “Jackpot,” a blue Abyssinian named Iris played a significant role
- BBC radio broadcaster Desmond Carrington has an Abyssinian cat named Sam whom he mentions often on the radio