The Abyssinian cat bears its name after the Abyssinian Empire (Ethiopia, today), where it was originally thought it came from. Recently, researchers believe that it was more likely originating somewhere along the Egyptian coast. But there is a lot more to know about the Abyssinian cat breed if you’re looking to adopt one.
The Abyssinian cat is one of the most popular short-haired breeds in the United States today. It has a distinctive “ticked” tabby coat, a thin, fine-boned body, a wedge-shaped head, as well as big, alert and pointed ears. Its eyes have an almond shape and are usually gold, hazel, copper or green in color, depending on the color of the coat. The legs and tail of the Abyssinian are long and slender, and its paws are quite small.
Abyssinian cats are enthusiastic climbers – they always want to claim the high ground and observe their kingdom from above. If you’re planning on getting an Abyssinian cat, make sure the cabinets and shelves in the house are clear of any obstacles. If you could also hang some additional shelves at high places, you would make your Abyssinian cat extremely happy.
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Abyssinian Cat Breed Information
Everything Future and Current Owners Must Know
General Abyssinian Cat Breed Questions
Here are some of the most common questions about the Abyssinian cat breed that most future and current cat owners may be curious about.
1. The coat of Abyssinians seems quite unique. What exactly does “ticked” mean?
The Abyssinian’s coat is indeed unique in that each individual hair on their body is banded with several different colors. Small Abyssinian kittens are usually born with darker coats that gradually lighten up as the cats mature. The coat of an adult cat is short, but not excessively short, and is usually fine and soft to the touch.
The “ticked” or “agouti” effect is typical for the breed. Each hair on the Abyssinian’s body usually has a light base and grows darker and darker towards the tip – usually including three or four bands of color along the way.
The basic overall color of an Abyssinian’s coat is a reddish brown with a slight black ticking. That’s what is commonly referred to as a “usual” Abyssinian coat in the United Kingdom, or as a “ruddy” outside of the UK. Other color variations include cinnamon (also called sorrel), red, light copper, chocolate, lilac, beige-blue or cream-fawn (the latter two are a consequence from crossbreeding with Burmese cats.
Not all of these variations are recognized and acknowledged by all organizations around the world. Chocolate and lilac, for example, do not follow the Cat Fancier’s Association (CFA) breed standard. The International Cat Association (TICA) and in the UK, however, accepts all kinds, including the Silver Abyssinian, as well as blue, sorrel, and cream ticking.
History of Abyssinian Cat Breeds
With the general questions about the Abyssinian cat breed out of the way, some pet owners are often curious about the history of this breed of cat. Here’s what to know.
1. How and when did the Abyssinian cats come to Europe?
The Abyssinian cats were first brought to Great Britain by British soldiers in the 19th century. The soldiers usually bought the cats from local traders for their unique and beautiful coats. They were mainly bringing the cats from Ethiopia, which is today’s name for the ancient Abyssinian Empire, hence the name of the cats. It is now often believed that the cats’ origins lie further north, along the Egyptian coast on the Red sea.
Another possible origin of the Abyssinian cats states that they might have also been brought from part of Southeast Asia. Some British and Dutch traders are said to have brought the cats from ports like Calcutta (India) or the many Islands of Indonesia.
Regardless of whether the Abyssinian cat belonged to Egyptian Pharaohs or Indian Shahs, the modern Abyssinian cat was bred and perfected in the United Kingdom and the United States.
2. How did the Abyssinian cats fare in the West? Did they become popular overnight, or?
The Abyssinian breed has had a couple of rocky periods in its time in Europe and the States.
At first, when the cat was introduced in Britain in the 19th century, they were met with suspicion. Many believed that they didn’t come from the East, but were simply crosses between local silver and brown tabbies with other cats that had “ticked” coats. It took some time, but eventually, despite its mysterious origins, the Abyssinian was recognized and accepted as a new and independent breed.
The Abyssinian crossed the Atlantic and went to the United States in 1900. It took some time for the breed to start spreading there as well, with the first official Abyssinian breeding program in the States starting in the 1930s.
This might have been a bit late, but it was also just in time – when World War II hit Britain, almost the entire British population of Abyssinian cats was destroyed with only a dozen or so cats surviving. After that point, it was the American breeders that helped the breed come back on British soil and revive it.
Today, the Abyssinian is one of the most popular cat breeds in the US and the world.
Personality of Abyssinian Cat Breed
Here are a few things that pet owners need to know about the personality of Abyssinian cat breeds, because they certainly differ from many other domesticated cats.
1. What can I expect from an Abyssinian cat in terms of personality?
The Abyssinian cat is truly unique when it comes to its character. An Abyssinian cat can catch even experienced cat owners by surprise with its behavior. If you want a truly playful and active cat, one that will be seemingly always up, always running, always demanding your attention – get an Abyssinian.
No height is high enough for an Abyssinian – if you have high places in your home, even if they seem completely unreachable to you, the Abyssinian will get there. And while this can be a bit annoying if you have stuff there, it is also incredibly entertaining to watch.
If you want your Abyssinian cat to have a good time and truly enjoy the 10-15 years it spends with you, make sure it has plenty of high places to traverse. A lot of owners even nail additional shelves and climbing places to their walls in order to make their home a true Abyssinian haven.
Climbing is far from the only thing an Abyssinian loves to do, however. Extremely intelligent and playful cats, the Abyssinians love to play games, to chase and fetch, to explore new things, as well as to learn tricks.
Simply put – the Abyssinian is not your typical “lap cat”. Which isn’t to say that they won’t sleep in your lap – when they feel sleepy, they would gladly take over your personal space and pin you to your chair or couch. Once they are up, however, you’d better be ready to play.
Abyssinians are also well known for their sense of humor. They love to play tricks on you, to meow at you to chase them and then hide, to play fetch and then all of a sudden hide the object they were fetching instead of bringing it back, and so on.
Abyssinians also love to get and hide things in general. A lot of people jokingly call them “Aby-grabbys” and the breed certainly justifies the nickname – they love to take interesting objects, whether because they are shine, noisy or simply new, and take them away to play with them and hide them.
If you leave an item that they associate closely with you, and you have ignored them for a while, Abyssinians might even take and hide your item to teach you a lesson.
All in all, the Abyssinian is a breed that will almost make you feel like a dog owner.
2. If the Abyssinians are so active and playful, does that mean that I should leave them alone for too long?
Definitely. Abyssinians may be called the “Clowns of the cat Kingdom”, but clowns without an audience are never happy. Leaving your Abyssinian cat alone for too long, especially if it’s a regular occurrence, is guaranteed to lead the cat to a depression.
What is also almost guaranteed is that a bored Abyssinian will not feel bad to dismantle your home in search for something interesting to do.
If you are not going to be able to give your Abyssinian enough attention throughout the day, it’s best to choose another breed altogether, or at the very least – get a second Abyssinian (or other pet that can keep up with their energy, even if it is a dog) so that they can keep each other company.
3. Does all that mean that the Abyssinian is too much trouble? Aren’t cats supposed to be gentle and quiet?
Abyssinians are certainly more “trouble” than other cat breeds, but they are rarely “too much trouble”, especially compared to dogs, for example. And while their playfulness is certainly the accent of their personality, yes – they are still cats. And as cats, Abyssinians love to snuggle with you, to sleep on your lap, to purr as you pet them, and so on.
4. How should I raise and train my cat to become a great pet?
As with other pets, there are 3 main categories to keep in mind when you’re trying to shape and guide your cat’s behavior, character and personality:
1. Parents. The best way to get an initial idea on what a young kitty’s personality will be when it grows up, is to take a look at its parents. Mainly the mother, but the father and any older siblings as well. Whatever personality of your kitty develops, it will closely resemble that if its parents. Also, if you have a choice between multiple kitties from the same litter, avoid picking cats with too extroverted or too introverted natures – choose one that’s neither too shy, nor overly active, as it has the best chance of becoming developing a well-rounded, balanced personality.
2. Training. The Abyssinian cat is a very playful and social cats. As such, there’s a myriad of different games and tricks that you can teach it. Additionally, however, there are a lot of things you want to teach it not to do. Especially when left home alone, an Abyssinian cat can turn into a pure destructive force, unless it’s been properly trained.
When training your Abyssinian, always remember to do so with positive reinforcement. Never punish your cat, neither verbally, nor physically. Instead, focus on treats, kind words, petting, and other rewards. This way the cat will learn much quicker and the bond between the two of you will be significantly stronger.
3. Socialization. As an extremely active breed, the Abyssinian needs to interact with people at all times. If you and the rest of your family members are going to be outdoors for a large periods of time each day, it’s recommended to either not get am Abyssinian, or to get two so that they can keep each other company. An Abyssinian that’s left alone for too long will inevitably get depressed.
Additionally, despite being very friendly and loving towards their family, Abyssinians can be quite weary and untrusting towards strangers. For that reason it is very important to socialize them with outside people from an early age.
An Abyssinian that isn’t used to seeing new people won’t be able to learn how to trust them and will forever be terrified of every knock on the door. If you instead socialize your cat well enough, it will become a great “people’s cat” and will enjoy newcomers and guests, instead of hide behind the couch every time.
Health of Abyssinian Cat Breed
One of the most important parts to cover is the health of Abyssinian cat breed.
1. What should I know about the Abyssinian’s health? Are they a relatively healthy breed, or are they sickly?
The Abyssinian cat is not at the top of the list of “Sickly breeds”, but there are still quite a few illnesses and disorders that you need to be on the lookout for. Since their trouble in the Second World War, they’ve had a low level of genetic diversity.
Here are some of the health problems you should keep in mind:
- Progressive retinal atrophy – a degenerative eye disease.
- Early-onset periodontal disease.
- Patellar luxation – a hereditary dislocation of the kneecap. It often requires surgery.
- Familial renal amyloidosis or AA amyloidosis – a heritable disease that eventually leads to kidney failure.
- Pyruvate kinase deficiency (PKD).
- Hyperesthesia syndrome – a neurological problem that causes excessively grooming and as a result – hair loss.
2. How do I keep my Abyssinian as healthy as possible?
Such organizations will easily point you towards a reliable Abyssinian breeder, one that in turn provide you with health clearances for both parents of your future kitty and guarantee in this way its health.
The next step is to find a trustworthy veterinarian, especially one that works day and night, and consult with them regularly on all present and future health issues.
Care of Abyssinian Cat Breed
Caring for Abyssinian cat breed is similar to your regular cat care of other domesticated cats, but there are a few things that pet owners should know.
1. What care should I give my Abyssinian cat?
There are several things to keep in mind:
- The coat of Abyssinian cats is usually self-maintaining and doesn’t require your assistance. Still, weekly combing will help your cat get rid of dead hair, reduce hair balls, and be a fun game for the both of you.
- Daily brushing of teeth is highly recommended to prevent periodontal disease and other dental problems. If daily brushing is too much, make sure to at least do it on a weekly basis.
- Check the cat’s ears regularly and clean them if necessary. If they look dry, moisturize them carefully with a wet cotton ball.
- If there is some wet discharge at the corner of the eyes, wipe it with cloths – make sure to use separate cloths for both eyes to avoid transferring a possible infection.
- Keep your Abyssinian’s litter box clean – cleaning it twice per day for each cat in the household is a must.
- Make sure to keep your Abyssinian cat indoors only. This will not only help you prevent any diseases and infections, but will guarantee you the safety of your cat.
- The Abyssinian doesn’t have any specific diet needs – make sure to feed your cat with high quality cat food, as well as to alternate dry and wet food.
Children and Other Pets for Abyssinian Cat Breeds
1. Is the Abyssinian a good pet for a house with children?
Out of all cat breeds, the Abyssinian is probably the best suited for a home full of kids. Abyssinians are smart enough to get out of the way of toddlers and will happily play with kids of all ages, as long as they are not giving them trouble.
Teach your children not to hurt their Abyssinian pet, and the cat will be extremely happy to entertain them all day every day.
2. How about other pets? How does an Abyssinian deal with other cats or dogs?
As a very social cat, the Abyssinian loves the company of people and pets alike. All cats that can keep up with its tempo are welcome, and all cat-friendly dogs (meaning – not overly active and not too invasive) will be great friends for an Abyssinian.
Abyssinian cats are also even known to readily befriend parrots, ferrets, and other pets. Whatever combination of pets you have in mind, just make sure you introduce them slowly and carefully.
Conclusion on Abyssinian Cat Breed Profile
The Abyssinian is the absolute best choice for any would-be cat owner that’s looking for something different. Are you of the opinion that cats are boring because all they do is sleep on the couch? Get an Abyssinian. They are extremely intelligent, social, fun and playful, so much so that they can even give some dog breeds a run for their money.
If you’re not ready for a cat that’s so playful and demanding of your attention, however, either get a second Abyssinians so that the two can keep each other busy, or look for another breed.
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