Last updated: February 18, 2017
Considered one of the oldest cat breeds, the Abyssinian is also one of the most popular choices for people purchasing a purebred cat. Their striking looks, athleticism, and personality make them favourites with many fanciers. They make excellent family pets although they tend to gravitate more towards adults and older children than youngsters.
The Abyssinian is not a big cat, with females typically weighing about 8 lbs. and males about 10 lbs. They are lean and athletic looking with long legs and big ears. The body tends to be quite muscular and they are active animals. The ears tend to point outwards, emphasizing the wedge shape of the head. They may have tufts of hair at the tips of the ears like some species of wild cats. The eyes are also large and have an oriental look to them. Their resemblance to the cats depicted in ancient Egyptian artwork is not coincidental. They are definitely related and may even be the same breed.
The coat is short and fine but not especially soft. Most notable is its colour. Abyssinians have a ticked or flecked coat that is the result of four different bands of colour on each hair strand. This gives the coat a translucent quality that is extremely beautiful. There are 28 different colours recognized in the Abyssinian. The best-known ones are cinnamon, ruddy, sorrel, and red but they also come in chocolate, fawn, blue, lilac, and silver with various shadings of the ticking.
Abyssinia is now known as Ethiopia. While the exact origins of the Abyssinian remain unknown similar type cats were noted in ancient Egypt and parts of Africa as well as India. The Ancient Egyptians revered cats and they at one time would not export cats to other parts of the world. Part of this worship may have been due to the key role cats played in protecting granaries in the Nile Valley from vermin. They had temples devoted to cats and mummified cats to be buried with their owners.
It is believed that the first modern Abyssinian was a cat imported to Great Britain by a soldier returning from the Abyssinian wars in the 1860s. They were first exhibited in the U.K. in 1871 at Crystal Palace. In the 1900s, they began to be exported to other countries including the United States although they did not become all that popular there until the 1930s. It is believed that most modern Abyssinians have descended from the United Kingdom. The modern Abyssinian is one of the five most popular purebred cat breeds and can be found in most countries.
Like all cats, the Abyssinian is best kept indoors to protect it from diseases and injuries by cars and other animals. All the common feline health issues can be found in the Abyssinian. As well, they do seem to have a predilection for progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), an eye disorder that ultimately leads to blindness and renal amyloidosis, which is a kidney disorder that often has a poor prognosis. There is a gene test for PRA which breeders can use to prevent breedings that may result in affected cats. Unfortunately, there is no such test for renal amyloidosis at this time.
When purchasing an Abyssinian, buyers should look for reputable breeders who make use of the PRA test and do not breed cats from lines affected with renal amyloidosis. Breeders should provide written health guarantees and be willing to provide proof of test results for PRA in the parents of kittens. It should be noted that a carrier will never develop the disease and will not produce the disease provided that they are not bred to another carrier.
A well-bred and cared for indoor Abyssinian can easily live well into its teen years.
This is a very active and curious cat. They love to play and watch activity from on high. They can often be found perched on the backs of chairs and sofas or up on countertops, refrigerators and other high spots in the home. Breakables should be kept behind glass where the cat cannot accidentally knock it over.
Although not particularly vocal, the Abyssinian is quite people-oriented and likes to follow its family around the home. They like to be close but are not necessarily lap cats. In homes where the family works and the cat will be left alone for extended periods of time, it is preferable to have a second cat to provide company for the Abyssinian. A bored Abyssinian, like a bored dog, will find ways to amuse itself and those ways are not always house friendly or particularly desirable.
The Abyssinian is active and enjoys playing with toys. Interactive toys will help keep an indoor cat in shape and provide mental and physical stimulation. There are a wide variety of different toys on the market today that will appeal to the Abyssinian and keep him suitably occupied. He also enjoys playing with you and can be taught to fetch toys in a manner similar to a dog.
Although clicker training is most frequently associated with dogs when it comes to pets, many cats including the Abyssinian are very responsive to this type of training. If you are interested, you can easily teach your cat a number of different tricks. Training is a great way to spend time with your cat and can strengthen the bond between you. Because they are such agile cats, Abyssinians can excel at acrobatic tricks that show of their athleticism. They are also highly intelligent and will learn most things quite quickly, including how to push your buttons so that you do as they wish.
The Abyssinian is a cat that even people who profess not to be “cat people” tend to enjoys company. His doglike tendencies and natural independence appeal to them in a way that some other breeds do not. His natural beauty and long, lean, and somewhat wild appearance also tend to attract many admirers. For those seeking a purebred cat, the Abyssinian has much to offer and can be a phenomenal pet.