5 Things to Know About Abyssinians

Abyssinians are one of the oldest domesticated cat breeds, and they still grace many homes with their regal appearance and silly antics.

1. Key Characteristics

  • Weight: 6–7 pounds for females; 8–10 pounds for males
  • Life Expectancy: 10–15 years

Appearing similar to a small mountain lion, the Abyssinian is a graceful, muscular cat with regal movement.

This high-energy and inquisitive breed has expressive almond-shaped eyes, a wedge-shaped head, arched neck and large ears.

The coat is short and ticked with color featuring multicolored strands. The 4 main colors of the coat are ruddy, red, blue and fawn.

The coat is said to be sparkling and iridescent, although this may vary based on the cat.

2. Where They Came From

Although the origin of the Aby varies, the breed is considered to be one of the oldest domesticated cat breeds.

Genetic tests have traced the breed’s origin to the Bay of Bengal in India.

The breed appeared in the United States in the early 20th century and quickly became a favorite after further development in the 1930s, when high-quality Abys were imported from Britain.

Abys are regal-looking but can be quite silly sometimes. By: nelik (Top: anobis)

3. How Friendly Are They?

Abys are extremely curious and will investigate every corner and height within reach.

They are likely to chase anything that moves and are intelligent, with many people saying their Abys teach them to play fetch. They are playful as kittens and well into adulthood.

Abys can be regal and sophisticated one minute and silly the next, making them a fun cat breed for an active family.

They are affectionate and people-oriented cats who are close to their family members and are often following people around or in their face, being inquisitive.

Toxic items and breakables should be kept well out of reach from Abys. The curious cats will climb and walk nearly everywhere in the home, so assume every surface is a risk.

4. Is This the Right Cat for You?

Exercise Needs

Medium

MEDIUM: These active and playful cats love vertical spaces and would appreciate a cat tower or 2 in addition to toys.

They are active in the home and won’t miss not being able to go outdoors, although some people have had Abys who make a run for it every time a door opens.

Because this breed is active and playful, any noticeable reduction in activity should be addressed with your veterinarian.

Grooming Needs

Low

LOW: This low-maintenance breed should be brushed once per week or more if possible, and this will be especially helpful during the shedding season.

Bathe as needed, starting when your Aby is a kitten acclimated them the process. After bathing, a pat-down with a towel is sufficient, and leave the coat to drip-dry on its own.

Brush the teeth daily (or, at minimum, once per week) because of the breed’s susceptibility to periodontal disease.

Clean the corners of the eyes regularly to prevent any buildup, and check and clean those large ears often.

Health Problems

Medium

MEDIUM: While there are health issues common for all cats, there are a few issues noted with the Abyssinian breed:

  • Periodontal disease
  • Neurological problems that can lead to excessive grooming
  • Luxating patella (knee problems)
  • Retinal atrophy (eye problems)
  • Kidney failure
  • Pyruvate kinase deficiency (PKD)

PKD is an inherited anemia that can be detected by testing for homozygous genes. Not all Abys and Somalis will be affected by this disorder, but testing should be performed if possible.

Anemia can be intermittent or come on strongly and without warning.

Regular vet visits should be maintained to monitor dental health and anemia possibilities (if testing has not ruled it out).

Check out this video of Dexter the blue Abyssinian dragging his blanket around:

5. Where to Adopt One

Abyssinians, as well as other purebred cats, can end up in shelters and rescues. Start with our adoptable search (select the “cats” tab) to see if any Abys are available near you.

If you do choose to go to breeders, ensure they do not show any red flags of operating a kitten mill.

Additional Resources

Kristine Lacoste

View posts by Kristine Lacoste
Kristine Lacoste, editor in chief of Petful, has been researching dog and cat breeds for nearly a decade and has observed the animals up close at dog shows in both the United States and the United Kingdom. She is the author of the book One Unforgettable Journey, which was nominated for a Maxwell Award from the Dog Writers Association of America, and was host of a weekly pet news segment on the National K-9 Academy Radio Show. In addition, she was the New Orleans coordinator for Dogs on Deployment, a nonprofit that helps military members and their pets, for 3 years. Kristine has researched and written about pet behaviors and care for many years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology, another bachelor’s degree in English and a Master of Business Administration degree.

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