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.

Abyssinian cats

1. Key Characteristics of Abyssinian Cats

  • Weight: 6–10 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 12–15 years

Appearing similar to a small mountain lion, the Abyssinian (or Aby, for short) is a graceful, muscular cat with regal movement.

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

The coat is short and ticked with color featuring multicolored strands. The 4 main colors are ruddy, red, blue and fawn, and the coat is said to be sparkling and iridescent, although this may vary based on the cat.

2. Where Abyssinian Cats Came From

Although the origin of the Abyssinian cat varies, this 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.

Abyssinian Cats
Abyssinian cats are regal-looking but can be quite silly sometimes. Photos: nelik (Top: anobis)

3. How Friendly Are Abyssinian Cats?

Abyssinian cats 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. These 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: These active and playful cats love vertical spaces and would appreciate a cat tower 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 so active and playful, if you notice that your Abyssinian has been a lot less active lately, you should discuss it with your veterinarian.

Grooming Needs

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

Bathe as needed, starting when your Aby is a kitten. 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: 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 (or Somalis) will be affected by this disorder, but testing should be performed if possible.

Learn more about Abyssinian cats’ playfulness in this quick video below:

YouTube player

5. Where to Adopt an Abyssinian Cat

Abyssinians, just like other purebred cats, can end up in shelters and rescues. Start with our free adoptable pet search to find Abyssinian cats available for adoption near you.

If you go to breeders, make sure they don’t show any red flags of operating a kitten mill.

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