Friday’s Casual Cat: The Abyssinian

Source:  Andrew

Source: Andrew

You’ve seen this cat before. The ancient Egyptians loved to make images of this beautiful animal, and today we still look at the Abyssinian cat in wonder. What you might not know is that the Aby, a favorite at all cat shows, also has characteristics that make it a good companion.

Beauty and ease of care

These short-haired cats have dark lines on their face like tabby cats, but their coats are most often unmarked and ticked, meaning that the fur is very light-colored close to the body and gradually darkens towards its outer ends. Some of them have ruddy brown fur ticked with dark brown to black at the ends. Others have the “cinnamon gene” that gives deep red coloring ticked with chocolate brown. There are blue Abyssinians, too, with various shades of slate blue fur at the surface that shades to a blush beige underneath. Finally, some are fawn colored with rose-beige coats that shade out to a light cocoa brown at the ends.

Add glowing golden or emerald almond-shaped eyes, set in a delicately wedge head and framed by two large cupped ears, and you have one incredibly beautiful animal.

The Aby only needs to be brushed about once a week or so, and its short hair means that it will have fewer hairballs than some of the long-haired breeds.

(Source: Tscherno)

Source: Tscherno

Personality Plus

Abyssinian cats are intelligent and playful. Known as the clowns of the cat world, these sleek felines are every bit as athletic as they look and very active. They love heights but are also very curious and will explore their world thoroughly at all levels. Their antics are entertaining to watch, but they are also interactive – once an Aby bonds with you, you’ve got a companion for life.

All this has a few drawbacks, of course. Your house will need to be “cat-proofed” so the animals don’t harm themselves or break things. The Abyssinian cat likes daily attention but doesn’t often want to be held, so you will have to take them on their terms, but then, aren’t most cats that way? However, this also means that the Aby might not be the ideal cat for children.


Abyssinian cats are one of the top five cat breeds for owners in the United States. They live for 12 to 15 years on average, and the only chronic health problems associated with them as they get older are gingivitis and an occasional problem with their kneecap sometimes going out.

The regal beauty of these cats also guarantees their popularity at cat shows, even though not all Abyssinian cats can be shown. Some of them are shy around large groups of people, and the judging qualifications are rigorous. For a time, in fact, shows would only accept cats with ruddy or red coats. Blue Abyssinians eventually also were accepted, and most recently, the fawn color has been allowed in as well, but in all cases, the type and color standards are very strict.

History a mystery

Surprisingly little of the actual lineage of the Abyssinian breed can be documented. They must be one of the oldest breeds around. They do look exactly like the cats of ancient Egypt and also resemble fairly closely the African wildcat (Felix sylvestris lybica), which was first domesticated some 10,000 years ago and is considered the ancestor of all modern domestic cats.

Source:  Luca Bardazzi (more information, in Italian, on the sculpture at this link)

Source: Luca Bardazzi (more information, in Italian, on the sculpture at this link)

Written records on Abyssinian cats are sporadic and incomplete, and only start in the late 19th century. Many people believe that the British brought the Aby to Europe from Ethiopia (known back then as Abyssinia), while others are convinced that the cat was actually bred in Britain during the 19th century to resemble the ancient Egyptian cats.

Genetic evidence, however, has established that the breed originated in Southeast Asian along the coast of the Indian Ocean, where traders may have picked up the cats and brought them to Africa.

Whether you are looking for a pet or a show cat, Abyssinian cats are beautiful, intelligent, and active, but easy to care for and long-lived, with few health problems. Their personality makes them ideal companions for adults who can give them the daily attention they need, while their coloring and beautiful build allow for a thorough listing of traits desirable for show. They have a hint of mystery around them that enhances their presence today.

Whether or not they once graced the halls of the pharaohs, we are very fortunate to have such beauties with us today.

Thanks to iCatsBelgium for sharing this:

A version of this post appeared as a Helium article in March 2011.

Categories: Friday's Casual Cat

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