The Abyssinian cat is a cat unlike any other. Nicknamed Abys, these beautiful and energetic cats will fill your life with excitement. Eager to learn why Abys have become one of the most popular felines in America? Then read on to learn more!
While the history of the Abyssinian remains a little clouded, one thing is for sure—these cats have been around for a very, very long time. Unlike some cats whose entire history lay in a basket of mysteries, Abys instead face a unique situation. There are multiple myths as to where they came from.
One of the most prevalent myths is that the Abyssinian cat came from Abyssinia, now known as Ethiopia. Along with this story, many believe that British soldiers found and brought back kittens of this breed to Europe, following the Abyssinian War. However, upon looking at various statues and drawings from ancient Egyptian pieces, another theory was created. Since Abys appear to be depicted on numerous Egyptian artifacts and paintings, many believe that these cats lived amongst the people and pharaohs of Egypt.
Yet still another theory exists, which many now believe to be the true history of the Abyssinian. This idea, that Abyssinians originated along the coast of the Indian Ocean and in parts of Southeast Asia, all began with a taxidermied cat. This cat, which was purchased in the early 1800s, was originally labeled "Patrie, domestica India," suggesting that it actually originated in Asia, and not in Africa. Supporting this idea, recent genetic studies have shown that the ancestors of Abys could very well have originated from the eastern-Asia region.
Abyssinians in the U.S.
Abyssinians have undoubtedly been around for over a century. However, they were not introduced into the United States until the 1930s—which is perhaps one of the best things that could have happened. With a large portion of the Aby population being centered in Britain, their numbers were drastically decreased after both World Wars.
Had it not been for the breeding of Abyssinians in the United States, these cats could have disappeared permanently long before the 21st century. Thankfully, with their popularity increasing in America, their numbers were able to be sustained, and today they are now in the top 5 most popular cats in the U.S.
Earning recognition as one of the most popular breeds in America is tough work, especially when considering how much competition there is. So what is it about these cats that make families everywhere want to adopt their own? For starters, these cats are undeniably beautiful and friendly. Additionally, you will never be bored when you have an Aby in your house—they provide endless entertainment. Not to mention, with an Abyssinian around, they help make each day just that much better.
Abyssinian Cat Physical Characteristics
The average Abyssinian cat size is around 6-10 pounds, and they stand about 12-16 inches in height. These medium-sized cats have a slender, but muscle-filled body. Being an overall healthy breed, their average lifespan can be anywhere from 9-15 years, although some have been reported to live even beyond 15 years.
When you first see an Abyssinian, don't be surprised if you do a double-take. Their strikingly beautiful coat has a ticked pattern, meaning that each hair has alternating bands of light and dark colors. Sharing this ticked coat pattern with wild cats such as a mountain lion (or cougar), it is no wonder that upon first glance, many people believe an Abyssinian to be a small, wild cat.
Although this ticked pattern is found on all Abys, the coat colors will vary. The most common Abyssinian cat colors include ruddy brown, red, blue, and fawn, but other possible colors include chocolate, lilac, and silver.
Their large, almond-shaped eyes typically appear in one of two colors determined by their coat color. Chances are, your Abyssinian will have gold or green eyes, but sometimes the color can fall on a shade in between. They also have large ears and will, on occasion, have a dark marking above their brows.
Abyssinian Cat Personality Traits
Also known as the "Aby-silly-an" or the "clowns of the cat kingdom," these spunky felines are energetic and always up to something. They love to have the high ground, so don't be surprised if you find your Aby sitting on top of your refrigerator or some bookshelves—with an Aby in the house, a tall cat tower is definitely a smart purchase.
When they are not busy jumping on top of things, Abyssinians adore spending time with people and playing with mentally-stimulating games. Being intelligent cats, they enjoy learning new tricks, and many have even been taught how to walk on a leash. In fact, many Abyssinian parents describe these cats as dog-like. With a desire to please their parents and to spend as much time with them as possible, having an Aby around the house is almost like having a small, extremely agile dog.
Being such sociable creatures, Abys do not typically do well with being left alone for long periods of time. Even when you must leave them for just a few hours, it's always a good idea to provide a few extra toys or games, or hide treats around the house to entertain your cat—a bored Aby can become a destructive Aby.
Some cat parents have found that having another animal in the house can provide that extra bit of entertainment and attention that their cat needs, but it's important to choose this other animal carefully. Abyssinians usually want the center stage, the middle ring, the spotlight on them, and they are not always willing to give up being the focus of attention. As recommended by some Aby parents, the best companion for an Aby is either another Aby or a dog.
No matter which pet you choose, it is always important to introduce animals to one another in a controlled and comfortable environment. Never rush the process.
If you are looking for a lazy lap cat who has their own agenda for most of the day, then Abyssinians are definitely not the right choice for you. These active cats want to play, explore, and be the center of attention. Chances are they will also follow you around the house just so they can spend time with you. That being said, these cats can be perfect for families or households with multiple adults or children.
Grooming and Care
When it comes to grooming, Abyssinians do not require much. With a short, dense coat, they do not shed excessively, so just one brushing a week does the job of catching loose hair and keeping their coat healthy.
Besides coat brushing, Abys will also need a good toothbrushing, especially since these cats are prone to developing periodontal disease. This great habit should be integrated as part of your daily or weekly routine, and in order to get your feline friend comfortable with this grooming item, it is best to begin teeth brushing as soon as you introduce your cat to your home.
Your cat's nails will also need to be trimmed, typically only two to three times a month, but this timeframe varies from cat to cat. Many cats also experience eye goopies, which can build up in the corner of their eyes. The best way to clean these is to dampen a cloth with water and gently wipe away from the eyes. Be sure to use a separate part of the cloth for each eye in order to minimize the risk of spreading any infection.
Another great way to protect your fur baby from infections, or diseases, is to keep them as an indoor cat. If allowed outside, your cat runs the risk of picking up some unwanted germs, having an altercation with another animal, or sadly getting lost.
With their natural instinct to explore and climb, the phrase "curiosity killed the cat" could not be any more accurate than with an Aby. Not to mention, with their exotic appearance, many people in your area may not recognize your Abyssinian as a domestic cat. Unfortunately, when some people spot what they believe to be a wild cat in a populated area, they either cause the cat harm (thinking that it is a dangerous animal) or attempt to take the cat, thinking that money can be made.
Common Health Issues
Although Abyssinians are a fairly healthy breed, they are still prone to some health issues. According to our claims data*, the top 5 Abyssinian cat health problems include:
- Weight loss
- Upper respiratory infections
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Mycoplasma (disease that affects a cat's red blood cells)
One of the easiest ways to support your cat's health is to provide them with a high quality, nutritious diet. Weight-related health problems, including obesity, can affect any cat and can unfortunately lead to a long list of even more issues. If you are ever concerned about your cat's weight or confused as to which food is right for them, talk to your veterinarian. These professionals can help provide the best care for your feline and they can help your Aby live a longer and healthier life.
Want to learn more about the ever-interesting Abyssinian cat? Check out these fun facts!
- Some people have given Abyssinians the nickname "Aby-grabbys," since they have a tendency to snatch items that catch their attention.
- Abyssinians are thought to be a mix of Burmese, Siamese, and Russian Blue cats.
- Although you most likely find these cats in four main colors, they have nine recognized coat color options.
- Abyssinian kittens are born with a darker coat, which lightens as they get older.
- In 1978, Walt Disney Productions released the film "The Cat from Outer Space". This film featured an Abyssinian from space whose spaceship crashes on Earth.
- Somali cats are known as the long lost cousin of the Abyssinian. These African cats are from the same genetic stock as Abys, but Somalis are recessive for a gene that's responsible for their long hair.
Just when you think you've learned all there is to know about Abyssinian cats, there's still more surprising information hiding just around the corner.
When it comes to naming your cat, a little bit of inspiration may be just what you need. Check out our list of Asian continent-inspired names that could be perfect for you Abyssinian.
Chances are, once you meet your spunky Abyssinian, deciding on the right name will probably be easier than you may think!
*Internal Claims Data, 2019
The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.
title: Abyssinian Cat Facts
author: Emily W.