Abyssinian Cat

All About Abyssinians

Introduction & History

Probably one of the oldest breeds of cat, Abyssinians resemble drawings of ancient Egyptian cats. Many people say they have the look of the African wildcat that is the ancestor of all domestic cats today. Modern DNA evidence suggests that the Abyssinian originated from the east coast of Africa on the Indian Ocean and in parts of Southeast Asia. There is some suggestion that the cats developed near the Egyptian coast. British troops may have brought some of the cats home with them following a military campaign in Abyssinia (Ethiopia) in the 1860s. The breed was refined in England in the 19th century and imported to North America in the early 1900s. Today the Abyssinian is one of the most popular short-haired cats in the United States.

How To Recognize an Abyssinian


Abyssinians have a distinctive coat with a warm deep reddish-brown base color and black ticking. This is known as “usual” in the UK and as “ruddy” everywhere else. There is a sorrel variant to this color (also known as cinnamon or red). This color has a lighter, coppery base with ticking that is chocolate brown. There are a few other color variants that have been obtained by crossing to other cat breeds such as the Burmese. These include a blue on a warm beige base and a fawn on a soft cream base. There are also chocolate and lilac variants. The Cat Fancier’s Association (CFA) does not recognize chocolate and lilac but The International Cat Association (TICA) does. In the UK the silver Abyssinian is also recognized. This color has a base coat of silvery white and ticking of black, blue, sorrel, or cream. Other colors are still being developed.


According to the CFA and other breed standards, the Abyssinian is medium in size. They are slender, fine-boned, graceful cats. They typically weigh 8-10 pounds.

Distinctive Features

The Abyssinian’s distinctive features include their ruddy coat with ticking. This coat color is due to a dominant mutant gene. They have a head that is moderately wedge-shaped. There is a slight stop at the muzzle. The breed has ears that are alert, large and pointed. Their eyes are expressive and nearly almond in shape. The color of their eyes can be copper, hazel, gold, or green depending on the color of the coat. They have long legs with a muscular but graceful body. Their paws are small and oval. They have a long, tapering tail.

Kittens are born with dark coats that light over a few months as they grow. Abyssinians have a short coat that is dense and silky.


Abys are known for being exceptionally intelligent. They are also more outgoing than many breeds of cat. They are playful and have strong personalities. They are not usually lap cats but they enjoy attention from their owners. They are not as aloof or independent as some cats. They enjoy being around lots of activity and can become depressed if things are too quiet. They like to play with toys and other games with their owners.

Unlike some Oriental shorthair breeds such as the Siamese, Abyssinians tend to be quiet cats. They have a soft voice and do not yowl. They tend to be suspicious of strangers so if you have visitors to your home, your Abyssininian may make himself scarce. Some Abyssinians can be very timid and shy around people they don’t know. Otherwise, this is a breed that enjoys clowning around at home.

Living with an Abyssinian

Humans and Abyssinians

In addition to being very intelligent cats, Abyssinians are also considered to be very loyal. They want to be with people. Some people have commented on certain dog-like qualities in this breed. They are curious (a cat trait) but they want to be with you and help you, no matter what you’re doing. They are also said to be good at training people to do what they want them to do.

Abyssinians are also very active cats. Owners report that they love to climb and jump so it’s a good idea to put away things that might break easily. According to one report, it’s a little like living with a squirrel in the house. (According to the CFA, “They like to make full use of vertical space.”) This is a breed that will appreciate a cat tree or two in the house.

Your Abyssinian will expect lots of attention from you, even if they are not always a cuddly cat. This cat is not a good choice for someone who is away from home all the time. The Abyssinian expects you to be around to play with him and spend time with him.

Because they are so smart, you should be able to teach your Abyssinian some commands. They are often willing to learn to fetch a toy and to come when called.

Abyssinians are considered a low-maintenance breed. Their short coat requires very little grooming. You may want to give your Aby a bath once a year to remove any dirt or other things that have collected.

Since Abyssinians are very playful and active, they usually get along very well with children in the home. They may side-step toddlers but they often enjoy the company of older school-age children. Do make sure that you teach your children to respect cats and treat them kindly.

Dogs and Abyssinians

Abyssinians get along well with cat-friendly dogs. They get along well with most other pets. It’s always important to make introductions slowly, of course. Make sure you introduce new pets in a controlled setting with a dog on a leash. Cats are usually in a pet carrier at first.

Other Cats and Abyssinians

Abyssinians usually get along well with other cats, too. This is a social breed. If you are introducing a new cat to the home you should do so slowly at first. Cats have to work out their relationship just as people do. An older cat may be jealous or resentful. A new cat has to learn the rules. A kitten has to learn how to behave around an older cat. There are social niceties involved. However, once some of these issues are worked out, an Abyssinian should have no trouble adjusting. An older Abyssinian may welcome a new cat; or, if the new cat is an Abyssinian, he may fit in more easily than some other cats.


Common Health Problems

Abyssinians are generally considered a healthy breed but, like any cat breed, they can have some health issues. Some of the health problems that can occur in the breed include gingivitis, which can lead to more serious periodontal disease (sometimes at an early age). A kidney disorder called familial renal amyloidosis or AA amyloidosis has been seen in the breed. A neurological problem called hyperesthesia syndrome which causes cats to excessively groom themselves, which results in hair loss, can also occur.

PRA (progressive retinal atrophy), a degenerative eye disease found in many animals, has been present in the breed, but the problem has been vastly reduced thanks to testing. With more breeders testing for this problem before breeding, it should be virtually eliminated.

Pyruvate kinase deficiency (PKD) can occur in the breed but there is also a genetic test available now to identify carriers.

And patellar luxation can occur in Abyssinians. This is similar to a slipped kneecap in humans. Treatment varies. Severe cases may need surgery.


Abyssinians are considered to have a relatively long lifespan compared to many breeds. Sources say they usually live 12-14 years, though some cats live longer.

Pet Insurance for your Abyssinian

Considering the health of your Abyssinian and the cost of vet care today, you may want to investigate pet health insurance. This kind of health insurance allows you to have insurance in place in case your cat has an accident or has certain health problems. Instead of paying the full cost of expensive veterinary care, you would only pay a fraction. You can choose how much coverage you need and pick the plan that works for you and your cat. Veterinary health care can be expensive today so this is something to consider.

Diet and Nutrition

Cat experts and Abyssinian breeders generally recommend food with fresh meat or canned food without grains for these cats. You should obviously make sure the food has suitable Vitamin A and taurine, but this is true for all cats. All cats need plenty of meat protein in their food and we agree with these experts that a minimum of 40 percent protein (DMB) is suitable.

Some of the canned food brands recommended for Abyssinians include Wild Calling, Pinnacle, and Fromm.

If you want to put down a dry food for your Abyssinian, in conjunction with the wet food, you could use Orijen dry cat food.

Be sure to encourage your Aby to drink plenty of water, especially if you are putting down dry food.

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The Abyssinian is one of the oldest of all breeds. Elegant, intelligent, playful, and able to climb through your house like a monkey, this cat is one of the most fun, popular, and charming feline companions that you could possibly have. If you are interested in a cat that wants to spend time with you and “help” you around the house, this ancient breed could be for you.