Abyssinians are some of the oldest and most regal cat breeds of today. These felines possess the looks of Egyptian cats in sculptures and paintings of yore. Due to selective breeding, Abyssinians still retain most of its characteristics from its ancestor, the felis lybica, or otherwise known as the African wildcat.
Medium in size, having an aura of unmistakeable elegance and sporting a shapely neck, this shorthaired cat has long legs and perfectly-shaped almond eyes. One thing that’s unique about the Abyssinian is its curious “ticking” feature, which can be found when you take a closer look at each single strand. Each one can show up to four different color bands, which give off a kind of fur richness that separates them from the rest. Moreover, its tail tapers off at the end with the same hue as the darkest band of its fur coat.
Abys, as they are sometimes fondly called, are total dears when you have one as a pet. At first glance, they might look very stately but they can prove to be very athletic and silly at times. Abysses are always on the move, whether it be climbing, jumping tall platforms or exploring around the house.
History of Abyssinian Cats
There’s quite a few romantic recollections of how Abyssinians came to be, but the truth is that this breed didn’t originate from Abyssinia (now Ethiopia). Rather, gene sequencing tests indicate that these cats came from Southeast Asia and Europe.
Abysses are quite similar in physique and markings of the ancient Egyptian cats of lore. Some of these cats even sport the telltale M sign on their forehead. Historians tracked this feline way back since the turn of the 18th century, starting with Zulu, a cat who was brought to Britain after the Ethiopian war. In the 1900s, Abysses were then brought to the United States from Britain, and it wasn’t until the beginning of 1930 that quality specimens were sent to American soil. In 1935, an earnest breeding programme started and this marked the beginning of purebred Abyssinian felines.
The International Cat Association recognized the breed in 1979.
Size of the Abyssinian Cat
This breed falls right in the middle of the weight categories. Males are expected to mature and weigh somewhere around 8 to 10 lbs., while the females fall somewhere between 6 to 7 lbs.
Personality of the Abyssinian
These cats are very vocal, demonstrative and active. They seem to possess supernatural energy that continues on from when they wake up until midnight. Abysses don’t tend to be lap cats but they do love to stick around with owners and family members. More often than not they’ll be looking at what you’re doing and curious to see how it all works.
With strangers, the breed tends to be shy, reserved or even aloof at times. When they get to know you better, though, these felines open up and socialize with you each moment they get. Abysinnians are smart and welcome new environments and situations. You can teach this cat a trick or two, and they’ll easily get it down pat very quickly.
Owners of this breed will find them very entertaining to keep as pets and companions. Abysses generally don’t like to cuddle but they will keep you occupied with their frenetic activity and friendly attitude. If you can’t seem to find them, look up- these cats love to go high and survey their kingdom around them.
Litters of Abysses aren’t numerous, and as such there could be a long waiting list if you’re considering adopting one as a pet.
Reputable breeders shouldn’t even think of selling their kittens until they reach around 12 to 16 weeks. This span of time allows the breeder to properly vaccinate, inoculate and show kittens the ropes. Moreover, this stage is especially important because this is when socialization comes into play. After 4 months these kitties should be ready to be transported, shown or have a new environment.
Before buying a particular Abyssinian, it’s best to have the cat undergo a genetic testing at a lab or a veterinarian’s office to see if they are more likely to carry certain health conditions or diseases. When searching for a reputable breeder, make a checklist of tests, papers and credentials that increase the chances of you getting a healthy pet. If possible, meet the parents of the kitten and ask about any health issues that may have appeared within the lineage.
This cat variety has a pre-disposition to the following health conditions:
Renal Amyloidosis. Occurs because of genetic disorders within the line. Healthy kidney tissue gets affected by an abundance of an abnormal protein called an amyloid. If left untreated, the accumulation of amyloids inflame the cat’s kidneys and they become unable to filter waste in their blood.
Luxating Patella. Otherwise known as dislocating kneecaps. You’ll start seeing a sort of lameness in your pet, difficulty in jumping or witness a strange gait when your cat tries to walk with the affected leg.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy. One common condition within Abysses is PRA, or loss of vision. This can be prevented if you have the cat undergo genetic testing to see if one or two of the parent cats carry this degenerative disease.
Pyruvate Kinase Enzyme Deficiency. An inherited condition that can lead to chronic hemolytic anemia. The first case of a cat having the PK disease was with an Abyssinian. PK can also be present in subsequent breeds such as the Ocicat and the Somali.
Abys generally live to a full 15 years or so, and this depends on a variety of health factors, including pre-existing conditions, illnesses, diet and exercise. It’s best to address all these concerns for your pet to live a happy, healthy life.
Care of the Abyssinian
These cats don’t like to be left alone for long. When the owner and family members are away, they can become quite destructive. You’ll notice that your cat will alternate between bliss relaxation and here-and-there activity often.
Abysses love to play and expend their energy, so you should make your home environment conducive to this kind of behavior. Weight won’t be a problem with this breed; just continue feeding them properly and on time to prevent obesity. Provide high perches such as indoor cat trees, perches and the like, and watch them climb up and enjoy the scenery!
Litter Box Training
Cats will instinctively do their business on boxes of sand or soil, so it’s best to prepare a litter box for your pet. Kittens can learn from watching their mothers or as instructed when they’re about 3 or 4 weeks old.
Keep your cat’s litter box clean all the time. You’ll soon find that daily cleaning is needed to keep your pet happy. Make sure that the box is placed in a quiet part of the house and away from the feeding and drinking spots.
If you got an Abyssinian from a breeder you should ask for the kitten’s feeding time. Make sure you stick to the schedule and match the same diet if possible. Always keep an eye on the weight and always have fresh, clean water on hand.
You can stick to the 4-3-2 rule of thumb in feeding cats. Kittens should be fed 4 times a day. Adolescent cats should be fed 3 times, and adults just twice a day. Give your pet a mixed diet consisting of both wet and dry food that contains all the nutrients they need at their age. Remember, the better quality food you can give your cat, the healthier and happier they will be.
Coat Color and Grooming
Abysses have a full, soft and shiny coat, with the longhaired version Somali having the same attributes. Most kitties are born with dark fur, which lightens up as they grow into adulthood. All cats in this breed have the signature “ticking”, which means each strand contains two or three color bands called an “agouti”.
Being short-haired means you shouldn’t have any problems keeping the coat tangle-free, shiny and healthy. Brush your cat once per week using a rubber glove or rubber teeth. Brushing removes dead fur and prevents hairballs from forming in your cat’s tummy.
Abysses come in myriad colors, from lilac, cinnamon, reddish, sorrel, fawn, silver, black, chocolate, blue and lavender. There are silver varieties that sport white coloration near the skin and trademark tickings along the shaft.
The eyes can either be hazel, green, copper or gold.
As mentioned, weekly brushing is required. You should also cut your pet’s claws before washing them at least once in 1 or 2 weeks. Clear your cat’s eyes of debris using cotton wool balls inwardly to prevent infection. Check your Abysses’ ears and remove ear wax along the flaps. Last but not the least, take care of your cat’s teeth with daily brushing using cat-friendly toothpaste.
Children and Other Pets
Abyssinians match kid’s energy pound for pound, making them great family pets. They love to spend time with children and young adults who can entertain them and teach them new tricks. More than that, this breed is very sociable and love company every now and then. Households with other cats, dogs or birds shouldn’t pose a problem with this cat. Abysses become friends with other animals quickly as long as you introduce them properly.