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Abyssinian Cat

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Abyssinian Cat

Abyssinian Cat | Abyssinian Breed Characteristics | History of Abyssinians

The Abyssinian is a natural breed of domesticated cat believed to originate from one Egyptian female kitten called Zula that was taken from a port in Alexandria, Egypt, by a British soldier and brought to England where the breed was developed by Zula being bred with an English tabby, and the most ‘Abyssinian’ looking kitten of her litter being bred with its mother to splice the Abby gene.

The Abyssinian is a breed of domesticated cat believed to originate from one Egyptian female kitten called Zula that was taken from a port in Alexandria, Egypt, by a British soldier and brought to England. The breed was developed when Zula was bred with an English tabby, and the most ‘Abyssinian’ looking kitten of her litter bred with its mother to preserve the Abby phenotype (color, body structure, etc.).

Abyssinian01It is believed all Abyssinians in Europe, the Americas, and Australia are descended from Zula, but there has been at least one and possibly as many as three Abyssinians introduced from Libya (or less likely Egypt) into the existing Abyssinian gene pool in the USA. Many sources spread the story that Abyssinian breed is a few thousands years old and that it directly comes from ancient Egypt. There are also stories that wild ‘Abyssinians’ live in parts of North Africa today. The Abyssinian has become one of the most popular shorthair breed of cats in the USA.

It is believed all Abyssinians in Europe, the Americas, and Australia are descended from Zula, but there has been at least one and possibly as many as three Abyssinians introduced from Libya (or less likely Egypt) into the existing Abyssinian gene pool in the USA. The Abyssinian has become one of the most popular shorthair breed of cats in the USA. There are said to be still wild Abyssinians in some parts of North Africa.

The Abyssinian has a distinctly ticked, tawny coat. The tail and paws may show tabby markings, but the body must not. It has large almond-shaped green or gold eyes with a fine dark line around them, and large ears. The coat is generally a warm golden colour, but “Abbys” can also be blue, fawn, cinnamon and red. There is also a Silver Abyssinian variant whose coat shows shades of white, cream and grey.

Abyssinians are very active, friendly, curious and playful, but are usually not “lap cats”; they are too preoccupied exploring and playing; they are “busy” cats, and can get bored and depressed without daily activity and attention. Many Abyssinians enjoy heights, and will explore their surroundings in three dimensions, from the floor to their owner’s shoulders to the top of the highest furniture. They are highly intelligent, and probably the most independent of any domestic breed. There is a long-haired version of the Abyssinian, called the Somali.

Abyssinian02The Abyssinian’s body is of medium length with well-developed muscles. The legs are slender in proportion to the body, with a fine bone structure. The paws are small and oval. The Abyssinian has a fairly long tail, broad at the base and tapering to a point.

The head is broad and moderately wedge-shaped, with almond-shaped eyes that can be gold, green, hazel or copper. The nose and chin usually form a straight vertical line when viewed in profile. Their alert, relatively large ears are broad and cupped at the base, and moderately pointed at the tips, where there are occasionally tuffs of hair. An M-shaped marking is found in the fur on the forehead.

The coat is short, fine and close-lying. Each hair has a base-colour with three or four darker-coloured bands; the hair is the lighter colour at the root, and the darker “ticking” colour at the tip. The original Abyssinian coat colour is known as Usual in the United Kingdom and as Ruddy elsewhere. Over the years various other colours have been developed from this, but the markings on the coat have remained the same. The back of the hind legs and the pads of the paws are always darker than the rest of the coat.

Usual or Ruddy is the best-known and most common coat colour. The coat has a warm reddish-brown base, with black ticking. In the Usual Abyssinian, the feet and the backs of the hinds legs are always black. Another popular colour is Sorrel, which has a cinnamon (yellowish-brown) base, with chocolate brown ticking, paw pads and backs of the legs. Blue Abyssinians, which have become increasingly popular in recent years, have a light-beige base colour with blue ticking, paw pads and backs of the legs. The relatively rare Fawn Abyssinians have a light-cream base colour, with darker cream ticking and warm dark cream pads and backs of the legs.

Silver Abyssinians are a separate group among the breed. Although this colour has been in existence for decades and is very attractive, it is not recognised by the Cat Fanciers’ Association, the world’s largest registry of pedigreed cats. In Silvers the undercoat is always a pure silvery white. The markings include black, blue, warm dark cream and cinnamon. Good Silver Abyssinians are difficult to breed because they sometimes have undesirable tan patches in the coat. In addition to this, any spots in the coat show up more clearly on a silver coat.

Rare colours include the Tortoiseshell, Red, Cream, Chocolate and Lilac, which are all bred on a small scale in Holland and the UK. Abyssinian kittens are born with dark coats that gradually lighten as they mature. It usually takes several months for the final coat colour to be established. Since they carry the gene for long hair it is possible to find Somalis in a litter of Abyssinians.

Abyssinians are extrovert, willful and intelligent, but are usually not “lap cats”, being too preoccupied with exploring and playing as they would in their natural habitat. Abys, as they are affectionately referred to by their fans, need a great deal of contact with the family to keep them happy and can get depressed without daily activity and attention.

They generally get on well with other cats, although they need their space and the females can sometimes be irritable around other cats. Abyssinians are known for their curiosity and enjoy exploring their surroundings, including heights, although they are sensible cats that do not take unnecessary risks.