Somali Breed History
This Somali Breed History Article is Listed in Somali Cat Breed Information
Somalis are well-proportioned, medium to large cats with firm muscular development. Their body is medium long and graceful, with a medium-length soft and silky coat that requires little grooming. The coat is usually one to three inches long, with shorter fur across the shoulders. The tail is fluffy and full; their feet have tufts between the toes.
Their large, almond shaped eyes range in color from intense green to rich copper. The Somali has an agouti, or ticked, coat with four to twenty bands of color on each hair. The ticked fur mantles the cat with harmonizing solid color on its underside. They come in four recognized colors: ruddy, red, blue and fawn.
Where the longhaired gene came into the Abyssinian population is a a subject of speculation, but before the Somali breed began to be advanced in the late 1960s, longhaired kittens popped up in Abyssinian litters. These longhaired kittens, which couldn’t be shown or used in a breeding program, were quietly neutered and given away or sold as pets.
In the late 1960s in the United States, people taken with these longhaired “mistakes” began breeding these cats purposely and advancing that the breed become accepted for championship status. This was not the first advancement of this breed; a Somali was shown in Australia as early as 1965.
By the late 1970s, the Somali was accepted by all North American cat associations for championship status. It has had slower acceptance in Europe; the GCCF (Governing Council of the Cat Fancy), Great Britain’s cat association, did not fully recognize the Somali for championship status until 1991.
The Somali is a remarkably hardy cat, with few associated health problems. Like many cats of all breeds and mixed breeds, Somali are prone to gingivitis. This condition should be monitored at annual veterinary visits (more often if a problem occurs). Feeding the cat a large portion of its diet as a high-quality dry food helps this problem.
It has just been discovered that a few lines of Somali may be prone to a type of anemia called auto immune hemolytic anemia (AIHA). If you have a Somali with anemia or anemia-like symptoms, request a PCV blood test. This test is not usually done on a normal blood workup for cats, as AIHA is found much more commonly in dogs.
The normal treatment for AIHA is steroid therapy. The problem is that the symptoms can be close to a fairly common cat disorder, feline infectious anemia (FIA), which is treated with antibiotics. This is an inappropriate therapy for AIHA. Somalis are no more or less prone to FIA than any other cat. ~ Barbara C. French