I want an Abyssinian, what do I need to know

Abysinian - Cat Breed
Abysinian - Cat Breed

Abyssinian are often described as small cougars, which is not surprising given their slender, athletic body with long legs and their lively character. These characteristics make the Abyssinian a very light breed of cats, in which females weigh up to 4 kg and males up to 5 kg.


The name “Abyssinian” is incorrect because this breed of cat does not come from the land from which it gets its name, Abyssinia, present-day Ethiopia. The claim that this breed is descended from the cats worshiped by the pharaohs in Ancient Egypt is also wrong. In reality, the Abyssinian comes from a completely different area, which is the jungle of Southeast Asia. 

This discovery has been possible thanks to modern genetics, by which it was found that these kittens have a mutation of the tabby gene that only appears in this breed and that has never been found in Egypt or East Africa. However, wild cats from the Indian Ocean coast areas, between Singapore and Sri Lanka, have this particular mutation and the coloration that it entails.

 There are more references to these kittens in old photos from the 19th century. In an English cat magazine a feline similar to the current Abyssinian appeared and was described as an Asian cat. These incredible marbled specimens are considered to have been brought to the Middle East and Africa by British merchants, and then brought to England by English troops who returned home from East Africa in 1868.

There began, in the 19th century, the systematic breeding of the Abyssinian, which attracted attention for its exceptional agouti brands. The Abyssinian cat already participated in the cat exhibition at the Crystal Palace in London in 1871. Shortly thereafter, in 1882, the breed was officially recognized, thus becoming one of the oldest. The breed standard was set by Harrison Fair, the then President of the National Cat Club of England. Before long, the breed came to the US. USA and was officially recognized by the Cat Fanciers’s Association (CFA) in 1911.

The two world wars considerably reduced the number of Abyssinian cats. To this we must add that the size of the litters also decreased, and they went from being one to four kittens to just two kittens on average. In addition, a feline leukemia epidemic in the 1960s contributed to reducing this breed, and although the population is not currently considered to be endangered, Abyssinian is not as well known as other cat breeds.


The Abyssinian is a full-blown Oriental cat. He is attentive, playful and active. He follows his owner everywhere out of curiosity and studies his every move. Abyssinians are incredibly smart animals who love to be praised and supported. For this reason, food hunting games, clicker training and even little tricks will awaken the interest of this curious breed. This is especially true when it comes to playing with people. Abyssinians are very sociable animals that will give themselves completely to their human family and those who do not like to be alone.

However, the only thing that can make them really happy is a feline companion, so it is recommended that you are not the only cat in the house. When they live with other cats, Abyssinians tend to be more dominant, so it is preferable to socialize them from a young age. Many people believe that the ideal is a companion of the same litter, so when you visit the breeder, consider whether you have the possibility of taking a couple of kittens home, since your Abyssinians will thank you.

This active breed is not the most suitable to have only indoors. A secured garden or a balcony for cats can offer a wide variety of climbing and moving options to meet the instinctive needs of these cats.

Unlike many other eastern cat breeds, Abyssinians try to achieve their goal with a calm and almost silent voice.


Abyssinian - Cat
Abyssinian – Cat

The curious and impartial nature of these animals is reflected in the features of their faces: large, almond-shaped eyes in amber, green or light brown with a characteristic dark outline. On the other hand, large ears denote that Abyssinians have a very sharp ear with which they fully immerse themselves in their environment and in the life of their human family. Its ears are well separated and have a wide base. The cuneiform head with a smooth curved profile of the Abyssinian rests on a slender and graceful neck. Long legs with oval paws and a slim tail complete the image of an active and agile cat.

The Abyssinian coat is short and incredibly fine and smooth due to the shortage of the undercoat. Despite the fact that the coat is even shorter in the shoulder area, these cats have a well developed ruff.

Abyssinians have a very striking color that gives their fur a look similar to that of a wild rabbit. The so-called agouti effect is responsible for the cat having stripes on the central part of the hair, which gives it a mottled or ticking pattern. Each hair has two to four alternating bands of dark and light color, and the tip is always the darkest color. But these stripes are not found throughout the body of the Abyssinian, but mainly on the head, back, tail and outside of the legs. The gut, the chest and the inside of the legs are uniform and in the base color of the animal. These attractive markings are completed with a stripe across the back, as well as a so-called “single stripe” running from the hind legs to the heels.

Ticking is a crucial part of the Abyssinian breed standard. The coloration appears from the sixth week of life, although it can take up to two years to fully develop to become a coat with a uniform pattern similar to that of a hare.

The Abyssinian colors are also unique. Breeder associations only accept those that rely on the eumelanin pigment, which is capable of absorbing a lot of light and thus contributing to dark pigmentation. The colors that are most frequently bred are: ruddy or wild, blue, sorrel (chestnut) and fawn (sand).


This is the original color of the Abyssinians and is similar to a warm brown. The base is dark apricot to orange in color with a black mottling. All other colors come from the wild, which is also known as ruddy or tawny .


This color does not refer to blue itself, but rather describes shades of varying intensities in blue and gray. Blue is actually the dilution of the wild, caused by a mutation in the gene responsible for color intensity. These Abyssinians have greyish-blue fur whose individual hairs show dark steel-greyish-blue stripes.


These are the Abyssinians of chestnut or cinnamon color turning red and with chocolate brown ticking . Sorrel is not to be confused with the actual red color as the former is generated by a mutation in the gene responsible for black fur.


Is the dilution of sorrel . The Fawn Abyssinians have a light cream base color, with a warm also cream color and pink nose.

There are also chocolate and lilac specimens, but these are not recognized by all breeder associations.

An interesting fact is that long-haired Abyssinian varieties appeared in the 1950s, especially in litters from England. These cats were the original parents of the Somalis, a variant with semi-long hair from the Abyssinians. The two races share standards.


Abyssinian - cat standing
Abyssinian – Cat

So far, characteristic conditions are not attributed to the Abyssinian although some genetic alterations could occur, among the most frequent; Renal amyloidosis (chronic renal failure), dislocation of the patella and umbilical hernia.

Although the abyssinian calf is not overexploited, it has a predisposition to suffer from hereditary diseases. One of them is feline neonatal isoerythrolysis (IEN), which occurs due to the incompatibility between the blood group of the mother and her kittens. This is due to the mating of a male of blood group A with a female of blood group B. After birth, kittens receive antibodies against blood group B through breast milk, leading to excessive secretion of hemoglobin and in acute anemia. Unfortunately, acute IEN is always fatal and can only be avoided through responsible mating.

Abyssinians can also suffer from progressive retinal atrophy (APR). Night blindness is often the first symptom of retinal disorder due to local metabolic tissue disorders. This inherited recessive disease presents symptoms from the second year of life, although it can take time to appear until the cat is six years old. For this reason, it is essential that the animals used for breeding are regularly examined by a veterinarian, so that they do not transmit this serious condition to their descendants. A specialized veterinarian should conduct annual reviews until the sixth year of life to ensure that the cat does not have APR. Work is still underway to develop DNA tests for this disease.

Deficiency of the enzyme pyruvate kinase in red blood cells is also known. This causes anemia because the life of the red blood cells is significantly shortened, which greatly reduces their number. Although blood transfusions can save lives, there is no treatment per se for pyruvate kinase deficiency. Since it is an inherited recessive disease, carrier cats may not develop it. However, if two cats carrying the recessive gene are mated, the litter will be deficient in this essential enzyme.

Apart from this, the Abyssinians are not very complicated and easy to take care of. Their short hair does not require special care, but a vet should examine them once a year, just like other breeds of cats. You must vaccinate your Abyssinian against certain infectious diseases, especially if it has access to the outside. Although your cat lives exclusively at home, it is also beneficial to immunize it against known conditions.

So far, characteristic conditions are not attributed to the Abyssinian although some genetic alterations could occur, among the most frequent; Renal amyloidosis (chronic renal failure), dislocation of the patella and umbilical hernia.


Abyssinian - Cat
Abyssinian – Cat

A high quality food is the best guarantee for the cat to enjoy a long and healthy life. Being carnivores, these small cats require abundant protein, preferably from fresh meat. Cats can only take advantage of a small amount of vegetable carbohydrates.


The cases of hereditary diseases in this breed underscore the importance of professional and responsible crossbreeding. Therefore, it is essential that you do not acquire your cat from a non-professional «multiplier» that offers breed cats without documents and at low prices because this is paid with the health of the kitten.

An ambitious and committed breeder puts the provision of necessary health care before his cats and kittens. In addition, by belonging to a breeders association, you will cross your animals responsibly to prevent inherited diseases such as progressive retinal atrophy and pyruvate kinase deficiency. A good breeder is looking after his animals 24 hours a day. For this reason, cat breeding is an activity that requires a lot of time and money, which is reflected in the kittens’ selling price. 

This is because the price not only includes the documentation of the animal, but also the wisdom of the breeder. This allows your cats to rest and recover after having a litter so they can gather strength to care for the kittens from their next litter. The kittens will stay with their mother at the breeder’s house for at least twelve weeks, during which time they will learn everything they need to live happily.

You can count on an Abyssinian cat with the proper documentation to cost around 700 euros. Adult cats excluded from breeding can also often be purchased for a more convenient price.

Of course, as an alternative, you can visit an animal protector. There you will find many cats, even some of breed, looking for a new and good home.

Whether you decide to buy your feline companion from a breeder or adopt him from a protector, we wish you many adventures with your Abyssinian cat!

by cat101

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