One of the oldest known cat breeds, the origin of Abyssinians remains speculative. The striking physical characteristics of the Abyssinian, muscular body, arched back, large ears, and almond shaped eyes, can be seen in ancient Egyptian art. The actual name of the breed indicates that the breed may have originated from Abyssinia, modern day Ethiopia, and reach Egypt by way of ancient trade. Further evidence for this origin of the Abyssinian is the breed first appearing in feline cat show exhibits in England that were known to have been imported directly from this area of Africa. The first mention of the Abyssinian was in the Harper’s Weekly January 27, 1872 issue, where the 3rd prize in the December, 1871 Crystal Palace show was taken by an Abyssinian cat. There is speculation that the ticked coat appearance may have been the result of crossing brown tabby cats with the original African .
Physically, the Abyssinian is both unique and striking. The Abyssinian’s body is of medium length and well muscled. The legs are slender and long in proportion to the body, with a fine bone structure. The paws are small and oval, with the tail long, starting broad at the base then tapering to a point. The Abyssinian head is broad and moderately wedge-shaped. adorned with large, expressive, almond-shaped eyes that can be gold, green, hazel or copper. Their alert, relatively large ears are broad and cupped at the base, while moderately pointed at the cream pads and backs of the legs. Even rarer colors include the Tortoiseshell, Red, Cream, Chocolate and Lilac.
Abyssinians are very outgoing, social, intelligent cats. While they often seek affection and attention, they typically are not lap cats, with far too much passion for otherwise curiously exploring and playing. As such, they do best in a home with a family with more than one person to interact with at will, as well as having many toys kitty accessories to entertain them. Abyssinians enjoy climbing vertically, so a cat jungle gym is desirable. Abyssinians also tend to have an unusual affinity for water, making a large water bowl to splash around in, or a fountain type water bowl to play with or in its stream, also desirable. Abyssinians tend to get long well with dogs and other cats, although females are sometimes known get territorial and agitated with other cats.
Hair coat care is very easy, with a weekly brushing to release some undercoat all that is necessary. Occasional bathing is okay, but typically is not necessary.
Abyssinians are prone to development of dental and gum disease, as well as a kidney disorder known as renal amyloidosis. For this reason breeder and Queen/Tom scrutiny is important prior to kitten purchase, as well as regular wellness visits to the veterinarian. Life expectancy is tends to be long, averaging 13-15 years, but it is not uncommon to see Abyssinians live to the late teens and even early twenties.
By: Linda Eastabrooks
Former AKC Breeder