Discovering the Abyssinian Cat, One of the Oldest Domestic Breeds

Origins, physical characteristics, character and care advice

Photo of author

By Alex

The Abyssinian cat is among the most popular breeds in the United States of America. This breed has unmistakable physical characteristics. In appearance, the Abyssinian cat is very reminiscent of the cats depicted on papyri and monuments of Ancient Egypt. With a slender body and pointed ears, it has a characteristic ticking of the coat, with dark bands alternating with lighter ones. Thanks to its slim and supple body, this cat moves elegantly, maintaining a proud and intense look. It is a perfect apartment cat, sociable, affectionate and playful, highly recommended for families with children.

So let’s get to know this cat more closely and find out how to care for it.

Origins of the Abyssinian cat

The origins of the Abyssinian cat are quite interesting. The name suggests Ethiopia, or ancient Abyssinia. The physical traits, on the other hand, hark back to Ancient Egypt. However, recent studies suggest that its origins can be traced back to Southeast Asia. In fact, a mutation of the Tabby gene was found, which is present only in this breed and in cats on the Indian Ocean coast between Singapore and Sri Lanka.

As a partial proof of what has just been said, in some images of an old English magazine on cats from the 19th century, there is an image of a cat completely similar to the current Abyssinian which, in the caption, is defined as an “Asian cat”.

It is believed that in the second half of the 1800s, English traders brought this type of cat to West Asia, East Africa and Europe. They thus arrived in England where, in the very 19th century, systematic breeding of this breed began. In 1871, the Abyssinian cat was presented at the Crystal Palace Feline Exhibition. The official recognition of the breed came in 1882.

A few decades later, this feline breed reached the United States where, in 1911, the Abyssinian breed was officially registered by the Cat Fanciers’ Association (C.F.A.).

The second half of the 20th century saw a drastic reduction in the birth of these cats, partly due to an epidemic of feline leukosis.

abyssinian cat
A cat that is not widespread in our country, but will probably constitute one of the next “fashions” imported from America.

Physical characteristics of the Abyssinian cat

The Abyssinian cat is a medium-sized cat and has a harmonious build. It is slender and light. Despite this, it is also athletic and muscular. It moves with elegant, almost regal bearing.

Let’s analyze the various body parts in detail.

  • Head: triangular, broad and well-proportioned
  • Back: arched
  • Legs: long and slender
  • Tails: long, wide at the base and pointed at the end
  • Eyes: almond-shaped, they can be green, amber or hazel. Either way, they are always bright and very expressive
  • Ears: inserted low on the skull, they are large and somewhat pointed. Slightly pointed forward, they give them a watchful and alert air. They usually have tufts of hair at the tip.
  • Hair: short but thick and well adhered to the body, it is characterized by its unmistakable “ticking” appearance, with darker streaks of color alternating with lighter ones
  • Color: the most common color of this breed is ruby

Height and weight

The Abyssinian cat reaches adult cat size around 6 months of age. Both female and male specimens are, on average, 30 cm tall.

Males weigh between 4 and 5 kg. Female are slightly lighter, weighing between 3 and 4 kg.

Character of the Abyssinian cat

The Abyssinian cat is a veru curious, intelligent and responsive cat. This cat loves to play both indoors and out. It becomes very attached to its foster family and is suitable in families with children. However, it is not very cuddly, and therefore does not like to be held on its legs looking for scratches.

It takes great pleasure in climbing. Therefore, outdoor spaces with trees and tall elements are the ideal environment for this breed.

The Abyssinian cat is well adapted to living with other animals, both dogs and cats, but it should not be neglected or left alone for too long.

abyssinian cat
A truly agile and playful cat!

Health and diseases of the Abyssinian cat

The Abyssinian breed can suffer from PKD (Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency), an inherited disease characterized by a deficiency of pyruvate kinase, an enzyme that can cause anemia. Reliable tests are available to find this out early. Therefore, it is advisable to ask breeders if their cats are free of the problem upon testing.

Another common problem in this feline breed is progressive retinal atrophy, which, over time, causes blindness. In this regard, too, always ask the breeder for detailed information.

Care tips for the Abyssinian cat

In general, this is a cat that enjoys excellent health.

The Abyssinian cat’s short coat needs no special attention, although he greatly appreciates combing and brushing. If you want to achieve a particular shine to the coat, you can rub it gently using a slightly dampened chamois skin.

When needed, it is a good idea to provide cleaning of the ears using specific products.

On average, the Abyssinian eats much more than other cats. However, as he is very dynamic, agile and snappy, he is unlikely to go into overweight problems. It is therefore necessary to pay a little more attention to the diet only when the cat reaches an advanced age and moves less.

Finally, as with all other cats, the Abyssinian cat needs regular vet checkups and common vaccinations.

How long does an Abyssinian cat live

A healthy Abyssinian cat, fed well and kept with proper care, can live up to 18-20 years.

Abyssinian cat
A cuddly Abyssinian cat kitten.

How much does the Abyssinian cat cost

Pedigreed Abyssinian cat kittens range in cost from 600-700 dollars, up to 1,000 dollars for the best show specimens.

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