Abyssinian cat is a cat breed that has specific coloring (a zonal one), which looks like the one that hares or rabbits have. The body coloring has no pattern on it. Such coloring appears because each hair has stripes which interlace (it is called ticking) – light ones (yellow or ochery) and dark ones (black or brown).
This happens because when hair grows its dark and light pigments lie mixed in it. Rabbits and hares have only one dark ring on their hair while abyssinian have two or three rings (double or triple ticking).
Such coloring is also called agouti.
History of the breed
Cats called Abyssinian first entered shows in Great Britain in 1880s. They didn’t impress spectators with their body size or their silky fur length, or their blue eyes, however still they couldn’t stay unnoticed.
Their coloring – this what was unusual – without any stripes or splotches, it looked like a wild rabbit coloring and at that time so was it called – “rabbit coloring”.
Though the coloring reminds the one a hare or a rabbit has, still its appearance in general includes everything that we usually mean when talking about a cat, especially a wild one, naturally graceful.
It should seem that cat history is quite well known if compared to the majority of other ancient breeds (except for Siamese maybe). Cat named Zula is considered to be the ancestor of all abyssinian.
He is supposed to be from North Africa (presumably from Ethiopia, which was called Abyssinia then). This cat was brought by his English owners in 1868 after British-Ethiopian war was over.
16 years later first appeared cats with this “rabbit coloring”, which possibly were Zula and native British cats’ progeny, they were seen on cat shows and in 1896 were first registered in National Cat Club stud book.
The strange thing about the breed origin is that population of domestic cats in the North Africa doesn’t have this so called “Abyssinian” coloring.
The fact of “Abyssinian” tabby allele spreading was studied in the second half of our century and showed that cats with ticking are more often encountered in singapore populations.
From there the area of this coloring distribution narrowly goes West and ends near Teheran, so in no way it goes through Africa. Such a situation made felinologists develop three hypotheses, which explain Abyssinian breed origin.
The 1st one says that it was bred by English breeders basing on native cats. But the appearance and body constitution of abyssinian doesn’t look like the ones of european domestic cats – of the “short-fur breed” of that time, since these cats obviously have some “foreign” lines.
Therefore, it indicates that some foreign (brought from somewhere) cats were used when creating this breed.
What we are well aware of is that in the breed history there were cases of crossing with some eastern cats and other “foreigners” (for example, ocicat breed appeared due to Siamese and Abyssinian breed crossing), but such crossing was a sporadical one and it’s rather doubtful, that they’ve defined the breed appearance in 1880 – 1900s.
Another version is that, the breed founder, which had this famous coloring with ticking, was brought not from Africa, but from South-East Asia or Afghanistan, for example.
In the second half of the last century England had quite a lot of colonial wars and military retirees were coming back home from all over the world. In this case, it looks like the breed has got its name mistakenly.
The most interesting version is that Zula was not a domestic cat, but a domesticated wild cat. It is most likely that Zula was one of African wildcats – this very Felis silvestris lybica species, which subspecies was the ancestor of common striped cats we keep at home nowadays.
However, the main coloring of African wildcats is a spotted one. However, there are known several coloring variations with warm orcher-yellow coloring tints and poorly marked spots, but with well developed ticking.
Indeed, there are some peculiarities in abyssinian breeding, from the first sight they look like crossbreeding consequences. Their offspring number is a bit smaller, than other domestic cats have.
It also differs as for the ordinary male to female ratio in the offspring, however the prevailing sex is male, not a female one, as it should be expected – there are 2-3 males for one female.
A definite reply to the questions about origin may be given by molecular genetic analysis, but such studies are quite expensive and it’s rather doubtful, that some of breeders would spend large amount of money just to answer some academic questions about the breed origin.
As for owners, they like them just the way they are regardless of the cats’ origin details.
The cat is middle sized, slim and willowy. The body is strong, muscular, a bit elongated, but proportional. The back is strong and well developed. The chest is wide and quite deep.
The limbs are strong, long and slim. It looks like the cat stands on tiptoes. The paws are small, narrow and oval shaped. The tail is relatively long; it tapers away from its tailset to the tag, which is rather movable.
Abyssinian weight varies from 3.5 to 7 kg (7.7-15,4 lb), however the ideal weigh for this breed is 3.5 — 5.5 kg (7.7-12.1 lb), since it is a graceful and muscular breed.
Life span is about 12-15 years.
The head is small, sphenoidal shaped with soft lines; its snout is barely outlined. The nose is straight, of average length. The chin is pronounced.
The ears are large, vertical and wide at the earset; they are widely set and have rounded endings with tufts. The eyebrows and eyelids are dark. The eyes are large, eloquent, almond shaped; they are a bit obliquely set. The eyes color is intense – from amber-golden to green. The neck is short, elegant and gracefully curved.
The fur is short, thin, it bears against the body; it has double or (preferably) triple ticking of each hair.
The ticking is uniformly spread along the body without forming any pattern. The line along the spine (ridge of the spine), the tag and hindpaws underside are intensively colored in ticking color. The chest, abdomen and the limbs inner side don’t have any ticking on them and they have background coloring.
Traditional color of the breed in Britain is still called “usual”, which is called «ruddyl» in the rest of the world. As a rule aby cats are golden-brown with reddish underfur and specific black ticking. Lately some new colorings have appeared, including light blue, brown, chocolate brown and purple, as well as some silvery variations, silvery-blue in particular. Nowadays there are 4 officially recognized by CFA.
Colorings: the wild one (ruddy), red or sorrel, blue and fawn.
Their curiosity has no limits and it may be quite a troublesome thing from time to time. The cat likes prying into almost everything. He or she insists to be the part of all family events as a main family member.
That’s why cat isn’t for everyone, so if this high level of activity is going to annoy you, you’d be better off choosing a calmer breed.
Abyssinian cats are extraverts – incredibly active, playful, capricious and clever. Possibly, this is the most active breed. As a rule, they aren’t “lap cats”, since they are quite busy with their studies and games. Usually, they get on quite well with other cats, though they need some private space and the female may be rather irritable in a company of other cats.
Abys are perfect companions for any domestic animals, except maybe birds and mice. Yet, you shouldn’t forget about the predatory drive and keep mice or birds separately from the cat.
However, it perfectly gets along with its tribesman, taking the leading role quietly and without any conflicts; and he or she is eagerly obeyed.
This breed is an ideal one for those, who already have dogs, but they also would like to have a cat. This cat gets on with dogs perfectly. It really enjoys dog’s attention and shows its loyalty and affection.
The cat easily interacts with his owner and surroundings. Since, it’s quite fast creature nothing will stay unstudied in the area where the inhabits. The cat is interested in everything that is going on and what others are doing.
When studying their environment they prefer to look from top. So, don’t get surprised when seeing your cat on a fridge, door or book shelf. It seems that they are showing their royal nature, by doing this.
These cats have very playful temper, they adore toys and they can play for several hours with their favorite ball. They like people of all ages. The cat loves human company as well as playing with us.
It is quite demanding as for attention paid by the others, therefore it requires a lot of interaction with the family to stay happy. Without everyday activity and attention the cat may get depressed.
The cat feels rather comfortable among humans, it’s quite a social creature, but it’s not always happy to live in a big cat population, where it has to share the attention.
The cat really enjoys interaction with its owners, it’s great if you have children or you just would like to enliven the atmosphere in your house. This cat is safe for your kids!
Although it doesn’t always prefer kids company, it will still stand their behavior unlike other breed representatives. Nevertheless you should provide some adequate entertainment for the cat, since it is very active.
Due to the fact that Aby adapt to any new surroundings quite fast, they don’t suffer from physical or emotional stress after relocation to a new house.
It seems that the cat avoids meeting new people, but this is just a trick, – a little effort from you and soon you become favorite person.
What toys to buy?
The cat is playful not only when being young. It stays active up to old age. Any type of toys is good, but not too many of them, because the cat will get tired of them.
It’s better to give one or two toys and some time later (in a few weeks) change them with new ones, and later change them vice versa. If your cat has a favorite toy, don’t hide it or take it away.
Despite general neatness and ability to take care of itself, the cat needs assistance and attention of its owners.
Taking care about the fur
Cats are considered to be short-furred ones, which are rather simple in care. It’s enough to brush once a week.
A brush with rubber teeth or just a rubber glove will do for this purpose.
Besides removing dead hair and saving your furniture from large amounts of fur on it, brushing your cat has some more useful functions – it decreases the amount of fur that gets into stomach and massages skin, this way stimulating blood flow to hair follicles.
Thus, taking care about the fur systematically makes it healthier and shiny.
Brushing the cat and cutting its claws are necessary before washing. To prevent water ingress into the ears put some cotton wool balls into them. Wash your cat with warm (not hot!) water with a special shampoo for pets, after that thoroughly wash away the shampoo, then wipe completely dry, leave it in some warm place, brush its fur again and dry it with a fan.
It’s not the easiest task for Aby cat’s owner. First of all choose a proper moment for this procedure: the cat has to be calm, not excited. Because it’s rather difficult to cut the claws of the cat, which has just been playing with its toys or chasing your legs.
It’d be reasonable to wait till the cat gets calm and lays down somewhere to have a rest.
To ensure cleanness of the eyes, from time to time it’s necessary to clean the inner corners of the eyes of dust and dried matter.
If the skin around eyes is irritated with excessive matter or you see that tears have been running from the eyes, you must take your cat to a vet.
Basic ear care includes regular (once in 4-5 days) removing of small ear-wax amounts from internal surface of the ear flap. If there are dry brown crusts inside, it could indicate the presence of ear mites or a yeast infection.
In both cases you’ll need vet’s assistance – so you must go directly to a vet doctor. If your cat has some troubles with ears that don’t have any visible symptoms, it’ll let you know.
If something makes the cat feel uncomfortable or hurts it, the cat starts to shake its head, like it is trying to shake something out from its ear; or it often scratches behind its ear, like something is itching there.
Even a completely healthy cat may have some breath odour. If a cat has some trouble with teeth or gingivae the breath odour may be quite strong and very fetid. To prevent troubles with oral cavity you should regularly brush its teeth with tooth paste.
Moreover, if the cat is fed with wet canned food, then brushing its teeth with tooth paste is a must, since the feed doesn’t remove from the teeth completely itself. Common “human” tooth paste won’t do for this purpose; you’ll need to buy some specialized one for cats and dogs.
Such a tooth paste is completely harmless for cats, you don’t need to wash it with water and the cat can swallow it, what our cat does, for example.
In our opinion, it’s important to perform all hygienic procedures from its early days and regularly (repeating them in some equal periods of time). When the cat gets older it gets used to these not very pleasant things as a part of its communication with its owner.
Who is the best pet – he cat or she cat?
It depends on the purpose you have when buying your pet. If you want to start cats breeding – surely, it should be she cat. In this case, be ready to get two offspring a year; kittens running all around the flat and all the troubles connected with growing and selling the kittens.
Since your cat starts enjoying the process, in about 1 – 1,5 month after the kittens were born her temper may get worse, she becomes irritable (but you can mate her again only in 3-4 month), her mating call happens more often and she may start to mark territory like males do. Surely, a female after spaying won’t create any of these troubles.
Now, let’s talk about cat males. They are larger and more impressive than cat females; they don’t have to take care about kittens, so they are the best choice when you are looking for a companion or a decoration in the house.
If a female spends more time thinking and caring about her offspring, than for the male you and communicating with you are the most important things in life. You and only you are the center of his universe. You have all his attention and tenderness.
An intact male may start to mark his territory or he may not – you can’t predict for sure. According to lots of breeders, the best choice for home and family is a neutered aby cat.
Feeding is performed according to the scheme 4 – 3 – 2, i.e. you feed small kittens 4 times a day, young cats are fed 3 times a day and adults – just 2 times a day, correspondingly. Ideal food for the cat is dry and wet feed of super and premium class.
Choose feed manufacturing companies taking into account your pet’s preferences and possible allergic reactions. Strange as it may seem, it’s not recommended to feed your cat with natural products, since it’s almost impossible to create a balanced diet based only on them.
Nevertheless, if all-natural-food is put above others you have to keep in mind which products are contraindicated:
- brined cheese
- sour cream
You may consider liver useful for the cat (once a week maximum), farmer cheese, baked yoghurt and ordinary yoghurt. Vitamins and minerals must be present in the natural diet, though you can never know for sure which substances exactly are missing in it.
The different types of food should be fed separately! Meaning that if you feed with natural food – you give only this food, or only dry feed, or only wet feed and canned food.
Provided with proper care the cat may live up to 15 years in average.
Aby may suffer from the following genetic diseases – progressive retinal atrophy, familial renal amyloidosis (blue colored are more susceptible to these diseases as well as cats of other breeds of this color) and pyruvate kinase deficiency which causes problems with the red blood cells.
All above mentioned diseases or being ill with any of them are easily diagnosed by means of genetic tests. Almost all breeding farms check their cats for these diseases and remove affected animals from their breeding program.
Aby cats may also get ill with gingivitis just like other cats do. To avoid this you should feed properly, from early days look after teeth and regularly check their state at vet.
Sergey is a founder and author of Meethepet.com. He’s been fond of aquarium husbandry since his early childhood.
His favorite aquariums are biotopes (Amazon River), with Echinodorus and Angelfish. However, through the years he’s had experience of keeping almost all types of freshwater fish and shrimps.