Breed standard: CFA, FIFe, TICA, ACF, CCA-AFC | Size: Medium | Average Lifespan: 12+ years | Temperament: Intelligent, lively, and curious | Coat: Short | Origin: Southeast Asia.
The Abyssinian is an exceptionally beautiful and elegant breed. It is lively, curious, intelligent, affectionate, and one of the oldest cat breeds out there.
The Abyssinian’s origins
The origins of the Abyssinian are still debated. However, we do know that contrary to what one could think, this breed did not come from Ethiopia (known in the past as Abyssinia), nor from Egypt.
Originating from Asia
Instead, this breed came from Southeast Asia, by the Indian Ocean. However, the breed is also believed to have African origins. In 1868, a cat of this breed was imported to Europe by Field Marshal Robert Napier, an English diplomat on a mission to Addis Ababa (capital of Abyssinia, now Ethiopia). This is the reason why the cat breed was named Abyssinian.
English breeders decided to improve this breed by crossing it with the British Shorthair. They worked, among other things, on improving the coat and obtaining a fine silhouette. The Abyssinian was then called “bunny cat” because its coat was similar to that of a hare. The first exhibition of the Abyssinian was at the Crystal Palace in London, held in 1871. However, it was not until 1882 that the breed was recognized outside of Britain.
The Abyssinian around the world
The cat breed arrived in the United States in 1909. It was recognized by the The Cat Fanciers’ Association, Inc. in 1917 and became popular in the 1930s. The Abyssinian is one of the top 10 favorite cat breeds in the United States.
Character of the Abyssinian
Unlike most cats, Abyssinians love water and are exceptional swimmers.
The Abyssinian is an intelligent, alert, clever, and lively cat. It needs a lot of attention and space to play and thrive. In fact, it can spend hours playing and still seem tireless. In addition, this cat breed is quick and always on the move. As it is a particularly attentive and observant cat, it is interested in everything that moves. The “bunny cat” is also very curious, wanting to be everywhere at once.
While the Abyssinian is very active, it also loves being carressed and cuddled. In fact, this cat is known to get it’s owner’s attention by purring and rubbing against them. When this cat is first exposed to strangers, it is quite wary. However, Abyssinians adapt quickly and once they start to feel comfortable, they can be themselves. Playing with your Abyssinian is the best way to bond with it. They consider humans to be equals and when they are playing they barely notice the difference.
Physical characteristics of the Abyssinian
The Abyssinian has a long neck with a triangular head. Its large almond-shaped eyes, which can be hazel or green, are bright and expressive. It can look like the Abyssinian is wearing eye make up because its eyes are underlined by a dark line. When it comes to its ears, they are large, well-spread, and pointed forward.
As its body is medium-long and slender, the Abyssinian looks graceful. It also has well-developed muscles.
The chest is rather rounded, its back slightly arched and its flanks fine. The legs are thin, long, straight, and muscular. When this breed stands or walks, it can look as though it is standing on its tiptoes. Its tail is thick at the base, but tapers toward the tip.
Coat, color and grooming
The Abyssinian’s coat is short, but is slightly longer on the backbone. The fur shortens towards the flanks and has two ticked lines each. The coat is shiny, fine, and has an elasticity to it.
Only the ticked tabby pattern is accepted for the breed. The only parts of their body that are not ticked are the neck, the inside of their legs, and their belly. The color of the back and tail is darker than the rest of the body. Whereas, the chin and the top of the throat are lighter.
The most common color of this cat breed is a ruddy, reddish color. As its nickname, “the bunny cat”, suggests, its color is similar to that of a hare or a wild rabbit. The fur is made up of two different colors: an orange-reddish color near the skin and dark brown or black at the tips. Cinnamon or sorrel are also fairly common colors.
Abyssinians can also be blue. Created in Great Britain, this color is relatively rare. It is made up of a warm beige color and a blue-gray color. Blue Abyssinians have a beige or pink colored belly, tip of the tail, and marks on the ears. Abyssinians can also have a fawn colored coat, with the tip of the tail, the pads and markings on the ears that are magnolia. As for the nose, it is pink with a lilac rim. In addition, the breed can be colors such as red, chocolate, and silver.
Caring for an Abyssinian
This breed only needs to be brushed weekly. To keep its coat shiny, you can shine its coat with chamois leather. One of the great things about this breed is the fact that it sheds very little. On another note, this cat should be fed a well-balanced diet.
As this breed is very affectionate and active, it needs an owner who can be there for it when it wants to play or cuddle.
The Abyssinian is a talkative cat that likes attention. As it is very energetic, it eats a lot. Additionally, the Abyssinian wants to leave the house to explore the surroundings and satisfy its curiosity. With that being said, it always comes back and is loyal to its owner.
The Abyssinian with other animals
The Abyssinian is both independent and sociable.
- With dogs: The Abyssinian can get along very well with dogs if they had a positive first meeting. It will even want to play with them.
- With other cats: The Abyssinian does not really need the company of other cats. However, it can adapt to them with time.
- With children: The “bunny cat” loves to live in a home with children. It is an affectionate pet that loves to play with others. However, it is important to make sure that children respect its needs and are careful not to be too rough.
- With the elderly: Although the Abyssinian loves to be petted, the breed can get bored easily. To compensate, it might try to find something fun to do and might be a little naughty. As this cat is very energetic, it is not an ideal companion for people who have a calmer lifestyle.
Fun facts about the Abyssinian
The Abyssinian loves to eat! In fact, they tend to eat a lot, which is understandable because they are very energetic cats.
The Somali is a long-haired version of the Abyssinian.
The Abyssinian at a glance
Size: 30 cm (around 1 ft).
Weight: between 4 and 6 kg (between around 9 and 13 lbs).
Health: The Abyssinian is prone a few hereditary diseases, such as amyloidosis.
Average lifespan: between 13 and 16 years old.
Is the Abyssinian good with children? The Abyssinian is a very playful cat. They enjoy satisfying their need to play with children. It is also very affectionate and always wants attention, so it is great breed for families with children.