Abyssinian at a Glance
Considered to be one of the oldest cat breeds, Abyssinians (Abys) are tremendously devoted felines. Their distinctive almond-shaped eyes resemble the elegance of the cat statues found in ancient Egyptian tombs. Easy to groom, they are easy to care for and make a great addition to a family. Find out more about this breed and if the Abyssinian is right for you and your family.
Temperament: Intelligent, Energetic, Affectionate
Size: Abyssinians are a medium-sized cat, surprisingly heavy considering the slim appearance of their body structure.
Females tend to be somewhat smaller in stature and finer boned.
Adult females: 6-9 pounds
Adult males: 7-12 pounds
Colors: Abyssinians are recognized in two divisions: traditional and silver. Traditional division colors include ruddy, cinnamon, chocolate, and a diluted blue, fawn and lilac. The silver division colors include black-silver, cinnamon-silver, chocolate-silver, and a diluted blue-silver, fawn-silver, and lilac-silver.
Life Expectancy: 14 - 17+ years. Many have been known to live well into their 20’s.
About the Abyssinian
Known for their unique ticked coat, Abyssinians have the appearance of a wildcat. They are athletic, alert, very active, and intensely curious with all that surrounds them. Fiercely loyal and highly people oriented, Abyssinians are referred to as the dog of the cat world. They are generally great with children, dogs, and other cats.
Abyssinians are extremely graceful, lithe, and elegant. They show a lively interest in their surroundings and are famous for their playful and curious disposition. Most Abys will stay kitten-like throughout much of their life.
Abys prefer the highest ground they can reach. They love to be on the highest level possible where they are able to observe the room, make decisions, and even guard their family. Don’t be stunned if you find a “flying” Aby on your shoulder!
TICA Regions, Clubs & Rescues
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Find a Kitten: TICA Breeders
The TICA website is the only place where you can find TICA member breeders who have signed the TICA Code of Ethics.
Abyssinians are known to many as the “wash and wear” cat. Their grooming requirements are low as they shed very little and have a short, easy-to-maintain coat. An occasional brushing is all that is required to eliminate dead hair and an intermittent rub down with a cold damp cloth will also help to keep their coat glossy and in good condition. Bathe as needed, starting when your Aby is a kitten. After bathing, pat down with a towel and leave the coat to “drip-dry” on its own.
Nails should be trimmed every two weeks. Begin brushing their teeth regularly at an early age with a vet-approved pet toothpaste.
As with all cats, it is important to give your cat fresh, clean water daily. Fresh, clean water is best, so cats don’t hesitate to drink. If you worry about your cat drinking enough water each day, here's a tip from some cat behaviorists: place the water bowl at least three feet away from any food. Cats’ noses are sensitive, and an overwhelming smell of food may cause them to drink less. Filtered drinking fountains (stainless steel preferred) can also be used in place of a water bowl.
Abyssinians are generally healthy, but as with all breeds, they are prone to certain health conditions. While knowledgeable breeders do their best to test for and eliminate genetic health problems, cats may still develop certain diseases or conditions. Abyssinians may have a higher risk for the following:
- PK-Def ( Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency) Pk-def is a hereditary form of anemia
- PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy) PRA is a hereditary disease of the retina in the eye that eventually leads to permanent blindness.
- PL (Patella Luxation) PL is a defect where the kneecap (patella) has a tendency to slip out of its position, it luxates.
- RA ( Renal Amyloidosis ) Unfortunately there is no DNA/genetic testing for RA. This is a disease in which an amyloid substance accumulates in the cells of the kidney (and possibly in other organs such as the thyroid gland, stomach and spleen).
It is important to note that PK-Def and PRA can be diagnosed through genetic testing so be sure to ask for certification from the breeder.
The Abyssinian is one of the oldest breeds of domesticated cats, but its real ancestry is lost in time.
Romantic tales call it the cat from the Blue Nile saying it is a direct descendant of the sacred cat of Ancient Egypt because it resembles the cats depicted in Egyptian murals and artifacts. Others believe British soldiers from Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) brought a cat named Zula home with them to England at the end of the Abyssinian war in 1868. So far, no documentation links Zula to the cats of today and recent genetic studies identify the cats in the coastal area of the Bay of Bengal in India as the Abyssinian's potential forebears.
The Abyssinian was developed and refined in Britain. The first Abyssinian arrived in the United States in the early 1900s and they were first exhibited in 1909. In the 1930s an effort to develop the Abyssinian in the US began and it quickly developed into one of America's favorite breeds because of its expressive eyes, unique coat pattern and personality. The Somali is the stunning long-haired descendant of the Abyssinian and is named for Somalia which borders Ethiopia, formerly Abyssinia, to represent their connection to each other. TICA accepted the breed into championship status in 1979.
The Somali cat is a longhaired Abyssinian
Did You Know?
- A pair of Abys named Amber and Rumpler shared the role of Jake, the stranded alien cat in the 1978 Disney movie, The Cat From Outer Space. Actor Ronnie Schell did the voice of Jake.
- Punkin, a ruddy Abyssinian belongs to radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh
- A blue Abyssinian named Isis was featured as a significant clue in season 4, episode 7 of the television series CSI.
- CatTime named the Abyssinians as the Smartest Cat Breed in the World.
- The book “Child of the Gods”, written by Helen and Sidney Denham, refers to the Abyssinian as a child of the gods.
- In 1871 an Abyssinian made an appearance in the world’s second largest major cat show held at London’s Crystal Palace and won third place.
- The first cat DNA to be decoded was an Abyssinian. In 2007, the feline genome was finally sequenced. And the star of the science was an Abyssinian cat named Cinnamon. This was a revolutionary discovery for the progress of cat science.
From the Breed Standard
The overall impression of the ideal Abyssinian is a medium cat, regal in appearance. The Abyssinian is foreign in type. Males proportionately larger than females, the female being finer boned and usually more active than the male. The Abyssinian shows firm muscular development and is lithe and panther-like in activity, showing a lively interest in all surroundings. The coat of the Abyssinian has an iridescent quality. Coat pattern is genetically a form of agouti ticking with even, dark-colored ticking contrasted with lighter bands giving a translucent effect. The Abyssinian is of sound health and vigor, well-balanced physically and temperamentally gentle and amenable to handling.
Click here to read the full TICA Breed Standard.
Additional information and an introduction to the breed can be found in the links below:
Accepted For Championship in TICA in 1979
- Abyssinian Breed At A Glance
- Breed Introduction
- Printable Breed Introduction
- Abyssinian Breeders
- Breed Standards
- Breed Committee
- Breed Seminar