The Abyssinian cat, sometimes referred to as “Aby,” is a medium-sized cat with a long body, developed muscles, and a short-to-medium length coat. Unlike many domesticated cat breeds, Abyssinians are extremely active, playful cats that love to climb tall pieces of furniture, play with toys, and play interactive games with their cat parents. Friendly to children and other pets, Abys can make an excellent addition to an active family. It is recommended, however, to provide your Aby with a companion cat—they’re very social and can become bored if left alone for too long.
Abyssinian cats are very adaptive and can thrive in both smaller spaces and larger homes. As previously mentioned, Abys love to climb, so you’ll want to consider adding a cat tree to your home decor—especially if you live in a smaller space and need to maximize vertical height, rather than floorspace.
Weight: 8 to 12 pounds
Length: 12 to 16 inches
Coat: A silky, short-to-medium length coat
Coat Color: Ruddy, red, blue, cinnamon, or fawn
Eye Color: Green or gold
Life Expectancy: 9 to 15 years
Characteristics of the Abyssinian
|Affection Level||Medium to High|
|Friendliness||Medium to High|
|Kid-Friendly||Medium to High|
|Pet-Friendly||Medium to High|
|Tendency to Vocalize||Low|
|Amount of Shedding||Low|
History of the Abyssinian
Unfortunately, it’s unclear when, how, or why the Abyssinian breed developed. Lore, however, says that Abys were once owned by pharaohs, while another says they were developed in Britain by breeding silver and brown tabbies with cats that had patterned coats.
Since their mysterious premiere at the Crystal Palace Cat Show in 1871, genetic testing has determined that Abyssinians likely developed somewhere along the Indian Ocean’s coastal regions and parts of southeast Asia. A taxidermied cat with the same ruddy color and ticked markings as an Abyssinian that was on display at the Leiden Zoological Museum in the Netherlands supports this theory: It’s believed the taxidermied cat originated in India.
Many believe Abyssinians were given their name because Zula, the cat displayed at the 1871 Crystal Palace Cat Show, was allegedly imported from Abyssinia, present-day Ethiopia. Variations in the coat color and markings can be chalked up to Abys breeding with other domesticated cats.
American cat fanciers began to import Abyssinians in 1900, but didn’t start breeding programs until the 1930s. During this time, fortunately, many cats were exported from Britain to the United States—the breed was nearly wiped out in Europe during Word War II. Since then, Abyssinian populations have grown rapidly and they’ve become one of the most popular cat breeds in the world.
Despite their high exercise needs and energy levels, the Abyssinian can be a relatively low maintenance cat. Because Abys have shorter, fine coats, you don’t have to groom them every day. In fact, you can expect to comb them once a week to remove dander and debris. It’s not required, but bathing your Aby during her shedding season can help reduce loose hair and dander.
Like all cats, it’s important to develop a regular oral health routine with your Abyssinian. Daily brushing is ideal, but even brushing once per week can help protect your cat from periodontal disease.
Abyssinians have pointed ears, so be sure to check the ears weekly for dirt and debris, or signs of infection. You can clean dirt or waxy build-up with a soft, cotton cloth. Avoid cotton swabs, as they can damage the delicate inner-ear structures. If your cat’s ear (or ears) are red, inflamed, or smell funny, contact your veterinarian. These may be signs of an ear infection.
As previously mentioned, Abyssinians are extremely active, playful cats. Stock your house with cat toys and expect to dedicate a few minutes each day to playing interactive games or activities with your cat. It’s also a good idea to invest in a cat tree or wall-mounted shelves, so your cat has high places to perch.
Common Health Problems
The Abyssinian is a generally healthy cat, but it’s important to be aware of the conditions that are more common in the breed. Knowing the signs and symptoms of certain health conditions can enable you to get your cat the care he needs immediately.
There’s no guarantee that your Aby will or won’t develop certain health problems, but be on the lookout for symptoms of:
- Periodontal disease, an infection of the tissues that hold the teeth in place. Regular oral hygiene can help prevent the development of periodontal disease.
- Patellar luxation, the dislocation of the kneecap. This is a hereditary condition that can be treated with surgery.
- Progressive retinal atrophy, a degenerative eye disease that can lead to blindness.
If you’re concerned about your cat’s health, talk to your veterinarian about the steps you can take to ensure she lives a long, happy, healthy life.
Diet and Nutrition
Your cat’s dietary needs will depend largely on its age, sex, and activity levels. Consult the feeding guide from your favorite cat food brand, or talk to your veterinarian about how much to feed your Abyssinian. Remember: Overfeeding can lead to dangerous health conditions, like obesity.
Friendly to children and other pets
Playful with high energy levels
Low maintenance grooming
High exercise needs, which may be difficult for busy families
Prefers a companion cat
Where to Adopt an Abyssinian
It may be difficult to find a purebred Abyssinian at your local shelter, so try searching for rescue groups in your area. Pet search sites, like Petfinder.com, also make it easy to search for pets in your area and filter by breed.
If you choose to purchase an Abyssinian from a breeder, conduct research to ensure they’re ethical and responsible. An ethical breeder will work hard to uphold the breed standards and produce healthy cats. Be on the lookout for red flags, like multiple cats on-site or unhealthy cats. Never allow a breeder to ship a cat to your home or charge your payment online.
More Cat Breeds and Further Research
The Abyssinian is a high-energy, active cat that gets along well with children and other pets. If you’re extremely busy and away from the home often, you may want to consider giving your Aby a companion cat, or consider a different breed.
Other cat breeds that are similar to the Abyssinian include:
- American Shorthair