Meet the Cat Breed: The Abyssinian



The Abyssinian is one of the most popular short-haired cats. Similar cats have been depicted in ancient Egyptian art. It has a distinctive ticked coat that features many colors on the same hair shaft. 

Physical Characteristics:

The Abyssinian has a regal appearance with fine, elegant features. The head is broad and moderately wedge shaped and features somewhat large, cupped upright ears and almond-shaped eyes. Everything in the Abyssinian is characterized as "balanced" in appearance, being neither too thick or thin, and all features in proportion to each other. They have strong, lithe bodies with long legs. Abys (as fanciers often call them) still retain the look of a wildcat. The distinctive ticked coat can be Ruddy, red (also called sorrel), blue, and fawn. Some countries also accept silver.

History of the Breed:

The origins of the Abyssinian are convoluted. They were named for where they were probably first imported from (Ethiopia used to be called Abyssinia) in the 1870s to England.  Genetic and scant historical records seem to indicate they originated somewhere in Southeast Asia, off the coast of the Indian Ocean. They do, however have a strong resemblance to the ancient statues of the Egyptians. The breed was further developed in Great Britain. The first Abyssinians were imported to the U.S. in the early 1900s, though a strong breeding program didn't begin until the 1930s. Today, the Abyssinian is second behind the Siamese in popularity for short-haired cat breeds.


The Abyssinian is very people oriented and nearly always on the move. They are not lap cats, but they are highly interested in human activities, and always there to assist. Because of their high intelligence and activity, they require a great deal of interaction from human and/or non-human companions or they will get bored and potentially find their own unauthorized entertainment. They like to train humans to play fetch.

  • Best suited for: Families who appreciate an active, entertaining cat who will participate in and supervise home activities.
  • Preferred living conditions: This cat will not do well home alone all day. They need a roommate in cat or canine form to be happy while you are at work.

Care and Health:

  • Grooming requirements: Easy-care short coat sheds very little and may be less allergenic for some. Brush weekly.
  • Exercise needs: Enjoys active play and lots of appropriate scratching surface options.
  • Life expectancy: 12-15 years.
  • Health concerns: May be prone to gingivitis, so regular brushing is required. Kidney disease has occasionally been observed.

Breed Club Links: Abyssinian Cat Club of America Perfect Pairings: Aikiou Stimulo Interactive Feeding Center.

Have any stories about an Abyssinian? Please share!

Ready to adopt an Abyssinian? Visit to find available cats.

Photo courtesy of K. Kendall.


This entry was posted by Mary.
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