Did you know? - 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 Ethopia) 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 actually 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 descendent of the Abyssinian and is named for Somalia which borders Ethiopia, formerly Abyssinia, to represent their connection to each other.
Abyssinian cats are notorious for being unable to detect when an area is unsafe. Do not let your abyssinian outside. We lost one our beloved pet boys of 7 years old to a car and still find it difficult to move on years later. You will often read of abyssinians in car accidents. We moved house after we lost our boy because we couldn't live there anymore. Abyssinians have been known to live to their 20's but usually 12 - 16 years is the average.
Abyssinians look like a very small mountain lion or cougar with almond eyes set in a dramatically marked expressive face and a spectacularly warmly ticked coat that produces a shimmering iridescence whether still or in motion. They are athletic, alert and very active. Even though they are well-muscled their movement is lithe, graceful and very quick. Their carriage is confident and regal, but their antics have caused some to call them "Aby-silly-ans"! Sometimes we refer to the “Purry-head” because when they see you, they get so excited and start wiggling their heads all around in excitement! You may have seen another breed which closely resembles the abysinnian but with long hair and this is another breed. The Somali is simply and beautifully a semi-long-haired Abyssinian. It has the same expressive face but with a shaggy ticked coat, ear tufts and a fox-like tail. The Abyssinians and Somalis are also known as the 'preposition' cats because they leave no niche unexplored; they are above, below, in, under, across, beside, between, into, over, among and through everywhere! Perhaps alliteration is an easier way to describe the Abyssinian and Somali: active, awesome, agile, astounding, alert, animated, affectionate, amusing, athletic, astute, amiable and attentive.
What is the Abyssinian Personality?
Abyssinians and Somalis are loyal, affectionate, highly intelligent and very interactive with their owners and environment. No place ever goes unexplored and yet seldom do they knock anything off of a shelf or countertop. They are wonderful companions who are highly interested in everything around them and what everybody is doing. They like a good view of their surroundings, so expect them to find them atop the refrigerator, doors and bookcases. They are entertained by whatever moves outside making birdfeeders visible through a window a must. Saying they show an intense curiosity in all that surrounds them is an understatement.
Not usually considered a lap cat due to their high energy and curiosity levels say some, but sometimes whenever we sit down an aby has appeared, curled up and is snoozing within about three minutes! Abys/Somalis do occasionally make visits to your lap or find a way under the covers to spend time near their beloved owners. The way they transform within seconds from a radiant and regal presence into an amazingly playful character with childlike antics and an indomitable spirit is astounding. Engaging companions for people of all ages, they are happiest in the company of others, love to play and will find ways to involve you in their activities. While exceedingly social, they are not always content in large cat populations where they have to share attention but again this really depends on the individual situation as we have some wonderful abys here who enjoy all the company!
The Abyssinian is a short-haired cat whose coat has an irridescent warmth of color produced by the Agouti ticking, where each shaft of hair has 4-6 bands of alternating rich color similar to that of a bunny coat. The coat is resilient and when rubbed against the lay of the coat it snaps back into place. Similarly colored, the Somali is semi-long-haired with a coat that is very soft and finely textured. Coat texture for both is generally soft, but varies somewhat with different colors because the pigment particles have different shapes and distribution within the hair shaft causing the textural variation.
The Aby/Somali head type is a modified wedge with rounded contours. In profile, there is a rise from the bridge of the nose to the forehead with a brow ridge that helps establish the wild appearance to the face. The ears are large and arched forward in alertness not to miss out on anything. The eyes are large, almond-shaped jewels, expressive and richly colored gold, amber or green surrounded by a ring of dark color (eyeliner) that is then surrounded by a lighter color. The muzzle is rounded in contour without being pointy or pinched in appearance.
They are a medium sized cat with males weighing 8-10 pounds and females 6-7 pounds. The body is medium long, lithe and graceful with the muscular strength of a fine-motor skilled athlete. The Aby/Somali is solidly built with a level flank and a slight arch to the back that is more noticeable when the cat is sitting. The legs are slim, long and well-muscled with oval-shaped feet and an appearance of standing on tip-toes.
Abys and Somalis are bred in the following colors: Ruddy (or Usual in the UK), Chocolate, Cinnamon, Blue, Red, Lilac and Fawn and the silver version of these colors where an icy white coloration closest to the skin is followed by ticking up the hair shaft.
CATEGORY: Traditional. DIVISIONS: Tabby and Silver/Smoke. COLORS: Limited to eumelanistic colors and agouti pattern only. PERMISSIBLE OUTCROSSES: None.
HEAD: Shape: Modified wedge with rounded contours as viewed from the front. A rise from the bridge of the nose to the forehead without evidence of a sharp break. The head should be of ample length in general balance with the rest of the cat and gently curved from the forehead over the skull flowing into an arched neck.
Ears: Large, alert, and moderately pointed, broad and cupped at base and arched forward, set as though listening. Hair on ears short and close-lying, preferably tipped in conformity with the color requirements. A “thumb print” marking is desirable on the back of the ear.
Eyes: Almond shaped, large, brilliant and expressive. Skull aperture follows almond shape of eyes being neither round nor oriental. Eyes accentuated by darker lid skin, encircled by a light colored area. Above each eye appears a short vertical darker pencil stroke amidst the light area. At the sides of each eye appears a curved darker pencil line as if a continuation of the upper eyelid. Eye Color to be gold, copper, green or hazel, the more richness and depth of color the better. There is no relationship between coat and eye color. Points shall be divided equally between shape and color.
Muzzle: The muzzle shall follow gentle contours in conformity with the head as viewed from the front and in profile. Chin shall be full and neither projecting nor receding, having a rounded appearance. Allowance to be made for jowls in adult males. The muzzle shall not be sharply pointed and there shall be no evidence of snippiness, foxy appearance or whisker pinch.
Profile: Without flat planes, showing gently curved transition between brow, nose and muzzle.
BODY Torso: Medium long, lithe and graceful, showing well developed muscular strength without coarseness and is solid to the feel. The rib cage is rounded with no evidence of flat sides. The back is slightly arched giving the appearance of a cat about to spring. The flank shall be reasonably level without tuckup. Proportion and general balance to be desired more than mere size.
Legs: Proportionately slim, long and well-muscled. The Abyssinian/Somali stands well off the ground.
Feet: Oval and compact. When standing, giving the impression of being on tip toe.
Tail: Long and tapering.
Musculature: Well-developed muscular strength without coarseness and solid to the feel.
COAT/COLOR/PATTERN: Length (AB): Coat resilient to the touch with a lustrous sheen, fine in texture. Medium length, long enough to accommodate four to six alternating light and dark colored bands. The coat lies fairly close to the body; however, the undercoat should be adequate enough to avoid any evidence of slickness. Woolliness undesirable. Coat is longest at the spine, gradually shortening over the saddle, flank, legs and head.
Length (SO): The coat, very soft to the touch, is extremely fine-textured and doublecoated. Semi-long length, except over shoulders where a slightly shorter length is permitted. The more dense the coat the better. Preference is to be given to a cat with ruff and breeches.
Pattern: Coat pattern is genetically a form of agouti ticking with even, dark-colored ticking contrasted with lighter bands giving a translucent effect.
SILVER/SMOKE DIVISION: In the Silver Division, only the undercoat color will be different from the Tabby Division, with the six colors of ticking being the same in both divisions. In all Silver varieties, the desirable undercoat color is to be icy white, with ticking appropriate to the particular color, giving an overall sparkling silver effect. The orangebrown/ sorrel/cream bands within the ticking of the Traditional Tabby Division colors are replaced with white, with the band adjacent to the skin being the lightest. Yellow or brown pigmentation on the chest, belly, under tail, or inside of legs is not desirable, although minor patches of rufousing are not to be considered a fault if the overall impression is of silver. Some rufousing may be present in the areas of ticking, especially along the spine, and the rufous polygenes may have a small effect on the silver undercolor as well, although lack of rufousing is more desirable.
GENERAL: The overall impression of the ideal Abyssinian/Somali is a medium cat, regal in appearance. The Abyssinian/Somali is foreign in type. Males proportionately larger than females, the female being finer boned and usually more active than the male. The Abyssinian/Somali shows firm muscular development and is lithe and panther-like in activity, showing a lively interest in all surroundings. The coat of the Abyssinian/Somali 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/Somali is of sound health and vigor, well-balanced physically and temperamentally gentle and amenable to handling.
PENALIZE: Color Faults: Cold, gray or sandy tone to coat color in ruddies, chocolates, orcinnamons or gray hair next to skin with absence of correct undercoat color. Distinctbroken necklaces, leg bars, mottling orspeckling in unticked areas (underside ofbody, chest and inside legs), tabby stripes orbars. Slick coat or excessive plushness.Wrong color or patching in pads.Ticking and Pattern Faults: Unevennessof ticking over body, lack of desiredmarkings on head and tail. Condition: Flabbiness of body, lack ofcoat luster, eye color, evidence of illness,emaciation and lack of muscle tone arefaults and points shall be deducted.
WITHHOLD ALL AWARDS (WW): Unbroken necklace. Reversed ticking(outermost tip of hair light instead of dark). In the Tabby division, white locket or white anywhere on the body other than around nostril, chin and upper throat areas.
Temperament must be unchallenging; any sign of definite challenge shall disqualify. The cat may exhibit fear, seek to flee, or generally complain aloud but may not threaten to harm. In accordance with Show Rules, ARTICLE SIXTEEN, the following shall be considered mandatory disqualifications: a cat that bites (216.9), a cat showing evidence of intent to deceive (216.10), adult whole male cats not having two descended testicles (216.11), cats with all or part of the tail missing , except as authorized by a board approved standard (216.12.1), cats with more than five toes on each front foot and four toes on each back foot, unless proved the result of an injury or as authorized by a board approved standard (216.12.2), visible or invisible tail faults if Board approved standard requires disqualification (216.12.4), crossed eyes if Board approved standard requires disqualification (216.12.5), total blindness (216.12.6), markedly smaller size, not in keeping with the breed (216.12.9), and depression of the sternum or unusually small diameter of the rib cage itself (126.96.36.199). See Show Rules, ARTICLE SIXTEEN for more comprehensive rules governing penalties and disqualifications.
Revised 06/18/08 Abyssinian Breed Group Standard, 05/01/2008