If you are attracted to the Abyssinian Cat personality and stunning appearance you’ll love our complete guide!
In this article, Caitlin Riffee discusses important information about the Abyssinians cat’s characteristics, care and common health issues.
If you’re considering purchasing one of these beautiful cats, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the Abyssinian cat traits to determine whether or not an Abyssinian would be happy in your home.
What is an Abyssinian Cat?
The Cat breed Abyssinian is recognized by the International Cat Association (TICA) as one of the oldest domestic cat breeds around.
They are known for their expressive almond-shaped eyes, large and wide-set ears, and a distinctive ticked coat that seems to shimmer when they move.
Abyssinian Cat History
The true origins of the Abyssinian are unknown, but recent genetic tests suggest that the breed hails from India, specifically from an area near the Bay of Bengal.
However, some believe that the breed is actually descended from cats that existed in ancient Egypt, as the Abyssinian is thought to resemble these cats as they were depicted in ancient Egyptian artwork.
The Abyssinian made its way to the United States during the early 1900s, but the breed wasn’t recognized by The International Cat Association until 1979.
Abyssinian Cat Personality
Once the Abyssinian was introduced to the United States, the breed quickly grew in popularity due to its unique appearance, high activity level, and very social personality.
Abyssinians are extremely curious cats that enjoy exploring their surroundings. They will leave no stone unturned when they are introduced to a new environment.
You should be prepared to find these feline acrobats high on a shelf or piece of wardrobe, or squeezed into a seemingly inaccessible space between your couch and the wall.
In addition to their juvenile love for play, Abyssinians are also super affectionate.
While they may not have the calm temperament necessary for lap-cat status, Abyssinians will occasionally seek out their human for a few moments of quiet cuddle time.
Abyssinian Cat Temperament
The Abyssinian has an affinity for play and generally likes to keep busy.
Due to their curious nature and impressive intelligence, these cats are happy to be entertained by activities going on around them.
This makes them superb candidates for an active family, especially with children.
You’ll want to be sure that you play and interact with your Abyssinian – they thrive on companionship and want to be involved in your day. They’ve been known to let their curiosity get the best of them once they get bored.
You might find an Abyssinian opening and closing cabinet doors or even flicking light switches on and off if they’re not being entertained!
Abyssinian Cat Size
Abyssinian cat weight is generally in the mid-weight range. Male Abyssinians usually mature to 8-10 pounds. Females are smaller (as is typical in cats) and typically mature to 6-7 pounds.
The Abyssinian has a long and strong, yet streamlined body with equally long and graceful limbs. This gives the breed a rather jungle-type cat that is distinctively different from the typical domestic cat.
Abyssinian Cat Colors
Most Abyssinian kittens are born with dark coats. As they mature, the kittens’ coats will gradually lighten to their permanent color.
Regardless of the Abyssinian’s coat color at adulthood, all Abyssinians have the breed’s signature ticking. This means that there are bands of color in each hair, giving what is often described as an agouti coat.
Some Abyssinians also have the traditional tabby “M” mark on their forehead.
In a ticked coat, the hairs have a light base. From the base of the hair up to the tip of the hair, four to six bands of different colors can be seen, giving the Abyssinian’s coat its shimmery quality.
A ticked coat is actually a genetic variant of the commonly seen tabby color, so Abyssinian tabby cat is still an accurate description.
The four Abyssinian cat colours that are championship-qualified by TICA are as follows:
- Ruddy Abyssinian cats (also known as ‘Usual’ in the United Kingdom, as it is the breed’s most distinctive color)
- Blue Abyssinian cats
- Sorrel Abyssinian cats (also known as ‘Cinnamon’ or ‘Red’)
- Fawn Abyssinian cats (also known as ‘Pale Tan’).
However, there are other variations that have been produced which may not be championship-qualified yet, such as the following:
- “Torbie” Abyssinian cat (a combination of a tortoise shell and tabby coat)
- Lilac Abyssinian cat (a rose grey)
- Black Abyssinian cat (this isn’t actually black, but a black/dove-grey coat with silver tips)
- Silver Abyssinian cat/White Abyssinian cat/Grey Abyssinian cat (results from a white coloring close to the bottom of the hair shaft, recognized as a breed standard by the Cat Fanciers Association only)
Do Abyssinian Cats Shed?
Abyssinians have a short but thick coat. They do shed, but may not shed as much as their long-haired relatives.
If you like the idea of a long haired Abyssinian, you may want to consider the Somali cat. This is a breed with very similar coloring and is an ancestor of the modern Abyssinian.
Are Abyssinian Cats Hypoallergenic?
So, is the Abyssinian cat hypoallergenic?
The answer may surprise you – there is no truly hypoallergenic cat breed.
According to an article posted by the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, no studies have shown that there are hypoallergenic cat breeds.
All cats produce allergens, which are found on the skin, in the fur, and in saliva. The amount of dust and pollen in a cat’s fur may also impact a person’s allergic reaction to the cat.
Abyssinian Cat Grooming
With its thicker coat, the Abyssinian requires very little grooming.
A weekly brushing with a soft cat brush should be sufficient. Check out our article on choosing a cat brush if you are not sure which brush is best for your short haired cat
Abyssinian Cat Health
As with many purebred cats, the Abyssinian is prone to several health conditions.
We’ll look at the main ones here – but remember that this isn’t an exclusive list and it’s important to check with your vet if you think your cat might be unwell.
Renal amyloidosis almost always occurs in Abyssinians due to a genetic disorder. It happens when healthy kidney tissue is displaced by abnormal amounts the protein, amyloid.
The continuous buildup of amyloid causes the kidneys to become inflamed and unable to filter waste out of the blood.
An afflicted cat may present with vomiting, lower extremity edema (swelling of the legs), increased drinking and urination, a decreased appetite, and weight loss.
While renal amyloidosis is incurable and it’s not yet known if the effects can be reversed. There are special cat foods and medicines though, that may help to slow the progression of the disease, especially if it’s caught early.
If you plan on getting an Abyssinian, it’s a good idea to take them for blood work yearly as a youngster and twice yearly as they get older. Blood tests can help you track their kidney health and potentially identify renal amyloidosis at an early state.
Another genetically predisposed condition of Abyssinians is luxating patella, or dislocating kneecaps.
It’s most often caused when the trochlear groove (the groove in the tibia bone that the kneecap glides through when the leg is extended) is too shallow.
If a cat has luxating patella, it may suffer from intermittent lameness. It may also have difficulty jumping, and/or a strange gait on the affected leg(s) when moving.
Some cats learn to sort of kick the leg out to pop the kneecap back into place, but over time, this causes further joint damage, injury, or even stretching of the ligaments. As the cat ages, they may be predisposed to developing arthritis in the affected knees.
Depending on the severity of the joint dislocation, an afflicted cat may not need corrective surgery. It’s generally recommended that cats that experience kneecap dislocation often have the surgery before injury occurs or arthritis sets in.
Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA)
Another inherited condition common in Abyssinians is progressive retinal atrophy, or loss of vision.
Abyssinians are subject to two forms of vision degeneration.
When the mutation causes photoreceptors of the retina, otherwise referred to as “rods” and “cones”, to degenerate after the kitten reaches several months of age, it’s called “rdAC”.
When the mutation causes lacking photoreceptor development and subsequent blindness by a few weeks of age, it’s called “Rdy”.
If you’re looking to purchase an Abyssinian kitten, a DNA test of both parents will help determine if either or both are carriers of these degenerative eye diseases.
Pyruvate kinase (PK) enzyme deficiency
It’s also a good idea to test Abyssinians used for breeding for pyruvate kinase (PK) enzyme deficiency, an inherited condition that leads to chronic hemolytic anemia.
According to a study conducted in 2012, the first documented case of feline PK deficiency was in an Abyssinian. Subsequent cases were prevalent in Abyssinians, as well as breeds that were developed from the Abyssinian, such as the Somali and Ocicat.
A cat with chronic hemolytic anemia is often lethargic with a weak appetite, weight loss, dull or poor-quality coat, and diarrhea. In addition to anemia, PK enzyme deficiency causes muscle wasting, increased heart rate, and pale mucous membranes.
The only treatment for cats that test positive for PK enzyme deficiency is a bone marrow transplant, which is a very expensive and dangerous procedure. Therefore, it’s best to conduct genetic testing in Abyssinians before breeding them to see if either carries the disorder.
How Long do Abyssinian Cats Live?
Abyssinians generally live to be 12-15 years old. Obviously this is just a guide.
How long your Abyssinian cat lives will depend on a range of different factors including health conditions he may have inherited, and illness he may contract during his lifetime
Abyssinian Cat Price
Abyssinian cat cost varies based on whether or not you’re purchasing a registered cat from a breeder. It will also depend on how much value the breeder places on their stock. The cost may be based on whether or not you’re purchasing a kitten or an adult cat.
Kittens sold by a breeder may range from a few hundred dollars to almost $1,000 for a championship-quality kitten.
Abyssinian Cat Breeders
Due to its popularity, there are many Abyssinian breeders to choose from. There are several United States-based breeders are listed on the TICA website.
Some breeders raise specifically championship-quality Abyssinians. Others raise quality stock, but which may not be championship-qualified.
Regardless of which breeder you choose, be sure that they participate in genetic testing to rule out the Abyssinian-specific disorders that we previously mentioned.
It’s important to purchase a kitten from a responsible breeder for the health of your future kitten as well as for the health of the breed.
When purchasing any breed of kitten, be sure that the litter is generally healthy before selecting one. And don’t forget to ask to see all the relevant health test certificates for your kitten’s parents, before committing to a purchase
Abyssinian Cat Rescue
Abyssinian cats for adoption may be available in cat rescues or shelters every so often. If you are lucky enough to find one, it’s likely that they will not be championship-quality. They’ll also probably be older.
If these factors don’t deter you, adopting an Abyssinian could be a great option for you!
Abyssinian Mix Cat
What if you’re looking for an Abyssinian, but wanting one in a “non-traditional” color? One that TICA or the Cat Fanciers Association do not recognize as championship-quality? An Abyssinian mix may give you just that.
Depending on the breed that the individual Abyssinian cat is mixed with, you may or may not get a kitten with the traditional Abyssinian look or personality.
Regardless of the parent breeds, be sure to select them responsibly. Have the sire and dam tested for breed-specific genetic disorders before breeding them.
Is an Abyssinian Cat Right for You?
Before purchasing an Abyssinian cat, you must take into account all of the traits and requirements of this special breed.
Abyssinian cat personality is not for everyone. They are very active and are not lap cats. So you’ll have to have plenty of room for them to explore, with plenty of time spent playing with them.
Due to their love of play, Abyssinians should do well in a household with young children or even dogs.
They are very affectionate and will bask in your attention. However they may not want to share your affections with another cat. It may be best for an Abyssinian to be in a one-cat household.
Their signature ticked coat is beautiful, but because it is thick, it will require weekly brushing. Even though cats groom themselves more than adequately, you’ll help maintain their coat health with good brushing habits.
Abyssinians are subject to a number of health issues such as vision loss, reduced kidney function, and kneecap dislocation. It’s therefore important to select a cat that’s been genetically tested and/or responsibly bred.
You’ll also want to be aware of the conditions that these cats are prone to develop later in life. So that you can take preventative measures early on.
In summary, if you’re looking for a family-friendly, easily trained, unique-looking purebred cat, then an Abyssinian could make a fantastic addition to your home.
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- Cornell Feline Health Center, “Renal Amyloidosis”
- Penedo, M. et al. 2012. “Erythrocyte Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency mutation identified in multiple breeds of domestic cats,” BMC Vet Res.
- University of California, Davis, “Progressive Retinal Atrophy in Felines”
- VCA Animal Hospitals, “Luxating Patella in Cats“