There are many gorgeous breeds of cats out there today. From the regal Norwegian Forest Cat to the beautiful Siamese, pure-bred cats come in all sorts of sizes and colors. Each cat has a distinctive look, of course – but the most important thing that sets a cat of any particular breed apart from another is their personality. Cat breeds have a hugely diverse range of personality types. Of course, each cat is an individual, but you can generally get a good idea of how a cat will act with appropriate research into the breed. One of the most interesting breeds out there – with one of the boldest personalities – is the distinctive Abyssinian.
The Abyssinian is a domestic short-haired breed. They display a gorgeous tabby pattern and a wonderful range of colors. These cats also set themselves apart from the rest due to their special personality traits – you are not likely to meet a cat that is more memorable than an Abyssinian. They are certainly worth learning more about. Whether you are a proud Abyssinian owner, plan to purchase or adopt an Abyssinian in the future, or are just a fan of cats, you will benefit from reading our article – Twenty fun facts You Didn’t Know about Abyssinian Cats.
Their Name Is a Reference to Their Supposed Origin
The name of this breed itself, Abyssinian, hearkens back to earlier times when the modern-day country of Ethiopia was called Abyssinia. Breeders began calling their cats Abyssinians because of tales that suggested they were the descendants of kittens purchased from local Abyssinian traders by deployed British soldiers. Supposedly, the modern-day Abyssinians are direct descendants of these foreign cats. However, the history of the breed is somewhat murky and nothing can be said with any certainty. It is even possible that British breeders at this time – the mid-19th century – may have been inventing a backstory for their cats as a marketing ploy to drive up prices. Regardless of their actual origins, however, these cats are gorgeous and wonderful creatures.
They Were First Bred in Britain
It is quite unlikely that the Abyssinian breed is actually directly descended from cats purchased in Ethiopia. Chances are, in fact, that they are a mix of cats that British breeders found in their own homeland. It has been suggested that modern-day Abyssinians are descended from tabbies and British “Bunny” ticked cats, giving them their distinctive appearance. However, what British breeders may not have known is that the cats they used to create the breed actually had different roots altogether. A recent discovery suggests that Abyssinians share genetics with cats from Asia as well as from Europe. This means that Abyssinians probably descended from cats who mixed as they were brought along land-based trade routes – such as the Silk Road.
Their True Origin is in India
The earliest known Abyssinian is from the early 19th century – sometime between 1834 and 1836 – and still rests and is labeled at the Leiden Zoological Museum of Holland. It has been identified as an Indian cat and is labeled accordingly. This suggests that the breed – though it was refined in England – may have originated in Calcutta, India. Though the historical and anecdotal evidence for this origin story is pretty strong (especially when you consider the hyperprevalence of seafaring routes between Calcutta and Great Britain) there have been studies more grounded in hard science that have suggested similar conclusions. Genetic studies that have been performed on this breed are very much in support of this conclusion as well.
They Have Been Described as Incredibly Intelligent
A lot of literature has been passed around regarding Abyssinians. One of the most well-known sources on Abyssinians is Carolyn Osier’s Abyssinian Breeders International Kitten Buyer’s Guide. This book is meant to be a no-nonsense guide to breeding and buying Abyssinian cats. In the book, Osier suggests that Abyssinians are among the “most intelligent animals ever created”. She supports this assertion with a few facts. First off, they are very loyal and driven. This leads them to pursue their tasks relentlessly. They also want to help to accomplish specific goals – and as such are easy to train and reward.
They Need Their Owners
It is common knowledge that many cats merely tolerate physical affection and attachment from humans. It has even been suggested that petting can provoke a stress response in certain individual cats and breeds. However, Abyssinians definitely stand apart from other breeds in this aspect of life. Abyssinians are very, very attached to their owners. It has even been described as “dog-like”. This extreme dependence on contact with humans serves to reinforce their loyalty. In addition, they often end up craving human interaction more so than anything else.
Abyssinians are often known as the “Clowns of the Animal Kingdom”. This is due to their outgoing, active, and attention-seeking nature. In fact, some Abyssinians will perform stunts or attempt to “joke” solely in order to elicit a response. Not only are they pretty funny, but they’re pretty smart as well. For example, you might catch your cat batting at nothing, playing with blankets, or performing some other entertaining action. This is great fun for both of you – your cat is trying to make you laugh. In fact, Abyssinians are among the only cats that would ever purposefully seek to make your day better intrinsically.
They Are Prone to Gingivitis
While gingivitis isn’t terribly common in the feline world, it is especially likely that an Abyssinian would have to deal with this condition at some point without proper care. Gingivitis is a gum disease that can end up causing the one afflicted severe pain, tooth loss, and other symptoms. It is important to discuss with your veterinarian what the best practices for brushing your Abyssinian’s teeth would be. Often, they will need their teeth brushed for at least once weekly. Either way, if you want to keep your cat disease-free, you will need to take care of their mouth – it is especially prone to infections and chronic illnesses.
They Are Especially Fond of Heights
Abyssinians have a lot of distinguishing features. Among the most important behaviors that an Abyssinian will display is a love of high perches. Some cats are content on the ground, on a couch, or on some sort of low platform. Abyssinians are the opposite, preferring the highest ground they can reach. It is very important to buy your Abyssinian a few cat posts or trees that reach the ceiling in your house. This way, they can stay on the highest level possible where they are able to observe the room, make decisions, and even guard you. You will notice that your Abyssinian is almost always taking in and processing information as well – another unique feature of this breed that is worth mentioning.
World War Two Devastated the Breed
During the German campaigns against the British during World War Two, many Abyssinian cats were killed, released, or simply not taken care of. This caused severe effects to the population of Abyssinians. However, when Germany embarked upon their air raids of London, for example, the lives of these cats took a backseat to the lives of British citizens. However, it was nearly impossible to even sustain the breed throughout the War. In fact, by the end of the Second World War, only twelve Abyssinian cats were still alive in England. It was almost the end of the breed – luckily, they ended up making it, avoiding the permanent loss of one of the most inquisitive, clever breeds out there today.
The Breed Bounced Back with the Help of the Americans
When Abyssinians got so close to extinction, it is very unlikely that they would have been able to rebuild with only twelve cats. Luckily, America had a few imported Abyssinians that local cat owners were willing to help rebuild the breed with. The importation of this breed began in the year 1900. The first strong breeding programs for Abyssinians were created during the 1930s. This helped increase the population of these cats in America (thus rendering the loss in the 1940s almost negligible). Today, the breed has returned to the forefront of the feline sphere and is among the most popular in the United Kingdom as well as the United States.
They Do Best with a Companion
Abyssinians are adaptable, flexible, and far from picky. They can fit themselves in to almost any sort of living situation – regardless of other pets, children, or the number of people in a household. However, if they are going to be left at home alone all day when people are at work or school, it is a great idea to bring them a companion that can match their energy levels – such as another Abyssinian. An Abyssinian left entirely alone may very well dismantle the whole house. This is all in search of the greatest goal ever sought by an Abyssinian – something to do. Instead of dealing with this kind of mess every time you leave your cat by itself, it would be far better to simply have another cat they can play with so the two can entertain each other.
You Need to Watch out for Neurological Problems
As with many purebred cats, Abyssinians are quite prone to a variety of health problems. One such issue is hyperesthesia syndrome. This causes a few symptoms and is quite obvious. It can be serious but should always be watched for as certain treatment methods are available. A cat suffering from the aforementioned disorder could exhibit a few common symptoms. For example, excessive grooming – even leading to hair loss – is one of the most visible symptoms. They may also act out after being petted or touched. Instead of letting your cat suffer, it is in their best interest to take them to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
They Are Best Kept Indoors
Abyssinians are more suited to indoor life than outdoors life. Though you may think that their tenacity and temperament would lead them to be very curious about the outdoors – and it is very likely that you wouldn’t be wrong – it is not a suitable environment for this breed. There are a few important factors that you must consider. First off, they are a valued and recognized breed. This could lead to your cat being stolen right off of your front lawn if you aren’t careful. In addition, they are particularly susceptible to certain weather-related issues. This is due to their short, fine coat. Outdoor cats could also catch diseases from other cats or may even be faced with violent, inter-species attacks.
They Love Kids
Not many cats are known as great family pets. They may tolerate the affections of a young child but will almost certainly avoid being in situations where such a thing might happen. Cats are a bit antisocial when it comes to gatherings – especially when kids are involved. However, the Abyssinian breed is almost the complete opposite. Abyssinians make awesome family pets due to their energy levels and smarts. For example, they will almost certainly avoid toddlers because they’re smart enough to know that a kid that small will not know how to interact with them properly. However, older kids are a perfect vessel for their affections. They also love to see energy and curiosity in their playmates. It is also important to note that this breed is far from aggressive and will not generally bite or scratch.
They Were Not Recognized Until 1979
Programs for Abyssinians have existed in the United States for many, many years. However, despite these programs, the Cat Fanciers’ organization consistently refused to officially recognize the breed until almost 80 years after the first Abyssinian came to America (1979). However, the breed has been consistently recognized since then. The official recognition of the breed allows Abyssinians to enter shows and have pedigree papers. They can also now be bred professionally and sold as competition-level cats. This has led to an even bigger increase in the number of people who own Abyssinians in the United States.
They Are Pricey
Most purebred cats come at a pretty steep price. When you consider the work that goes into maintaining a pure bloodline with the right amount of diversity, coming out with cats that are competition-level quality, and dealing with the certification process, the price starts to make more sense. Plus, Abyssinians can be found as non-competition kittens as well. The price for any particular Abyssinian will depend on its registration, the cat itself, and the breeder. Generally, one can expect to spend a few hundred to purchase one of these kittens. However, competition-level kittens have been priced in the thousands due to their potential to make that money back in the future.
They Are Incredibly Athletic
As we have already mentioned in this article, Abyssinians are capable of a lot of antics that are meant to amuse themselves and others. They will ‘stunt’, batting at imaginary butterflies or playing with toys at max speed. They can run incredibly fast and have a lithe and athletic build. One of the most astonishing abilities of the Abyssinian is their ability to jump to incredible heights. Most Abyssinians can jump straight up six feet – a very impressive feat, even for a cat. This, combined with their love for heights, can lead to some interesting situations. Just remember to buy a floor-to-ceiling cat tree.
They Love Looking Out Windows
Cats, by nature, are observant creatures. Abyssinians exemplify this trait without breaking a sweat. It is not uncommon to see an Abyssinian perched by a window for several hours, just watching the world outside. They are entertained by people, passing cars, insects, birds, other cats, and pretty much anything else they can see through that pane of glass. It is quite feasible to entertain an Abyssinian for some time by placing a bird feeder right outside the window. This way, they can watch the birds and get in a little “hunting” without feeding into that primal instinct more than you need to. They will stay so fixated due to their intense, driving curiosity about all things – plants, animals, and people.
They Come in Six Colors
Abyssinian cats are often known as gorgeous and variable cats. Six colors are the most common – though just five are recognized as being legitimate competition colors. The six most common colors of Abyssinian are ruddy, chocolate, blue, fawn, lilac, and cinnamon. However, just five are actually accepted. There is another coloration that can be observed as well on an Abyssinian. When the white coloration closest to this breeds skin starts to come through in its fur color as well – especially when combined with ticking – it begins to be known as a ‘silver’ variant of the colors you were using before.
They Are Not Lap Cats
It is rare that an Abyssinian will come to a person in the middle of the day unless they need a nap. They are rarely found on laps, for instance, because they are far too busy for trivial human matters. Abyssinians will listen to people who offer treats – but often just long enough to get the food, then they split. Abyssinians are almost always playing, exploring, and generally being curious creatures. Though they may rest up by taking a cat nap (pun intended) on you once in a while, it is much better for them to continue to engage in exploration. Keeping an Abyssinian’s mind active is what keeps them going in the first place.