The origin of the Abyssinian is still somewhat of a mystery. The exotic appearance looks very similar to statues of noble Egyptian cats. The first time one of these cats was imported into England was when the English army was fighting Ethiopia, previously called Abyssinia. It was not until the 1930's that the show-quality Abyssinians were imported into the United States from England.
Abyssinians have a jungle-like look to them with their long legs, muscular bodies, arched necks, and large ears which would lead people to believe they are an African wildcat ancestor. Recent studies in feline genetics show that the origin of the Abyssinian is most likely off the coast of the Indian Ocean and parts of Southeast Asia.
Abyssinians are very people-oriented and are known to be one of the most loyal cat breeds. Abys are often described as intelligent, territorial, and busy. These cats are known for wanting to climb to higher perches and they love a challenge. They commonly come in several different coat colors.
The standard Abyssinian cat has a rich ticked coat color, no markings on the legs, tail, and neck. Each hair strand exhibits a particular pattern referred to as "ticked." This means that each hair has four to six bands of colors, starting with dark color at the tip and light color at the bottom, which alternates dark and light along the entire hair strand. The ideal Abyssinian will have the color at the root of the hair match the color underneath the cat and on the insides of its legs. The original or wild color is referred to as ruddy which appears like a burnt sienna coat color. The next most popular color is red with dark brown alternating as the ticked pattern. The two "diluted" colors are blue and fawn.
Abyssinian cats usually live about nine to fifteen years and are expected to weigh between six and ten pounds. They are said to get along well with children and adapt well to multi-animal households. It is important to do any introduction to other cats or dogs slowly.
As with all cats, a better life is ensured with living strictly indoors, as well as spaying and neutering. Felines are typically clean and prefer a neat litterbox. Abyssinians do not require specific grooming schedules, but brushing your cat regularly will definitely keep them in better condition.
Most health problems are genetically related, however, periodontal disease is a health concern that we worry about with all species. The Abyssinians can develop periodontal disease early on, so it is recommended to have your veterinarian do an oral examination yearly.
Abys can exhibit hyperesthesia syndrome, which is a neurologic syndrome where cats excessively groom themselves to the point of hair loss. Patellar luxation, retinal atrophy, and renal problems are also common genetically associated with the Abyssinian.
Overall, the Abyssinian is an intelligent, attention-seeking, loyal breed. Most of their care is routine, but also dependent on owner compliance. It is always imperative to research a breed before making a commitment.