The Abyssinian cat, also known as Aby, is one of the most popular cat breeds being domesticated by many of people in Europe and the USA nowadays. It has always been described as a cat with a distinctive ticked coat. The word “Abyssinian” pertains to Ethiopia. However, there are numerous stories, legends and rumors about the origin of this cat breed.
HISTORY OF ABYSSINIAN CATS
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 that the first Abyssinian cat named Zula was brought to England from Abyssinia (modern Ethiopia) by a British soldier at the end of the Abyssinian war in 1868. Zula actually was the first documented Abyssinian cat. In December 1871 at the Crystal Palace cat show it won the third prize among 160 other cats of different breeds. So far, no documentation links Zula to the cats of today.
Some genetic researches have suggested that this shorthair cat originated near the coast of the Indian Ocean where colonists may have purchased animals from the wild animal traders. In addition to that, some studies have indicated that the coast of the Indian Ocean between Singapore and Ceylon is said to be the homeland of the Abyssinian Tabby color pattern.
There are also stories that have been told that the wild Abyssinians live in parts of North Africa today. The Abyssinian shape and distinctive coat also bears a striking resemblance to the African Wild cats.
The first registration of the breed appeared in English studbooks in 1896. The earliest distinguishable Aby can be found in the Leiden Museum in Holland. It has a label that reads “domestica India” which indicates the origin to the same area.
The Abyssinian was developed and refined in Britain. The first Abyssinian arrived in the United States in the early 1900s and they were first exhibited in 1909. But Abyssinian breeding programs didn’t get a real start in the United States until the 1930s, when more of the cats were imported from Britain. It was really happy fortune as only a dozen of the cats had survived in England by the end of the war. The breed bounced back, however, and has become one of the most popular and favorite cat breeds in the world because of its expressive eyes, unique coat pattern and personality. The Somali is the stunning long-haired descendant of the Abyssinian and is named for Somalia which borders Ethiopia, formerly Abyssinia, to represent their connection to each other.
PHYSICAL APPEARANCE OF ABYSSINIAN CATS
Abyssinians look like a 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.
The body of the Abyssinian cat is of medium length, flexible and has well-developed muscles. Their legs are slim in proportion to the body with a good bone structure. They have small and oval paws and have a fairly long tail, broad at the base and tapering to a point. The head of the Abyssinian is broad and moderately wedge-shaped. Their eyes have an almond shape that range from green, gold, copper or hazel. Usually, the nose and chin form a straight vertical line when viewed in profile. The ears are relatively large, broad and cupped at the base and moderately pointed at the tips, where tufts of hair are normally seen. There’s an M-shaped marking that is found in the fur on the forehead. The M-shaped marking, also referred to as “frown lines”, are located above the Abyssinian’s eyes. They also have markings which are often referred to as mascara lines and usually appear from the corners of their eyes.
With regards to their fur, the Abyssinian’s coat is medium in length, dense and thick to touch. The coat is resilient and when rubbed against the lay of the coat it snaps back into place. This kind of cat has coats that are unusual enough to capture attention. Their fur has a very fine texture rather than being of a soft quality which bears several dark bands over a lighter shade marking the coat evenly giving it a ticked coat pattern. The iridescent warmth of the coat color is produced by the Agouti ticking. Each hair has a light base with three or four bands of additional color growing darker towards the tip. The base colour should be as clear as possible; any extensive intermingling with grey is considered a serious fault. A tendency to white on the chin is common but likewise must be minimal. The ticked or agouti effect that is the trademark of the breed – genetically a variant of the tabby pattern – should be uniform over the body, although the ridge of the spine and tail, back of the hind legs and the pads of the paws are always noticeably darker.
Abyssinian kittens are born with dark coats that gradually lighten as they mature, usually over several months. The adult coat should not be excessively short and is ideally fine, dense and close-lying, silky to the touch.
Abys are bred in the following colors: ruddy (known as "usual" in the United Kingdom), chocolate, sorrel (also called cinnamon or red), blue, 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. Ruddy color is characterized by a warm deep reddish-brown base with black ticking. Sorrel has a lighter coppery base with chocolate brown ticking. Other variants have been introduced by outcrossings to the Burmese and other shorthaired breeds, notably blue (on a warm beige base) and fawn (on a softer cream base). The less common chocolate and lilac are not recognized in the Cat Fancier's Association (CFA) breed standard but have been granted full champion status in The International Cat Association (TICA) and in the UK. The UK also recognizes the silver Abyssinian, in which the base coat is a pure silvery white with black (called "usual silver"), blue, cream or sorrel ticking. Various other colour combinations are in development, including the "torbie", in which a patched tortoiseshell pattern in any of these colors is visible under the tabby banding.
PERSONALITY OF ABYSSINIAN CATS
Abyssinians are one of the most intelligent breeds of cats. Of all the cat breeds, the Abyssinian is perhaps the one who lives life to the fullest. They are very active, affectionate and playful extroverts. They are extremely motivated and curious. They are good in solving practical problems and tend to retain a kittenish playful behavior into adulthood. No place ever goes unexplored and yet seldom do they knock anything off of a shelf or countertop. A love of heights is a signal trait of the Abyssinian. It likes to be as high up as possible and will appreciate having one or more ceiling-height cat trees. Sometimes it may seem as if the Aby never sleeps. It is ever in motion, jumping up in the window to look at birds or squirrels, leaping on top of the refrigerator to supervise meal preparation, perching on your desk to watch your fingers move over the keyboard and then swiping at them so you’ll pay attention to it instead. This is a playful, persistent cat that adores being the center of attention and will do anything to achieve and maintain that status. Abyssinians are loyal and very interactive with their owners and environment. They are wonderful companions who are highly interested in everything around them and what everybody is doing. Not usually considered a lap cat due to their high energy and curiosity levels, Abys 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. This cat breed is one that is more inclined to accept dogs and older children since they are very well oriented with people and animals.
They tend to have an average lifespan of around 9-15+ years. However, if proper care and nutrition is given with the advancement of veterinary medicine, this breed of cat can live up to 20 years and even longer. They can have an average weight of around 6 to 10 pounds.
Both pedigreed cats and mixed-breed cats have varying incidences of health problems that may be genetic in nature. Problems that may affect the Abyssinian include the following:
• Early-onset periodontal disease.
• Hyperesthesia syndrome, a neurological problem that can cause cats to excessively groom themselves, leading to hair loss, and to act frantically, especially when they are touched or petted
• Patellar luxation, a hereditary dislocation of the kneecap that can range from mild to severe. Severe cases can be alleviated with surgery.
• Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), a degenerative eye disease.
• Pyruvate kinase deficiency (PKDef), for which a genetic test is available to identify carriers.
• Renal amyloidosis, a heritable disease that occurs when a type of protein called amyloid is deposited in body organs, primarily the kidneys in Abyssinians. It eventually leads to kidney failure.