/Breed Introduction: Abyssinian Cat

Breed Introduction: Abyssinian Cat

The Abyssinian is a breed of domestic short-haired cat with a distinctive “ticked” tabby coat, in which individual hairs are banded with different colours. Among all the cat breeds, the Abyssinian is perhaps the one who lives life to the fullest. It climbs higher, jumps farther and plays harder. Nothing escapes the notice of this highly intelligent and inquisitive cat, a quality that makes life with him both endlessly entertaining and continuously challenging.

Breed Origin


An unusual breed exhibited at the Crystal Palace Cat Show in 1871 was an Abyssinian,  “captured in the late Abyssinian War”, who took third place. The cat was first mentioned on print in one of the issues of Harper’s Weekly in 1872. Unfortunately, no records exist regarding the cats’ origins. However, there were myths and speculation going around, including claims that it was the cat of the pharaohs, or that it was created in Britain by crossing silver and brown tabbies with cats that had “ticked” coats.

American cat fanciers first imported some Abyssinians in 1900. The 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 a good thing that a number of cats were exported to the U.S. because World War II devastated the breed. 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 cat breeds today!

Breed Characteristics


This is a medium-size cat weighing 6 to 10 pounds.

The Abyssinian loves to play, so plan on making or purchasing a variety of cat toys to keep him occupied. Ping-Pong balls, bottle caps, wadded-up pieces of paper, puzzle toys and teasers such as big peacock feathers will amuse this busy and brainy cat.

The short, fine coat of the Abyssinian is easily cared for with weekly combing to remove dead hair and distribute skin oils. A bath when the cat is shedding will help to remove excess hair more quickly. Brush the teeth to prevent periodontal disease.

The Abyssinian is often said to look as if it had just walked straight out of the wild. That is because of its ticked coat pattern, which resembles that of wild cats such as cougars. A ticked coat has alternating light and dark bands of colour on each hair shaft. Everything about him suggests his lively and attentive nature.

The Abyssinian has a slightly rounded wedge-shaped head topped with large and broad ears. The large and almond-shaped eyes express interest in everything they see. On the face, dark lines may extend from the eyes and brows. The muscular body is graceful and athletic. It falls into a middle ground between the stocky, or cobby, body of a breed such as the Persian and the long, svelte body of the Oriental breeds such as the Siamese cats.