What is an Abyssinian Cat?
The first Abyssinian cat known to have been brought out of its natural environment to be a domestic pet in the West was Zula, a female kitten taken from Alexandria to the UK in the 1860s by the British soldier Captain Barrett Leonard. He crossed Zula with a tabby, then bred her with the most Abyssinian looking of her own young to create the breed. By 1871 the breed was recognized and exhibited at the Crystal Palace in London.
Although it is possible that other soldiers may also have brought home cats during the Abyssinian War, it is generally believed that all Abyssinians in Europe, North America and Australia are descended from Zula. The gene pool has been enriched a little in the USA with the import of one or two other Abyssinians from North Africa, where they can still be found living wild in some regions.
The ‘Aby’, as this breed is popularly known, is now one of the most popular shorthair pedigree breeds of cat in the USA.
The Abyssinian is a medium sized, well shaped shorthaired cat with a princely appearance and a distinctively ticked coat. What this means is that each hair is striped with two different colors alternating in bands from root to tip. The effect is to give the coat a noticeable sparkle, especially when stroked.
The coat is usually a warm tawny color but there are blue and silver variants. The recognized color classifications vary from country to country, but in the US they include red, ruddy, fawn, cream, blue and lilac. To qualify for pedigree status the cat’s body must have no tabby markings, although there are usually some on the tail and paws.
Abys have large ears and big almond-shaped eyes. The eyes are green, gold or hazel with a fine dark line around the iris.
Abys are very active, muscular cats whose closeness to their wild ancestors can easily been seen in their temperament and behavior. They are friendly and affectionate and make great pets but usually spend more time playing and exploring than curling up on somebody’s knees. Often, they will adopt one person in the family to be their special favorite. It is not necessarily the person who loves them the most!
They like a lot of activity, variety and attention and can become depressed if left shut in a small apartment all day while owners are working. They often enjoy getting up in high places and will climb trees, explore the top of tall furniture and climb onto your shoulders!
Owners describe Abyssinian cats as intelligent and loyal ‘people cats’. Many owners would never consider having any other breed of cat.
David M Peterson
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