Filed Under: Cats, General Care

Are you looking for an active, playful cat that is definitely not a lap cat? Are your searching for a cat that prefers constant exploration and play? Believed to be one of the most intelligent breeds of cat, the Abyssinian or “Aby” may be just what you are looking for.

The exact origin of the Abyssinian is rather clouded. The name Abyssinian actually refers to Ethiopia. Most previous references point to Egypt for the breed origin. Today, thanks to genetic research, most agree than the breed originated near the coast of the Indian Ocean and parts of Southeast Asia. The current breed, as we know it, was developed in the United Kingdom.

The Abyssinian is a slender, short-coated, well-muscled cat with a fine bone structure and almond-shaped eyes. Their eyes may range in color from gold, to green to hazel, and even copper. A characteristic “M” shaped making is often found in the hair of the forehead.

The coat of the Abyssinian is described as “ticked.” Ticking is a term that describes how the coat has characteristic colored bands. Each hair has a base coat color with an additional three or four darker-colored bands extending from the root. Each hair is lightest at the root with the darkest “ticking” being reserved for the tip color or each hair. Ticking of the hair coat is only found in the Somali, Abyssinian and Singapura breeds of cats.

Four coat colors are accepted by the Cat Fanciers’ Association or CFA and are described as ruddy or usual, blue, fawn, and sorrel. A ruddy or usual coat has a reddish-brown base with black ticking. Sorrel has a cinnamon or yellowish-brown base with chocolate ticking. A blue Abyssinian has a beige color base with blue ticking and fawn abys have a light-cream base with ever darker cream ticking. There is a silver color in Abys that is not currently recognized by the Cat Fanciers’ Association. With a silver Aby, the undercoat is a pure silvery white with darker marking.

The Abyssinian is often called the clown of cats. This breed is very active and will find things to get into. Although not considered to be a lap cat because they are always on the go, Abys are friendly, affectionate and social wanting to be at the center of family attention and activity.

The average lifespan of the Abby is from 12-15 years or age. The Abyssinian is a medium-sized cat. Male cats weigh from 8 to 10 pounds on average while the female is a bit smaller running from 6 to 7 pounds.

The most common orthopedic problem in the Aby is patellar luxation.

Certain family lines of the Abyssinian are susceptible to a rare pyruvate kinase deficiency which may be an inherited cause of hemolytic anemia.

This breed of cat is also susceptible to an inherited Osmotic Fragility that is associated with a recurrent anemia, splenomegaly, weight loss and lymphocytosis.

One of the more common problems with the breed centers around the teeth and gum inflammation. Frequent dental cleanings and diligent teeth brushing can prevent halitosis and tooth loss.

Kidney problems tend to plague the breed. Renal amyloidosis is a commonly seen kidney disorder in older Abyssinian cats.

A recessive gene for retinal degeneration due to the rd/Ac allele has been identified. It has been found to have a widespread distribution in the Abbyssinian breed with a frequency rate of around 33% in the North American and European cat populations.




Hackett, Stacy. “Feline Groupie”. Cat Fancy. August 2011. Pp. 22-24.

Jordan, Elisa. “At a Glance.” Cat Fancy. November 2009. P. 24.

Menotti-Raymond, M. and VA David et al. “Widespread retinal Degenerative Disease Mutation (rdAC) discovered among a large number of popular Cat Breeds.” VET REC 186:32-38, 2010.

Shaw, Nicole and Karyn Harrell. “IMHA: Diagnosing and Treating a Complex Disease.” Veterinary Medicine. December 2008. Pp. 660-671.

Topics: breeds

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