What to Know About an Abyssinian Cat

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on June 23, 2022
7 min read

Abyssinian cats are one of the oldest breeds known to mankind and remain one of the most popular options if you want a loyal and playful pet. Plus, they are easy-to-keep cats, as they don’t require special considerations aside from their activity levels. Here’s what you need to know.

Abyssinian cats are known for their elegant body, short hair, and intelligence. They’re also one of the oldest known breeds — although their exact origin is unknown. Whatever may be the case, it’s clear that these cats are the perfect companion for almost anyone due to their unusual loyalty. 

Physically, this breed has an athletic, slender, and lean body with long, elegant legs. Their face starts narrow at the nose, getting wider as it reaches the top of the head, giving it a wedge-like, regal look. Their ears are unusually upright, and their eyes appear to be shaped like almonds — these can be either gold, green, or hazel when it comes to color.

The usual Abyssinian cat size oscillates between being medium and large, around 10 pounds. However, keep in mind that males are usually larger than females, as the latter generally fall short of nine pounds. 

Color-wise, the Abyssinian breed has a lot of variety, but the coat is always ticked — meaning that the strands of hair have alternating bands of light and dark colors. Ranging from chocolate brown to dusty cream, their fur itself is soft and silky, despite the short hairs.

Abyssinian cats usually come in:

  • Blue
  • Fawn
  • Ruddy
  • Red

The Abyssinian cat personality is characterized by their alertness, curiousness, and gracefulness. This breed loves performing for its owners, as they are highly interactive and intelligent cats. Due to this, they are sometimes referred to as the dogs of the cat world. 

Abyssinians are also very curious animals, often following their owners around looking for a new thing to do. They are also constantly looking for the higher ground, so it’s common to find them on top of the tallest piece of furniture in the house. Naturally, you’ll quickly notice that they love being the center of attention — although this doesn’t mean that they can’t live with other pets.

Abyssinian cats are a fairly easy breed to care for, as they don’t need many special considerations. As with any cat, you’ll have to provide them with good nutrition and grooming, but keep in mind that this breed may need a bit more attention and exercise.

Due to their active and curious personalities, Abyssinian cats need you to play with them on a frequent basis. Many people often describe them as staying kitten-like throughout their adult life. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t have a good time playing with them — rather, you’ll be able to teach them tricks like fetch.

In the same vein, these cats may be a little bit more intolerant to being on their own. Cats are known for their ability to stay home alone for a long time, but Abyssinian cats need you to be around. Still, don’t let this scare you away — they can stay calm for many hours, but you may not be able to leave them on their own while on vacation. If you find yourself away from home for entire days on a regular basis, Abyssinians may not be for you.

While it is not as crucial, it’s also important to keep in mind that Abyssinians love being on the higher ground. Providing your cat with a tall piece of furniture they can climb on will make them very happy — and don’t be scared if you suddenly catch a flying cat.

Nutrition-wise, Abyssinian cats don’t need any special considerations due to their high level of activity, as they mostly burn off the excess calories. Make sure to provide them with a healthy, high-quality feline diet, and you’ll have a happy cat.

Grooming Abyissian cats is one of the simpler aspects of this breed when compared to others. Thanks to their short, easily maintained fur, you’ll only need to brush them occasionally to remove dead hair. It’s hard to define how often you should do it, but if you notice your cat shedding too much hair, it might be time for a grooming session.

When it comes to cutting their nails, experts usually recommend trimming every two weeks. However, unlike most other cats, you should pay some extra attention to your Abyssinian’s teeth, as it’s common for them to have oral problems. Along with frequent brushing, make sure to check with your veterinarian every once in a while for tartar buildup.

As with any other cat breed, Abyssinian cats have some genetic predispositions to specific health problems. Although you may not need to worry about them until much later in their life, it’s always a good idea to know what your pet is sensitive to.

Abyssinian cats are commonly prone to:

Gingivitis. Gingivitis is a condition that inflames the gums, causing discomfort. If it goes untreated, it may even lead to periodontal disease and tooth decay. However, it can be prevented with a good oral care routine and can be treated with mouth rinses in mild cases.

Patellar luxation. Much like humans, cats can also suffer from luxations — in particular, Abyssinians are prone to patellar luxations. Patella refers to one of the components of the knee joint, which can, in cases of luxation, slip to one side of the leg. It can happen at any age, so it’s important to check as often as possible when going to a veterinarian’s appointment.

Hyperesthesia. Hyperesthesia is a condition where a cat will have a lot of sensitivity in one particular area of their skin. Usually, this will lead to discomfort and distress, and your cat may react negatively to the touch on that area. Furthermore, they may even begin to chew and scratch the affected area, leading to self-mutilation.

Renal amyloidosis. Amyloids are a specific type of protein that can build up inside tissues and organs — a condition called amyloidosis. Abyssinian cats are more prone to it than other breeds, so make sure to be on the lookout for any signs in blood and urine tests.

Pyruvate kinase deficiency. Pyruvate kinase is an enzyme responsible for producing the energy that cells need to survive. Unfortunately, Abyssinians are genetically prone to developing a deficiency of these enzymes, which can sometimes be life-threatening.

However, don’t let this discourage you. The average Abyssinian cat lifespan is well over 15 years. Some of the conditions described above can be treated, but they must be detected early.

Abyssinian cats don’t need many special considerations apart from those regarding exercise and playtime. This makes them one of the perfect breeds if you want to have a pet that doesn’t require much extra care but is always willing to play. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to a few specific topics.

Locking rooms with fragile objects. It’s crucial to always keep Abyssinians out of areas that aren’t appropriate for them to jump around. Offices with documents or rooms with fragile objects are a prime target for active cats such as the Abyssinian, so make sure to leave them locked.

Spaying and neutering. If you’ve just received your Abyssinian, you should consider spaying and neutering, as they provide numerous health benefits. Mainly, it reduces the risk of cancer and eliminates the chance of them getting pregnant if they are a female. Plus, it’s the perfect time to ask your doctor for additional scans and studies, taking advantage of anesthesia.

Cleaning your cat’s ears. Besides the already mentioned teeth problems that Abyssinians usually have, it’s also important to check their ears every once in a while. A weekly checkup for wax buildup, debris, or anything abnormal will greatly contribute to your cat’s overall health.

The exact Abyssinian cat origin is almost impossible to know, as there are conflicting reports about it. While some experts believe that they come from Egypt, others claim that they were discovered in Ethiopia — which was then called Abyssinia.

After the Abyssinian War, many British soldiers brought back home some cats that are now identified as Abyssinians. In particular, many people believe that there was a specific cat, Zula, who was the first to leave Africa with British soldiers. However, there’s no concrete evidence that Zula has any links with modern Abyssinians.

Once in Britain, breeders started to show an interest in this loyal, elegant-looking breed and eventually started exporting them to North America during the 1900s.

Nowadays, they’re seen as one of the best companions for almost any household, as they are loyal cats that love to help their owners. If you find yourself looking for a low-maintenance, intelligent cat that’ll allow you to play with them at any time, an Abyssinian may be perfect for you.