The Abyssinian cat is the fifth most popular breed of cat in North America and is one of the world's oldest known breeds.
ORIGINThere are many theories about its origins. A book published in 1874 claims that a Mrs Barrett-Lennart brought a cat called Zula back from Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) following a British expedition. A picture of Zula published six years later, however, looked nothing like the modern Abyssinian.
Video of Abyssinian cat
Many owners would like to think that their Abyssinian is descended from the ancient Egyptian cats, possibly because they strongly resemble cats portrayed in ancient Egyptian paintings and sculptures, however this is not so.
The breed was first recognized and listed in 1882 and the breed's development is British. How it got the name Abyssinian is not clear, but springs from the time when the Abyssinians were introduced into England. This was around the same time British soldiers were returning from the war in Abyssinia.
Recent genetic studies show that the most likely origin of the Abyssinian cat is the coast of the Indian Ocean and parts of Southeast Asia.
The first cats to be brought to North America came from England in the early 1900s where they were bred.
APPEARANCEThe original color of the Abyssinian was a ruddy-brown, but there are now a number of other colors, including red. Abyssinian kittens may not show the distinctive ticking until around two months. The final coat color can take months to show.
A ticked coat is their distinctive feature, giving each hair alternating light and dark bands. This gives the coat a shimmering effect when the cat moves.
Abyssinians have a slightly wild look. The tail and paws can show tabby markings, but not the body. Besides the standard or Ruddy Abyssinian, there are red, blue, cream, chocolate and lilac versions.
Their ticked tabby pattern is shared with the domestic cat's ancestor, the African wildcat. Their coats are short and very thick with a soft and silky feel.
Eyes are rounded and almond-shaped with "mascara" lines. The head is wedge-shaped and the chin should be cream or white. Abyssinian cats are slender, elegant and medium-sized.
PERSONALITYThe Abyssinian cat is very active, intelligent and affectionate, making a wonderful pet. It often has a cute tendency to pick things up with its paws, and may put its paws around its owner's neck in affection.
It is not usually a lap cat, as it is too busy exploring and playing, however, it may adopt the lap of one person in a household it becomes particularly attached to.
Abyssinians are busy and can bet bored and depressed without daily activity and attention.
Abyssinians are not very vocal, in fact almost silent, despite their playful and attention-seeking nature.
The long-haired version of the Abyssinian is the Somali cat.