The Abyssinian Cat

Ancient Origins of the Abyssinian?

The Abyssinian is one of the oldest cat breeds, although its ancestral origins have not been firmly established.

One theory states that they came from Abyssinia (present day Ethiopia) as its name would suggest. However, there are no traces of this agouti cat presently found in those lands. One beautiful legend says that Abys were descended from the revered cats of ancient Egypt. (Most Abyssinians themselves ascribe to this belief).

It is said that the Pharoh Ramsès asked for a tribe of cats from the king of Abyssinia and he brought them back with him to banks of the Nile. In fact, there is presently a cat with a coat similar to the Abyssinian’s in Africa called Felis chaus (cat of the marshes). However, Felis chaus looks more like a lynx than it does a domestic cat.

Others think that the Abyssinian has Asian origins since cats with the distinctive Abyssinian ticked fur exist in India and Asia.

Modern Origins of the Abyssinian Breed

Breeding of Abyssinian cats began in Great Britian. The first cat exhibited under the name of “Abyssinian” was shown in London’s first major cat show in 1871.

- In 1882 the silver coat was admitted.

- In 1889 the first standard was established by Harrisson Weir (an animal painter and judge). At that time only the the ruddy (or usual) colour was mentioned.

- In 1910 the breed started to develop in the United States, where the Cat Fancier’s Association acknowledged it in 1917.

- In 1927 the first Abyssinian cats arrived in France.


Abyssinian characteristics

The Abyssinian is a short haired medium sized cat.
It is regal in appearance and holds its head up proudly.
Its body is fairly long it is both flexible and gracious with a well developed musculature; the tail is long and tapered.
The Aby’s head is described as a modified wedge with rounded contours.

The length of the head should be in proportion with the remainder of the body, posed on a long and gracious neck.

The Aby’s skull should be round, its muzzle not sharply pointed and there should be no evidence of a whisker pinch.

The Aby’s eyesare almond-shaped and are large, brilliant and expressive, accentuated by darker skin lines resembling eye make up, encircled by a light coloured area.
The Aby’s ears are large, moderately pointed and broad at the base, they are arched forward giving the impression that it is listening intlently to all it hears.
The Aby’s legs are long, slender and quite muscular with their length in proportion to the body length.
Their feet are oval and compact, which gives the appearance that the Aby is walking on tip-toes.

Ticking and colours
One of the principal characteristics of the Abyssinians is a distinctly ticked coat. Ticking means that each hair has four or five bands of alternating pale and dark colour
However, ticking is absent on the abdomen, chest, neck, and on the interior of the legs.
A stripe of darker coloured fur following the spine to the tail gives the Abyssinian a “wild animal look”

At the Ulunlaë cattery, we breed Abyssinians to have only the four classic Abyssinian colours, these being blue and fawn (our favourite colours), as well as ruddy and cinnamon.

However in France, 28 colours of Abyssinians are recognized by the LOOF (Official Book of the Cat-like Origins)

The 28 acknowledged colours are:

Silver correspondence
Ruddy or usual
Ruddy tortie
Blue cream
Chocolate tortie
Lilac cream
Cinnamon tortie
Fawn cream
Black silver
Cinnamon silver
Blue silver
Fawn silver
Chocolate silver
Lilac silver
Red silver
Cream silver
Black tortie silver
Blue cream silver
Chocolate tortie silver
Lilac cream silver
Cinnamon tortie silver
Fawn cream silver

The Abyssinian cat is sweet tempered, intelligent, and shows interest in all activities around him. He is also a very "people oriented" cat and doesn’t like to be alone.
He enjoys being with humans and is very affectionate and loyal. Most people who share their life with an Abyssinian greatly enjoy the Aby’s presence and playfulness of this cat and nearly all would agree that there is something truly unique about them.
The Aby’s mewing is discreet and musical and is often desribed as “cooing”

In play the Aby is very active, agile and seemingly fearless.
He is capable of jumping to extraordinary hights, he loves to chase, and is quite adept at climbing trees.
Interestingly, the Aby loves to look at running water and drink from the tap


The Abyssinian is easy to train because he is intelligent and a quick learner.
An Aby can be trained to walk with a harness, particularly if this behaviour is taught to him at a very young age.
As kittens, the Aby’s playful nature can be described as “a bit turbulent”.
The Abyssinian cat adapts very well to apartment life if he is provided with a climbing post where he can play and scratch his claws as well as with assorted toys for his amusement.
Grooming the Abyssinian is extremely easy. All they neeed is a weekly brushing and regular claw trimming


© Anne Léna ~ Les Abyssins d'Ulunlaë