The Abyssinian cat type has certainly been found for many centuries; paintings and sculptures of ancient Egypt depict cats similar to the present day Abyssinian cat – long and muscular body, arched neck, large ears and almond-shaped eyes.
However, the Abyssinian cat does not come from Ethiopia, formerly Abyssinia. Cats with the typical look of the Abysssinian cat were brought back from Abyssinia in 1868 and shown at Crystal Palace in 1872, but there is nothing to suggest that they played any part in the development of the breed we recognise now as the Abyssinian cat. It is thought more likely that the Abyssinian developed through breeding native British cats with silver and brown tabbies. However, genetic studies show that the breed may have originated in South East Asia and have been brought to Britain by traders and colonists where they were bred with native cats to develop the typical Abyssinian.
The Abyssinian cat is unusually interested in their human family, displaying dog-like characteristics of loyalty and curiosity untypical of most cats. Groom an Abyssinian and he will return the favour with a rather rasping tongue!
The original colour of the Abyssinian cat is reddish, known as Ruddy or Usual, but enthusiasts have developed many colours beyond the most popular Usual, Sorrel (a very red chestnut), Fawn and Blue. Tthe basic colours of the Abyssinian cat have been widely expanded by the introduction of Silver and Tortie. One thing they all have in common is the ticking of the coat, which gives the Abyssinian a sparkling effect, each hair having several bands of different colours. The large oval eyes of the Abyssinian cat are green, hazel or gold according to coat colour and are darkly rimmed.
Abyssinian cats are not good with traffic – they appear to lack road sense to an alarming degree – so great care should be taken to ensure that your Abyssinian cannot put himself at risk.
Although Ayssinians have no particular health problems, it makes good sense to insure a cat of this breed type. So many medical procedures are available to vets now that being without insurance can mean making hard choices when an operation can be done but the financial cost can be so high.
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