Abyssinian Cat: Your Kids’ New Best Friend

Abyssinian cat looking at the camera
Martha Harvey
Written by Martha Harvey

Do you have kids in your house? Do you sometimes find it difficult to keep up with their boundless energy and unquenchable thirst for adventure? We all want to spend more time with our kids, but then reality demands that we spend long hours at work or half of the day doing chores around the house. Times like these, you’ll be glad you adopted an Abyssinian cat into your family.

Abyssinians are not a lap cats, but they are very loyal and devoted to their owners. If you are searching for a breed that will keep your family members entertained and at the same time provide you with lots of love and affection, then this is the breed for you.

Abyssinian cat looking at the camera

Abyssinian cats will gladly keep your kids company as they run around the yard, play hide and seek in the garage, and climb trees with all the energy that some of us adults no longer have. But no need to worry about the cat and the kid getting along so well together that they forget about you; at the end of the day, the Abyssinian cat will still seek you out to spend time and play with you.

In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know before you bring an Abyssinian cat into your home. We will answer all of your questions about Abyssinian cat personality, what do Abyssinian cats eat, how big do Abyssinian cats get, Abyssinian cat temperament, and provide you with all the other information that you need to know in order to provide a good home for your new cat.

Breed Characteristics

  • Adaptability: High

  • Grooming: Low maintenance

  • Health: Generally good, but they are prone to some hereditary conditions

  • All Around Friendliness: Very good

  • Exercise Needs: High

Cat Breed GroupShort-Haired, Natural Breed
Weight8 - 12 pounds
Lifespan9 - 15 years

The Abyssinian cat is considered one of the oldest breeds of domestic cats, but their complete history is unknown. For a long time, this breed is considered to be a descendant of the Sacred Cats of Egypt, because of their resemblance to the cats depicted on murals and artifacts. Today this cat is considered an English breed, and it was brought to Britain in 1868 by soldiers from Abyssinia (Ethiopia).

Abyssinian is a medium-sized cat with fine bones that give them a slender appearance. Their head is triangular with very large ears that are tilted forward—giving this breed an alert look like they are always paying attention to their surroundings. Their eyes are large and almond-shaped and, depending on the color of the coat, they can be gold, green, hazel or copper.

The trademark of this breed is their fur, which has a distinctive agouti coloration. That means that every hair displays alternating bands of light and dark pigmentation. Each hair has a lighter base and an additional three or four bands of darker color around the tips. Their coat is silky and soft to the touch.

Abyssinian cat looking at the camera

Abyssinian cats are very popular thanks to their playful nature and attachment to their owners. They love to play and interact with people and are very good at observing human behavior. This breed forms a dog-like attachment to their owner and requires a lot of attention. Otherwise, they can become depressed. This breed gets along well with older children; they provide a limitless amount of love and appreciation and are always available for play sessions.

Abyssinians are very active and require daily exercises. They are very fond of heights. It is a good thing to invest in a cat tree, so your cat won’t find climbing your wardrobes and shelves attractive. Also, it is best to provide a variety of toys for your Abyssinian. Food puzzles are a good choice for this breed because these things keep their highly-intelligent mind occupied.

Abyssinian-Cat-lying in bed and looking at the camera

Like all other cats, this breed is carnivorous and requires food that will simulate the fresh meat that they would otherwise survive on in the wild. Their diet should be high in animal-based protein, with a balanced mix of carbohydrates, amino acids, minerals, and vitamins. They can eat kibble or canned food, but keep in mind that if you keep your cat on a predominately dry diet, they should drink plenty of fresh water every day to avoid health problems.

Abyssinian cats have a long lifespan and with proper care can live over 15 years. They are generally healthy, but like all other purebred cats, they are prone to some hereditary conditions. Regular vet check-up, vaccinations, spaying/neutering, and proper dental hygiene play a big role in determining the overall health and life expectancy of your cat.

Main Highlights

  • According to recent genetic studies, India (or more exactly the Bay of Bengal), is a potential place of origin where Abyssinian cat ancestors hailed from.

  • The breed as we know it today was developed in Britain. An Abyssinian cat named Zulu was brought to England by soldiers after the end of the Abyssinian war in 1868. She was bred with random cats that carried similar characteristics and the breed as we know it today was created.

  • Abyssinians are medium-sized cats with triangular heads, large ears that are always alert, and big almond-shaped eyes.

  • What makes them attractive to cat lovers is their fur, which is short, dense, and silky to the touch.

  • Thanks to agouti effect, each hair is light around the base and has three or four bands of additional colors that get darker towards the tip.

  • This is a very people-oriented breed that likes to interact with their owner and other people.

  • They are highly energetic and require daily activities to keep them healthy and occupied.

  • Because of their playfulness and love for heights, it is best to invest in a variety of different toys and a cat tree.

  • Although they are affectionate and devoted to their owner, because of their playful nature, they are not good lap cats.

  • They can eat kibble or canned food. Just take note that they need to be on a high-protein diet.

  • Like all purebred cats, Abyssinians are prone to some hereditary conditions, but with proper health care, they can live for over 15 years.

Breed History

While it is certain that this breed as we know it today was developed in Britain, the exact origins of the Abyssinian cats are still covered in mystery and speculations. Because of their similarities with paintings and sculptures of Ancient Egyptian cats, many believe that this breed originated in Egypt.

However, recent genetic studies have shown that the most convincing origin of Abyssinian cats is the coast of Indian Ocean and parts of Southeastern Asia. The earliest identifiable Abyssinian is a taxidermal exhibit called “Patrie, domestica India,” which is held at the Leiden Zoological Museum in Holland.

close-up of Abyssinian-kitten-Sitting

This breed didn’t get its name because Abyssinia (Ethiopia) was considered to be the homeland of these cats. They got their name because the first Abyssinian that was exhibited in shows in England was imported from this country. That cat was Zulu; she was bred with random breeds of cats who had similar fur. That’s how the breed as we know it today was developed.

The first Abyssinians were imported into the United States in the 1900s. In the 1930s, breeding programs in the United States officially started. Thanks to the looks and amazing personality of this cat, this breed is in the top five of most popular pedigreed cats in the United States.


In comparison to the other breeds, these athletic cats grow rather slowly. So how big can Abyssinian cats get? They are medium-sized cats, and like with other breeds, males are larger and weight from 8 to 12 pounds while females are smaller and weigh from 6 to 8 pounds. Their body is muscular and strong. They have slim but well-muscled legs with oval-shaped feet that give the illusion like they are always on their tip-toes.

Personality and Character

Abyssinian cats are highly affectionate, loyal, intelligent, social, and very inquisitive about their surroundings. Your Abyssinian will explore all the corners of your home, and don’t be surprised if you find her investigating the interior of your kitchen cabinets. They are highly social and will follow their owner around the house. They want to be involved in your daily activities.

Like all cats, Abyssinians like to jump, but they jump higher than most cats, and they enjoy monitoring their surroundings from high places. So don’t be surprised if you find your cat sitting atop your refrigerator or wardrobe.

Abyssinian cat lying on bed, hunting a toy

It is best to provide a suitable cat tree for your cat, so she can enjoy climbing and observing everything from her own furniture. They possess intense curiosity, and they will observe their environment and the behaviors of the people around them for hours on end.

Abyssinian cats are playful and persistent. They love to be the center of attention and will do everything they can to preserve their status. They are extremely social and will do anything to include other people in their activities. This highly intelligent cat requires a variety of different toys to keep her occupied.

Because of their playful nature, Abyssinians are not the best lap cats. But they will on occasions be calm and sit in your lap for a cuddling session before they continue with their endless play. Abyssinian cat personality is great for people of all ages, and they get along well with children older than 6 who can keep up with their energetic nature.

Health and Potential Problems

In general, this breed has a good health and long lifespan, but like other purebred cats, Abyssinians are prone to suffering from some hereditary conditions.

  • Dilated cardiomyopathy is a disease that affects the ventricular muscle. It is characterized by enlarged heart chambers and a reduced ability to push blood from the ventricle. This causes the heart to become overloaded and can lead to heart failure. Symptoms include depression, loss of appetite, and weakness. This disease can be diagnosed early during regular vet check-ups. According to the severity of the disease, your vet will prescribe a suitable therapy. This condition often afflicts Abyssinian cats that are over 10 years old.

  • Psychogenic Alopecia is a condition that causes the cat to start grooming excessively, and that becomes an obsessive behavior. In the beginning, the cat starts to engage in excessive grooming as a means to relieve stress. The stressors depend on the cat. The way to treat this condition is to assess the situation and think of the things that changed in your cat’s environment. It can be simple things to you, like changing the time of your cat’s meals, change of furniture, or longer working hours. When you realize what the cause is, spend more time interacting with your cat and try to reestablish the routine that your cat was used to.

  • Renal Amyloidosis is a rare condition in which a protein called amyloid is deposited in the kidneys. Amyloid deposit in kidneys can lead to kidney failure, and it can affect other organs like the liver, the spleen, the pancreas, and cause them to fail too. Symptoms include excessive thirst and urination, loss of appetite, weight loss, and vomiting. Treatment depends on the severity of the case and often includes managing the kidney failure. In addition to that, your vet will prescribe a special diet for your cat. Female Abyssinians are more prone to this condition than males, and the cat is usually affected at 7 years old.

  • Hyperesthesia Syndrome is a condition associated with the brain. It is commonly seen in older cats. Brief moments of strange behavior—such as a sudden burst of scratching, grooming, or a frantic run around the house—lasting only a minute or two are signs of this condition. Perhaps the cat was sleeping, and all of a sudden she started to scratch or run around, and after a minute she continued to sleep like nothing ever happened. The treatment plan is likely to include some behavioral components that will help reduce stress and anxiety in the cat. Regular feeding schedule and play sessions will keep the cat relaxed and exercised. This condition isn’t fatal, but pay extra attention so your cat won’t hurt herself.

With cats that are prone to hereditary diseases, the best preventive health plan is to take them to the vet regularly for check-ups. Other things that will improve the health of your Abyssinian cat are regular vaccinations, a balanced diet, proper dental care, spaying/neutering, and keeping your cat indoors only.

Care Features

The Abyssinian cat is very energetic and needs regular activities in the form of play sessions to keep her mental and physical health in check. It is good to invest in a cat tree for climbing, and plenty of environment-enriching toys. It is best if you can be involved in your cat’s play activities because this breed is very attention-seeking and can get depressed when they are left alone for too long.

Yong-Abyssinian-cat- lying on the floor

You need to take proper care of your cat’s teeth to prevent the development of periodontal disease. Brush your cat’s teeth every day from a young age, and if your cat has problems adjusting to the toothbrush, use dental wipes or rinses.

Their nails need to be trimmed every couple of weeks, and if you are not sure that you can do it yourself, take your cat to the vet or a groomer. If your cat has eye discharge, use a damp cloth to remove it, but never use the same side of the cloth for both eyes. You could unknowingly spread infection this way.

Feeding Schedule

Abyssinian cats almost exclusively require protein and fats. Abyssinians can be picky when it comes to the food they eat, so don’t be surprised if your cat refuses to eat. It is best to buy small amounts of food until you find the right one for your cat.

Abyssinian Cat eating

If you have a hard time finding the right food for your cat, you can always ask your vet for some recommendations. This breed enjoys eating during the whole day, so you can give your cat an unrestricted access to the food, or you can separate it into two smaller meals. Don’t give your cat too many treats and provide her with unlimited access to fresh water.

Coat, Color, and Grooming

Thanks to their thick coat with alternating bands of lighter and darker color on each hair, Abyssinians have an exotic and shimmering fur that resembles the coat of wild cats. Their fur is silky, soft, fine-textured, and it comes in four main colors: Ruddy (also known as “Usual” in Britain), Blue, Sorrel (red or cinnamon), and Fawn.

Besides these four championship-qualifying colors, Abyssinians can also be Torbie (combination of tortoiseshell and tabby coat), Lilac, Black (black/dove gray with silver tips) and Silver (when the fur is white at the bottom of the hair).

Abyssinian Cat sitting and looking at the camera

Most Abyssinian kittens are born with darker fur that becomes lighter and gains its permanent color as the kitten gets older. The agouti effect makes their coat shimmer with every movement, and that is the signature mark of this breed that completes their amazing appearance.

Their thick but short fur sheds moderately and they need brushing once a week to prevent matting. Bathe your Abyssinian cat once or twice a month to keep her coat clean. It is best to start doing this while your cat is still young so that she can get used to the routine.

Children and Other Pets Compatibility

This active and social breed is a good choice for families with children and dogs. Abyssinians get along really well with children older than 6 who enjoy playing with them and are able to show affection and love. They tend to stay away from smaller children because they don’t like to be pushed and pulled around.

Abyssinian-cat- playing with a string

Abyssinians get along great with dogs and will play fetch with them. They will not get in trouble with dogs as long as it is clear that they are the center of attention. Like with any other breeds, conduct first introductions between your dog and Abyssinian cat while your dog is safely on the leash.

Wrap Up

The Abyssinian is a very people oriented cat—full of affection and loyalty towards their owner. Typically they are not lap cats, but an Abyssinian cat will be a great companion who will always understand you and provide you with hours of entertainment.

Image of a Abyssinian-cat sitting in a cat tree

The Abyssinian cat will be a perfect addition to homes with people who have time to interact with them on a daily basis. This beautiful and highly intelligent breed loves to play and climb which makes them a perfect addition to homes with older children. Abyssinian cats get along well with other pets who can keep her company, serve as play buddies, and keep her busy during the day.

Do you find the Abyssinian cat’s attractive fur and charming personality irresistible? Or are you looking for a cat that will sit on your lap and cuddle with you for hours on end? If you are a proud owner of one or more Abyssinian cats, please share your experience with us and our readers in the comment section below.

About the author
Martha Harvey
Martha Harvey

Martha Harvey is a skilled veterinarian and a member of American Veterinary Medical Association from Greeley, Colorado. She has 20 years experience of working in Animal Hospital. Martha loves all of her patients, but her favorite one is the Russian Blue cat Stitch, who lives with her.