ALL CAT BREED PROFILES

Sokoke Cat: Any Bond with Them Lasts for a Lifetime

Martha Harvey
Written by Martha Harvey

Cats have a good memory; that’s one of the reasons why they don’t handle changes in their routine well. They are especially great at remembering places, habits, and special times of the day such as feeding times. But what about people? Are they good at recognizing people the way dogs are? Or do they not care about us at all? Do they take us as mere food dispensers? So it doesn’t have to be us? Anyone will do? Don’t worry; you do matter to your cat—especially if it’s a Sokoke cat.

While very independent and not at all a lap cat, these cats form a strong attachment to their owner, family, and other pets in the household—which makes them hard to rehome, and suitable only for owners who want to keep their cat with them for the entirety of their long lifespan. This moderately-active breed releases its energy during short bursts of activity which makes it a suitable pet for people of all ages and first-time owners.

In this article, you will learn all necessary information about this fairly rare breed, from its history, appearance, grooming requirements, to its nutritional needs. We will tell you why it is very important that a Sokoke cat doesn’t miss any of their regular vaccination appointments and why it is best to keep this breed as an indoors only cat.

Breed Characteristics

sokoke kitten playing

  • Adaptability: High

  • Grooming: Low Maintenance

  • Health: Good; a bit vulnerable to common feline diseases

  • All Around Friendliness: Good; friendly but not lap cats

  • Exercise Needs: Moderate

Cat Breed GroupShort-Haired, Natural Breed
SizeSmall to Medium
Weight6-10 pounds
Lifespan10-15 years

This type of cat was never before seen in Europe and Jeni decided to take two kittens—one male and one female—to nurture them into adulthood and eventually breed them. Slater was worried about the survival of the breed she initially named the African Shorthair. Thus, in 1983, she gave two cats to her friend, Gloria Moeldrop—who then took them with her to Denmark. Gloria started to breed these cats. In 1989, she imported more cats from Kenya to strengthen the bloodline.The Sokoke breed as we know it today was discovered by Jeni Slater, horse breeder and wildlife artist, in 1978 in Kenya on her coconut plantation. Jeni found a mother cat and her litter in her garden one day and was immediately taken by the appearance of these cats. These were athletically-built cats, with small heads, big ears, and big eyes. They had the most interesting tabby markings on their coats.

This breed is famous for the tabby pattern on its coat—it often resembles that of a tree bark. Their single coat is short, glossy, and close to the body. Their coat can be found in various shades of brown. This breed sheds minimally, so they are easy to maintain.

An unusual trait of this breed is that male Sokoke cats like to be involved in the upbringing of the kittens. They will help the mother cat in keeping the kittens safe, and you will often see the male cuddling with them. This is an affectionate and people-oriented breed that likes to be involved in their owner’s activities. They will follow you around the house.

Sokoke cats form very strong bonds with their owner and other cats in the family. If it turns out that there is a need to change owners, this breed tends to have a hard time adapting and may get depressed. It is best for future owners to consider if they will be able to provide a constant home for their cat for the next 15 years.

This is a highly intelligent breed that is easily trained. They also enjoy playing with puzzle toys. Playing fetch is a perfect way to keep this cat active and their graceful body toned. Sokoke cats are especially fond of heights so don’t be surprised if you find your cat observing you while perching on the top shelf.

Sokoke cats have an average lifespan of 10 to 15 years, but with proper care, they can live up to their 20s. Thanks to their wild ancestry, this is a very healthy breed that doesn’t have any known hereditary problems. On the other hand, because of long isolation, their immune system is on the untrained side. They are more susceptible to common feline diseases, so it is important to vaccinate your Sokoke cat on time.

Main Highlights

sokoke cat and her kitten

  • A rare and newly-recognized breed, the Sokoke cat was discovered in Kenya in 1978 by horse breeder and wildlife artist Jeni Slater.

  • Slater was captivated with the never-before-seen looks of these cats and was determined to preserve them by breeding.

  • In 1983, Slater gave a pair of cats to her good friend Gloria Moeldrop to take to Denmark. Moeldrop then established the breed there.

  • The Sokoke cat has a medium-sized body that is slender but muscular, with a wedge-shaped head, medium-sized alert-looking ears, and almond-shaped eyes that can range in color from green to amber.

  • The most distinctive feature of the Sokoke cat is their blotched tabby coat that resembles tree bark.

  • They are single-coated. Their fur grows short, glossy, close to the body, and they only shed minimally.

  • Another unusual trait of this breed is that male cats want to be involved in the upbringing of the kittens, and will help the mother cat as much as they can.

  • Sokoke cats form strong bonds with their family. They are very attached to their owner and other family cats, which makes this breed hard to rehome.

  • This breed has a dog-like personality and will follow their owner around the house. Although they love the attention they receive, the Sokoke is not a lap cat.

  • The Sokoke cat is highly vocal and loves “talking.” They will always have something to say.

  • This is an intelligent, friendly, affectionate, and independent breed that doesn’t require constant attention. These cats are more than capable of entertaining themselves while you are not around.

  • This is a moderately active breed that expends their energy during short and sudden periods of high activity, and they have a great love for heights.

  • The Sokoke cat is one of the healthiest pedigree cats and doesn’t have any known hereditary health problems.

  • Because their immune system is not accustomed to dealing with common feline diseases, it is important to administer all of their preventive vaccinations on time.

Breed History

sokoke cat lying on ground

The Sokoke cat is a domesticated breed that descends from feral Khadzonzo cats who live in Arabuko Sokoke National Forest in Kenya. In 1978, Jeni Slater found one of these cats with a litter on her coconut plantation. There, the story of the breed as we know it today began. Although the Khadzonzo were known among the natives, this was the first time that it got the acknowledgment it deserved.

Jeni Slater was fascinated with the appearance of these cats and took two kittens to nurture them and breed them when they grow up. In 1983, Slater was worried for the future of the Kenyan breed that she initially named African Shorthair, so she gave two cats to her good friend Gloria Moeldrop to take to Denmark and establish the breed there. In 1989, Moeldrop imported more cats from Kenya to strengthen the bloodline.

Firstly, it was thought that Khadzonzo cats were hybrids—developed by naturally-occurring breeding between African wild cats and domestic cats. This theory was disregarded after DNA testing, which showed that the Sokoke’s ancestor, the Khadzonzo, actually descended from Asian cats.

The breed that was named after the place where it was found—the Arabuko Sokoke National Forest—was recognized in 1993 by the Feline International Federation and was granted the Preliminary New Breed status by the International Cat Association in 2004.

Size

sokoke cat staying

The Sokoke is a medium-sized cat with a slender but muscular body, and they are heavier than they look. Male Sokoke cats are larger than the females and weigh from 8 to 10 pounds. Female Sokoke cats are smaller and weigh from 6 to 8 pounds.

Their wedge-shaped head is small compared to their body, with a straight nose that sits above the chin. Their ears are medium in size and with a slightly rounded tip; they are set far back on the head and alert-looking. Their eyes are big and almond-shaped; they can range in color from green to amber.

Personality and Character

sokoke cat running

The Sokoke is very independent and doesn’t need constant attention from its owner. When you are not around, the Sokoke will find ways to keep themselves entertained, so you don’t have to worry about leaving this breed alone—as long as you don’t do it too often or for too long a period of time.

However, at the same time, this breed forms long-lasting emotional bonds with their family, and they don’t take it well if they have to be rehomed and leave their family behind. This goes for both their human family and any other pets you may have.

This cat will happily greet you at the front door when you come after work and continue to follow you while you go about handling your daily chores. This is a very vocal breed that will spend their time following you while chatting about their day. This is an intelligent and easily-trained breed that loves to play fetch and solve puzzle toys. It is easy to leash-train Sokoke cats.

Health and Potential Problems

sokoke cat's head

This is one of the healthiest breeds among pedigree cats, and they don’t have any known hereditary health problems. But they are more susceptible to common feline diseases than other breeds.

  • Feline Infectious Enteritis (FIE) is an infection that leads to low white blood cell count, and it’s developed through contact with an infected cat—either directly or indirectly. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, fever, depression, and lack of appetite. This is a highly contagious disease, and some cats may die from gastroenteritis. This condition is treated with antibiotics and intravenous fluids. With this disease, the saying “prevention is better than cure” rings true. Highly effective vaccines are available.

  • Feline Viral Rhinopneumonitis (FVR) also known as feline herpes in one of the most common causes of upper respiratory infections in cats. This disease is spread through contact with infected cats. Symptoms include sneezing, discharge from the nose and the eyes, fever, depression, lack of appetite, conjunctivitis, drooling, and apathy. When infected with this virus, the majority of cats won’t easily get rid of it, but the symptoms can be treated. Depending on the cat’s condition, treatment may include antibiotics, drops, and creams for the eyes. The best way to prevent your cat from getting this disease is to get them vaccinated.

  • Feline Calicivirus Infection is a common respiratory disease that affects the lungs and the nasal passages. It causes ulceration of the mouth, intestines, and the musculoskeletal system. This disease is transmitted through contact with infected cats. Symptoms include loss of appetite, nasal discharge, fever, and pneumonia. A blood and urine test will show if a cat is suffering from this disease. Treatment may vary depending on the condition of your cat, and usually includes antibiotics, oxygen, and eye drops. As with other common feline diseases, vaccination is the best way to keep your cat protected from this disease.

In order to keep your Sokoke cat healthy, you need to take them to regular vet appointments, get them vaccinated against all common feline diseases, get them spayed/neutered, dewormed, and take proper care of their dental health.

Care Features

sokoke cat

The Sokoke is a moderately active breed that requires daily play sessions in order to keep their body lean and strong. This breed loves to climb so you should invest in a good cat tree if you don’t want to see your cat climbing over your furniture. Because they are highly intelligent, buy a few food puzzle toys and let your Sokoke cat enjoy the challenge

Trim your cat’s nails once every two weeks, and if you are not sure that you can do this safely, take your cat to the groomer. Take proper care of your cat’s teeth from a young age; the best way to do that is by brushing their teeth daily. If your cat can’t get used to this routine, there is a variety of dental product available that will help you keep your cat’s teeth healthy.

Check your cat’s ears for accumulated dirt once a week and keep them always clean. Use a cotton ball and a solution of half warm water half cider vinegar to remove any dirt residue from the ears.

This is an intelligent breed that can easily be leash-trained, but be aware that their single-layered coat doesn’t provide sufficient insulation in colder climates. So if you are taking your cat for a walk, dress them up in a cat shirt or a sweater to keep them warm.

Feeding Schedule

Like all other cat breeds, the Sokoke cat needs a well-balanced diet that is rich in meat protein and fat, but not carbohydrates. You should always choose high-quality brands of food that are suitable for your cat’s age and activity level. Also, if your cat is spayed/neutered, pick an appropriated food that is specially labeled as these cats tend to get overweight if they aren’t eating properly.

Depending on your cat’s preferences, you can go with dry, canned, or homemade food; just make sure that it’s rich in meat protein. Divide the recommended amount of food for your cat into two or three smaller meals. Make sure that your cat has unrestricted access to fresh water the whole day.

Coat, Color, and Grooming

sokoke kitten sitting

Sokoke cats have a short, glossy, one-layered coat that lies close to the body and isn’t prone to shedding. That makes their coat easy to maintain with only a weekly brushing. Unlike other cats, this breed knows how to swim and isn’t afraid of water, so it is not that difficult to bathe your Sokoke cat if their fur gets too dirty.

The most recognizable trait of this breed is the color pattern of their coat. Sokoke cats come in blotched (large-spotted) tabby pattern which may extend all the way to the tip of the tail, which gives this breed a different look compared to other tabby cats. Their coat comes in a variety of brown—which is the only type accepted for showing.

Recessive colors are rare, but not unseen, and some Sokoke cats can be black, gray, or have a seal lynx point. Selective breeding leads to the development of various pattern variations, so now there are also “chaotic,” “chained,” and “clouded” marbling-patterned Sokoke cats.

Children and Other Pets Compatibility

The Sokoke is a friendly and social breed that likes to be a part of an active home with older children. They will bond strongly and play with any child that can keep up with their sudden bursts of energy.

This is a pet-friendly breed that thrives in a group, so it will get along well with other cats and cat-friendly dogs. However, they especially tend to bond deeply with other cats.

Wrap Up

sokoke cat lying on floor

The Sokoke cat will be a great addition to an already active family. They are affectionate but also very independent, which makes this breed perfect for working people. These are social, intelligent, and funny cats that tend to bond deeply with their family members, so consider carefully if you would be able to provide a home for this breed over the course of their whole life because they will have a difficult time adjusting to a new home.

Interested in adopting this brave, loyal, and energetic cat? The Sokoke cat seems almost too good to be true, but if you’re looking for a lap cat, unfortunately, you won’t find it in this breed. In that case, how about this other breed? They will get comfortable everywhere—in your arms, in your friend’s arms—not just your lap. If you have any opinion or more information about the Sokoke, please share it with us in the comments 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.

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