Somali Cat: Foxy Felines

Somali Cat lying down on a carpet
Stella Noble
Written by Stella Noble

Foxes are natural enchanters. They have a sort of unearthly grace to them that makes it difficult for us to look away. But they are also cunning and mischievous. One of nature’s most efficient predators, keeping them as household pets is no doubt a bad idea. But then, should we give up on ever fully grasping these magnificent creatures? Should we admit that they are out of our league? No. Even if it’s not exactly the same, you can get a piece of your yearning satisfied with the amazing Somali cat.

One thing that is undeniable is that Somali cats look both striking and feral. The cat’s appearance is often compared with that of a fox, but their similarities go beyond physical appearances. Somali cats are active, inquisitive, energetic, interactive, and highly intelligent. Truly, adopt a Somali cat, and it will feel like you’ve just welcomed a real-life fox into your house. But these cats are not wild by any means. Their endearing personality helps them fit into any family setting.

Somali Cat sitting in a studio background

Information in this article covers main highlights about the cat. We will expose the health challenges and potential problems that may arise in the lifetime of this cat breed. We’ve also included other information that will allow you to enjoy the best of relationships with your cat. From their origins to their breed characteristic ratio, here we will reveal all that you need to know about the Somali cat breed.

Breed Characteristics

  • Adaptability: High
  • Grooming: Above Average Needs; double coat
  • Health: Below Average; quite a few potential genetic problems
  • All Around Friendliness: Very Good; can be excessively attention-seeking at times
  • Exercise Needs: Moderate
Cat Breed GroupSemi Long-Haired, Natural Breed
WeightMales: 10-12 pounds

Females: 6-10 pounds
Lifespan11-16 years

Somali cats came about through the natural mutation of a recessive gene. Originally, these cats were Abyssinian, but their long hair became such a distinctive feature that the breeders decided to make a whole new cat breed out of them. It was fully accepted as a cat breed in the USA by the Cat Fancier Association in 1979. The Somali is referred to as the “fox cat” because of their similarities to the fox appearance-wise. These cats have big ears and a thick, fluffy tail like a fox.

Another one of their main unique attributes can be seen in the coat. Each hair is ticked or agouti—meaning each hair strand has more than four colors. This cat breed is built sturdy and muscular so their body will be able to bear their agile nature. Somalis have almond-shaped eyes which can be amber, green, or copper-gold. Their eyes have a dark circle around the pupil.

beautiful Somali Cat sitting

This medium-sized cat experiences surges of energy during the day. They tend to go quite crazy—running, jumping, and basically just engaging in everything. They are especially interested in you and everything that concerns you.

The cat is generally healthy, although they have a tendency to be anemic due to some enzyme deficiencies. It is important to consult your veterinarian ASAP on any medical issue that you may observe in your cat. Somalis have an average lifespan of 11 to 16 years, but they can exceed that with proper care and quality nutrition

Main Highlights

  • Somalis are bred for their luxurious long hair and facial makings among other things.
  • The breed got full recognition by the Cat Fanciers Association in 1979.
  • The cat has an agouti coat where each strand of hair is made up of between four to twenty bands of colors. They have a plush double coat.
  • The breed comes in four main standard colors of fawn, red, blue, and ruddy.
  • Somali cat characteristics physically earned them the nickname “fox cat.”
  • Somali cat personality is fun-loving, active, curious, and intelligent.
  • The breed loves to play with water.
  • The cat is smart enough to be taught tricks with a clicker.
  • They love to interact with people, so they are great with children and other pets.
  • These cats reach full maturity at eighteen months and above.
  • The Somali can be touchy-feely with their owners, particularly when they are in a happy mood.
  • The average litter size of the Somali is five.
  • They can be trained to wear a leash.
  • The Somali can be brought up as an indoor or an outdoor cat.
  • Somali coat color takes some time to develop, but by eighteen months, their true colors should be evident.

Breed History

The Somali’s birth circumstances are surrounded by myths, speculations, and controversies. One sure thing is that the Somali is a longhaired version of the Abyssinian cat. The long-haired recessive gene first became evident in a unique cat born to a litter of short-haired Abyssinians in 1953. The cat was given the name Raby Chuffa of Selene.

The long coat of kittens from this line of ancestry was not accepted at that time; only a few breeders were intrigued and willing to breed the new kind of Abyssinian. Evelyn Mague, an American Abyssinian breeder, was the first brave breeder to acknowledge and name the long-haired kittens her cats produced.

side view of a somali cat sitting

The cat was named after the African nation, Somalia. The country shared a border with Abyssinian—which is presently known as Ethiopia. The name is reminiscent of the fact that both Somali cats and Abyssinian cats share a genetic border.

After World War II, only a few of these cats were left. Breeders worked hard to preserve the breed line. Janet Robertson, a breeder, hailing from Britain, was largely responsible for repopulating the breed and spreading it to other parts of the world.

1979 was a great year for the Somali because it got accepted by The Cat Fanciers Association. Evelyn Mague also founded the Somali Cat Club of America in the USA which includes Canadian breeders. Later on in the 1980s, the breed became recognized officially in Europe. The breed still does not have as much recognition as it deserves in other regions of the world.


The Somali is a medium-sized breed. Females weigh between 6 and 10 pounds and, as always, are proportionally smaller than the male, which can weigh up to 12 pounds.

a somali cat lying down on a purple sofa

The Somali has a lithe, muscular body carried upon lean, athletic legs that stand on oval feet. They have a wedge-shaped head with rounded curves. Their tail is long and tapering but bushy at the end

Personality and Character

Their personality is very interesting. They are a mischievous, energetic ball of fun that will never fail to melt your heart. They are inquisitive and eager to get into anything that catches their interest. They are observant and smart—intelligent enough to remember where some goodies are kept, which could sometimes cause them to cross lines that they shouldn’t have.

These active cats seem to wake up every day with an agenda of activities they will engage in. They love to climb, jump, swing, and bird-watch. Unlike other cats who do not like water, the Somali will play with a water faucet with joy. These cats are fascinated with running water, so if you could install a water fountain for them, that would be ideal.

A somali cat waiting at the door

They also find it fascinating to open cupboards and cabinets to see what is inside; they are quite dexterous. They have been likened to a monkey with the way they use their paws to hold food, objects, and toys. You might find yourself in need of non-harmful cat repellents just to make them keep their naughty paws to themselves.

These cats love to interact with the family. They know how to get what they want in an endearing way. Their curiosity will keep them close to you. They can usually be found in the kitchen or on your shoulder, so they can see what you are up to and pick up a thing or two. The Somali also loves to groom the hair on your head and face; they do this when they are happy. They like to be the center of attention. They prefer being the only pet in the house so that they can get all the love

Health and Potential Problems

The breed is generally healthy, but it has some health challenges that can be traced to its genetic code, and they are:

  • Gingivitis: While dental problems are quite common in cats in general, Somali cats are more prone to periodontal diseases than other cats.
  • Pyruvate kinase deficiency: It is a hereditary health challenge. The pyruvate kinase is an enzyme that regulates the metabolism of sugars. The deficiency of this enzyme causes a lack of oxygen in the cat’s muscle tissue. It manifests in some symptoms like lethargy, depression, lack of appetite, pale gums, and intermittent anemia. You can, however, test your cat for PK deficiency before you commit. This disease can manifest anywhere between the age of six months and twelve years.
  • Renal amyloidosis: It is protein build-up in the organ. It may affect any organ in the body like the liver and the pancreas, but it usually affects the kidneys in the Somali. The protein buildup causes the organ to clog and eventually fail. Signs of organ failure may be revealed in blood or urine tests. A tissue biopsy will conclusively diagnose the amyloidosis. The condition can be managed with medications and by carefully monitoring their diet.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy: This affects the retina of the eye and can become progressive—eventually leading to blindness. This disease is caused by recessive genes. There could be partial blindness or different degrees of vision loss before irreversible blindness strikes. It can manifest when the cat is only two to three weeks of age. There is also a genetic test that can be carried out to test cats to see if they are carriers or not. If they are, breeding is usually discouraged.
  • Myelodysplasia: Until recently, it was known to affect only humans; it causes anemia in cats, particularly the Somali cat breed.

Care Features

Somali cats get easily bored. If they are bored, they will resort to mischief, so it is advisable that you keep them busy with toys and games. Better yet, simply keep breakables away from their prying paws. Somalis can be stubborn and determined to have their way, but you should patiently give positive reinforcement to your cat to get them to do the right things.

Two somali kittens resting together

Because of the boisterous nature of the Somali, you should keep them indoors to keep them safe. This is to prevent curiosity from killing the cat since the outdoors can be dangerous and unpredictable. Buy a tall tower or cat shelves that have multiple levels and toys to keep your Somali busy; provide an outlet to burn off some of the built-in energy they have.

You may need to have blood work done on your Somali as soon as you notice any signs of anemia so that you can quickly attend to any health issue on time. Keep your Somali warm in cold weather because they get chilled easily. Water faucets fascinate the Somali, and they can learn how to flick them on, so you might need to install cat-proofing measures around the house.

Feeding Schedule

Feed your Somali according to their body weight. Get a professional consultation from your veterinarian about your cat’s weight and nutritional needs. Generally speaking, since the Somali is an active cat, they will need about 80 Kcals of food per kg of their body weight every day.

_a_gorgeous_somali_cat sitting on a table

If you usually feed dry food to your Somali cat, ensure that you buy a balanced and complete formula and provide them with plenty of fresh water. Ideally, you should mix their dry diet with some wet food, since canned food is 70% water. When mixing, make sure that you keep the cat’s daily calorie intake in mind.

Be consistent with your feeding schedule. If it’s convenient for you to put out their food in the morning, then stay with it. If it’s in the evening, then don’t change the routine. You can also ration their food—half in the morning and half in the evening. This will allow your Somali to have access to food all throughout the day without overeating. Be stingy with snacks so that they do not deviate from eating good-quality nutritious food.

Coat, Color, and Grooming

The coat of Somali cats is made up of hair that is either ticked or agouti. Each strand of hair has a minimum of four colors and can stretch all the way up to twenty colors. They have a “ruff” around their neck. It also lines their thighs and rear legs.

The accepted color standards for the Somali cat are ruddy, fawn, blue, and red, but they actually come in a total of twenty-eight colors. Other registries accept chocolate, lilac, cream, and tortie, which comes in variants of sorrel, blue, fawn, chocolate, lilac, and silver.

The ticking is found on the ear tips, tufts, toe tufts, facial markings, heels, top, and the tip of the tail on the overcoat. Their underbelly, chest, as well as the inside of their tail their legs have a standard base color.

beautiful somali cat looking at the camera

These cats sport a double coat. The top coat is made up of fine, soft hair that lies flat against the cat’s body. Due to their undercoat, they need rather frequent brushing—around two to three times a week. Their coat can be brushed using a fine-toothed brush or a wide-toothed metal comb that will go down the length of the semi-longhaired coat

The Somali needs regular dental checkup as well as daily tooth-brushing since they are vulnerable to gingivitis. Don’t forget to use a recommended cat toothpaste. Wipe visible dirt from their ears with a cotton ball dampened with a gentle ear cleanser approved by the veterinarian. Also, pay attention to their eyes. Refer to your veterinarian if you notice any infection. Their nails should be trimmed as required or weekly. Bathe them when necessary.

Children and Other Pets Compatibility

The Somali is playful, interactive, and full of tricks and acrobatics. As a result, kids would love them. The good thing is that they love kids too; they would not mind grooming and kneading them with delight. Only, the kids should be taught to respect the cat and treat them well.

A somali cat sitting in front of the camera

The Somali will also get along with cat-friendly dogs and even play fetch with them, but they may not become best friends with your other cat. They prefer to be the only cat in the household. They are quite possessive and don’t like having to “fight” other cats for your attention.

Wrap Up

In conclusion, the Somali is worth having. They love their owner. They are sensitive to your moods, and their humorous nature will keep you eagerly looking forward to your time together. They will brighten your day with their antics and bursts of energy.

We advise you to get a written guarantee from the breeder you plan to purchase your Somali kitten from. The guarantee should cover the fact that genetic tests were carried out on the parents to rule out all the genetic health problems that the kitten may inherit. Also, using reputable breeders gives you the benefit of getting kittens that have been socialized and inoculated as required.

A beautiful somali cat walking in the snow

Are you looking for a bright and bold cat like the Somali? If you prefer gentle cats that won’t pose much of a caretaking challenge to you despite their massive size, we’ve got another breed suggestion ready for you right here. Kindly let us in on your feedback, suggestions, and comments. We look forward to hearing from you.

About the author
Stella Noble
Stella Noble

Stella Noble lives in Warren, Michigan with her family and three cats. She is a Certified Cat Trainer and a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.