Somali Cats

“Fox Cat” is Playful Companion

The creation of the Somali breed may not have taken place had some watchful cat breeders not paid too much attention to litters born under their care.

A descendant of the Abyssinian cat, the Somali cat is playful and curious, living up to its “foxy” moniker.

Somali cat

There are mixed beliefs on how the Somali cat truly came to be.

Some cat fanciers believe a spontaneous mutation in the Abyssinian breed led to the birth of longhaired Abyssinian kittens, which were then used to develop the Somali breed.

Other cat fanciers think that a recessive longhair gene inherited by random cats bred with Abyssinians during World War II—when the Abyssinian’s lineage was threatened—created the new breed.

In the early 1940s, several longhaired, fuzzy-coated Abyssinians were discovered in a litter belonging to a British breeder who then exported the cats to Australia. By the early 1960s, two Abyssinian breeders in America and Canada noticed that their cats’ litters produced several longhaired kittens. Eventually, the two breeders crossed paths and bred their longhaired litters with one another to officially produce a new breed. Despite its name, the Somali cat has Australian origins, not those of Somali. The American breeder named the breed due to their exotic appearance.

By the late 1970s, the breed was introduced in America and Canada; by 1991, it was living worldwide.

One other notable difference between Somali cats and their Abyssinian ancestors: The Somali cat is considered a friendlier, more affectionate cat. The Abyssinian has a reputation of being aloof and independent, shunning the opportunity for some TLC lap time.

The Somali, however, is a bit more laid-back. The breed rarely turns down the chance for a game of cat-and-mouse, known for its playful, curious demeanor and intelligence.

Somali cat

The Somali cat’s appearance is very similar to that of its Abyssinian ancestors, with one exception: it’s coat is longer and requires more routine grooming.

With its striking, bushy tail and reddish fur coat, the Somali cat is often nicknamed the “fox cat.” The dark stripes down the cat’s back, ears and hind quarters lend additional credence to its moniker.

The Somali cat’s coat may be one of 28 colors, including “ruddy” (reddish), sorrel/red, blue, fawn, ruddy silver, sorrel/red silver, blue silver, fawn silver, chocolate, lilac, red, cream, tortoiseshell, sorrel-tortie, blue-tortie, fawn-tortie, chocolate-tortie, lilac-tortie and silver varients of all of the above.

The notable feature about a Somali cat’s coat is its ticking—a variation of tabby markings in which each hair in the cat’s coat is ticked multiple times in two different colors.

Like Abyssinians, Somali cats have dark rims around their eyes (think: dark eyeliner) and small white markings on their muzzles and chins.

Somali cat

While these medical conditions are generally uncommon they are known to occur in the breed. Your Somali cat will not necessarily develop any of the conditions listed below. Choosing a reputable breeder from which to purchase your pet will help minimize the risks.

  • Dental issues: It is suspected that the Somali cat’s dental issues are due to congenital problems enhanced by inbreeding, leading to the removal of adult teeth caused by dental abscesses below the gum line. If not treated, cats are known to stop eating which can lead to a life-threatening condition called hepatic lipidosis. Somali breeders have made a concerted effort in the past decade to breed out the congenital issues causing dental problems.
  • Pyruvate kinase deficiency is a disorder that is caused by a shortage of functional red blood cells, which may result in not enough oxygen getting to the body tissues and can then result in death. Symptoms include fatigue, jaundice (yellow skin, gums), enlarged spleen, excessive panting, fever, seizures, and red-colored urine. A genetic test is now available to identify this recessive disorder in both Somali and Abyssinian cats.

As with any pet, be sure to regularly consult a veterinarian for routine care and medical advice for your four-legged friend.