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Norwich Bulletin - 9/26/2004

The Somali

Similar to their Abyssinian cousins, the Somali is long and elegant with semi-long fur and a beautiful fox-like tail. These companion cats are big on joining in on all human activities, happily following their people around during the day. Your Somali will give you kisses, love nibbles, groom you and actively play any game you devise for mutual enjoyment. They like to be high and riding on shoulders is extremely enjoyable for these felines, as is, watching the world go by from the top of the refrigerator!

The Somali is most likely a long haired Abyssinian, resulting from a recessive gene. There are pedigree records from the late 1800's that document long haired kittens resulting from short haired Abyssinian breedings. The look, the personality, that irresistible face, certainly gives credence to the recessive gene theory.

Brought out for champtionship by Evelyn Mague in 1966, the Somali was not received very well by the Abyssinian breeders, who questioned her for bringing out the longhaired kittens and cats, that had previously been quietly placed as pets. Mague felt they were beautiful cats in their own right, with all the marvelous Aby qualities and wanted to breed and show them.

Since the longer coat did not meet the official Abyssinian standard, it prevented them from competing for championship. So the new breed came to be - the name Somali was chosen because Somalia was the neighbor country of Abyssinia - and the Somali is the neighbor breed of the Abyssinian.

By 1979 all of the associations had accepted the breed in the primary colors of ruddy, red, blue and fawn, with TICA and AACE accepting the silvers. The Somali tends to be slightly bigger boned and larger than the Aby, but aside from the longer hair, the features are quite similar. The coat is also a dream as far as grooming goes. Brushing two or three times a week is sufficient. The coat pattern is also the same as an Abyssinian - it is a ticked coat that is known as an agouti pattern.

Although the Somali is basically a hearty breed, they still have the basic problems that Abys do with amyloidosis, kidney and gum problems. Good breeders will test for genetic disorders before they breed their cats in order to keep a healthy gene pool and not pass on these diseases that have no cure and can result in early death.

These cats are not for everyone. They are not couch potatoes and belong with people who want an interactional companion cat. Somalis thrive in a house with people, other animals, lots of cat furniture to climb high and toys to play with. They can open drawers and even turn on faucets. They are extremely intelligent felines that could cause some mischief if left alone too long without any healthy diversions. Highly curious, some cat proofing of the house would probably be a good idea.

Somalis are happy in a house or in an apartment. They should never be allowed outside unless they are on a harness or in a cat safe enclosure. Somalis will always want to know what is on the other side of the street, and that would mean certain death between cars, dogs, coyotes and other dangers that lurk outside. Somalis are a great candidate for cat agility in that they love to play and please their human companions.

While not for everyone, the Somali is a wonderful and charming pet. Because of possible genetic defects, this cat should never be bought from a pet store. Please seek out responsible breeders by logging on to www.breedlist.com or check the Cat Fanciers Association breeder registry.

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