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Norwich Bulletin - 2/26/2006

The Incredible Abyssinian

This is a very easy breed for me to write about because it is absolutely, without a doubt, my very favorite breed of cat. In fact I am owned by eight Abyssillians (I mean Abyssinians). These felines absolutely run my household, the dogs, the other cats and, of course, the humans. They have great senses of humor and are into everything, possessing what you would call the wild-cat curiosity, and you will never have a dull moment with one Aby, much less eight!

One of the oldest breeds of cats, I generally describe this elegant creature as the aristocrat of ancient Egypt. This is the cat that the ancient Egyptians used as a model for the cat goddess Bastet; the cat that was worshipped by Pharoahs and astrologers, the cat that was deemed intelligent enough to be the familiar of witches – this is the cat that actually thinks for itself and can figure out all kinds of mischief and how to get into and out of it.

The Abyssinian is a medium sized cat, intensely colored with well-muscled, athletic bodies. They should have a modified wedge shaped head with large ears that are set as if they are listening closely to what you are saying (and at the same time ignoring you). They should have long legs on lean bodies and their coats are ticked, which means they have four to six bands of color on each hair.

Their undercoat should be a warm, rich color, coordinating to whatever their main color is – for instance, a ruddy Abyssinian should have a rich, warm orangey undercoat with bands of black and orange ticking, giving the overall impression of an overall, rich, burnt sienna color, while a blue Abyssinian should have a warm oatmeal color underneath its bands of blue. I describe my Abys as sheer elegance and have not yet met a person who would disagree with that description.

People are always asking me about the personality of an Aby and I find the best way to explain it is like this: if you have an Abyssinian sleeping on your bed and you are in the kitchen and happen to open the refrigerator door, before you find what you want, your Aby will be inside the refrigerator, so you’d better check before you close the door!

Abyssinians should never be only cats unless their humans are home all day long, because they are very social, active cats who become bored and depressed if left alone too long. While eventually you certainly can get an Abyssinian to like being an only cat, there will be a long period of adjustment and possibly some destructive behavior unless you can stimulate their intelligence while you are away from home.

Abyssinians are free spirits that want to be in on everything you are doing, whether its taking a shower, making the bed or trying to cook a meal (they especially like to help by stealing any kind of people food when you are not looking). They will cuddle on your lap and love you, but only when they feel like it – they don’t like to be carried around because they have too many places to go and too many things to get into. They do like to ride on shoulders though, if they feel like it.

They like to climb (so floor to ceiling cat furniture is a must with these guys) and they are lightening fast. They are great companions and do very well traveling. My oldest Abyssinian, Merlot, loves to go on a harness and wander Provincetown with me every year when we are on vacation.

Abyssinians play hard and rough. They are like little cougars with a wild cat streak that makes men love this breed. And they are so beautiful that you can’t help but forgive them anything they do.

When you are owned by an Abyssinian, you must be smart enough to change your behaviors, because they won’t change theirs. You need to know they will get to the highest point of your home, so nothing is sacred and your breakables need to be in cabinets, preferably under lock and key. They will steal any kind of food you are foolish enough to leave on a counter or table and they will never apologize for it either.

On the other hand, they are very social cats that can fit in with pretty much any family. They like other cats and they will play and boss around the family dog. They do very well with children as they are themselves very childlike. They are pretty much an active three year old with the mind of a genius –

I generally tell people if they want an Abyssinian they should also adopt a domestic kitten at the same time so they have friends. It’s also a nice balance between the gregarious nature of the Aby and the more grounded domestic. It’s also a great way to balance the buying of a purebred versus adopting a stray. This way you do both and you and your new friends are the winners.

Abyssinians are definitely not for the weak of heart nor for people who like to sit on their couch every evening. And because of certain weaknesses associated with some of the Aby lines (kidney and heart problems) you should NEVER buy an Abyssinian from a pet store. Search out responsible breeders and check into the kitten’s parentage to see about the longevity of the line. You can also seek out a rescue through National Abyssinian Rescue.

I love all my cats – but there is something very special about an Abyssinian and once you are owned by one, you always have to have an Aby in your household.

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