The Abyssinian is a domestic shorthair cat breed with a distinctive “ticked” tabby coat, in which the individual hairs are striped in different colors. They are also known as Abys.
The origin of the name is not because Ethiopia, formerly Abyssinia, is considered the original home of these cats, but because the first “Abyssinians” exhibited at shows in England are believed to have been imported from there. According to genetic studies, its true origin is probably the Indian Ocean coast in parts of Southeast Asia, and its introduction into Abyssinia (and elsewhere) was through settlers and merchants stopping in Calcutta.
Although considered relatively obscure in the past as a breed compared to others, the Abyssinian was ranked in 2016 as one of the five most popular breeds by The Cat Fancier Association and The International Cat Association.
The breed’s distinctive appearance, appearing long, lean and finely colored compared to other cats, has been analogized to human models. Personality-wise, cats traditionally display active and inquisitive attitudes in which they frequently follow their owners and encourage play. Abys have a distinctive wildcat look with their ticked coat and large, erect ears. They are a very social breed that can be demanding of attention. They adapt well to multi-cat households because of their social nature. Far from being a lounge cat, the Abyssinian is constantly on the move, whether exploring or playing.
Abyssinians are a popular breed, largely due to their unusual intelligence and generally outgoing, playful and strong-willed personality. It is said that they can become depressed without constant activity and attention from their owners. Veterinarian Joan O. Joshua has written that the “dog-like attachment to the owner” of Abyssinian and Burmese cats results in “a greater dependence on human contact.” This contrasts with the simple “tolerant acceptance of human companionship” based on “comfort” that many other breeds exhibit.
With their interest in playing with their owners combined with their curious intelligence, Abyssinians are known as the “clowns of the cat kingdom.” They are active and outgoing by nature, but tend to be quiet cats. They make soft, chirp-like vocalizations that don’t sound like the expected “meow.” They are affectionate and friendly to people.