Felis catus

Last updated: May 27, 2024
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© Kyselova Inna/Shutterstock.com

The breed may be a mix of Burmese, Siamese, and Russian Blue.


Abyssinian Scientific Classification

Scientific Name
Felis catus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Abyssinian Conservation Status

Abyssinian Locations

Abyssinian Locations

Abyssinian Facts

Fun Fact
The breed may be a mix of Burmese, Siamese, and Russian Blue.
Distinctive Feature
Silky fur and almond shaped eyes
Other Name(s)
aka Aby or Abys for short
Intelligent and curious
Average Litter Size
Common Name
Abyssinian cat
One of the oldest cat breeds in the world!

Abyssinian Physical Characteristics

  • Brown
  • Grey
  • Black
  • White
  • Beige
Skin Type
13-15 years
8-12 lbs

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Perhaps too much emphasis is given to the uncertain point of origin of the Abyssinian cat. What truly matters is that this friendly, intelligent, curious, and companionable animal is here among us today. A lover of high places and eternally interested in watching what you are doing, the Abyssinian’s exquisite list of traits is the perfect answer that cat fanciers can offer to those who love their dogs. It can do so many dog-like things, yet it also knows where the litter box is and what it is used for.

Breed History

The origin of the Abyssinian cat breed is shrouded in mystery. It was once believed that the Abyssinians were cats imported from Abyssinia (now Ethiopia), but the cat actually earned the name in reference to the Abyssinian War, and some cats during that period were imported by colonialists to Europe. These cats were exhibited in cat shows in the 1800s and called “Abyssinians.” But there’s no proof that those imported cats were true early Abyssinians.

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Recent genetic tests have shown that the Abyssinian breed most likely originated in parts of Southeast Asia and the coast of the Indian Ocean. The earliest example of an Abyssinian is a taxidermal exhibit that was purchased between 1834 and 1836 by a museum supplier. It was labeled “Patrie, domestica India,” and is still on exhibit at the Leiden Zoological Museum in the Netherlands.

Abyssinian sunbathing

While it’s one of the oldest cat breeds in the world, the Abyssinian breed’s exact origins are mysterious.


Traits: What To Know Before You Buy

The most important thing to know about an Abyssinian, or Aby for short, is that you are not getting a couch potato out of the deal. If you don’t want to be followed around and have a cat underfoot, you should think about some other pet. Abyssinians are born to superintend your activities or those of other members of your family.

There are cats that like to be under things and cats that like to be above things. If you can’t find your Aby, then look up. Despite speculation that their ancestors came from a desert environment, the current breed is very fond of trees and other high perches.

Health and Entertainment for your Abyssinian

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Abyssinians are famously good-natured so long as they have been properly introduced. They can peacefully co-exist with birds, dogs, small children, and even goldfish. If you’ve ever fancied having a cat that can play fetch, you may well get your wish with an Abyssinian.

Domestic cats live on a diet of cat food, but when roaming free will also eat rodents, birds, and fruits.


If there is one complaint about an Abyssinian’s personality, it may perhaps be that they are almost too smart. They love to learn, and they learn by observing things at close quarters. This means that they are not shy about getting into your business while you are doing it.

They are also very good at figuring out how to get into things or spaces that you may not want them in. These inquisitive creatures always want to know what’s on the other side of that barrier.

One area that often surprises people about the Abyssinian personality is that they are very affectionate but notoriously disinterested in being a lap cat. They like curling up beside you, not on top of you. In this position, they are perfectly content to let you pet them and scratch their ears but they are not noted for being a cat you hold or carry around.

While Abyssinians are open-minded about their companions in life, they do like having others of one sort or another around. No matter if it is a human or another cat, they are very sociable and can become bored and destructive if left alone too much.

They have very loud motors when it comes to purring but they balance this with the rather sparse use of their voice. If they talk, it’s because there is a topic of importance they wish to discuss with you.

Abyssinian cat ruddy closeup on a wooden ladder, a pole, a hammock
While affectionate, Abyssinians are notoriously disinterested in being lap cats.

Size And Weight

The Abyssinian is a medium to small size breed of cat. Although medium in overall size, their very lithe build, and thin legs make them register on the smaller end of that medium scale so far as weight is concerned.

Abys generally run from 8 to 10 inches in height and is anywhere from 12 to 16 inches in length. They tip the scales at a svelte 8 to 12 lbs.

The average Abyssinian Cat will weigh between 8 and 12lbs and reach a height of 8 to 10 inches.

©Martin Bahmann, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons – Original / License


As purebred cats, Abyssinians are not inexpensive pets. Kittens can cost anywhere from $500 to $2200. Rarer Abyssinians and those coming from premier bloodlines can run all the way up to $5000.

The wild card in this is that you can obtain an Abyssinian kitten for much less than these numbers indicate, but they are not capable of being used to breed more Abyssinians. For a so-called “pet” Aby, you can find common ones in the $500-900 range. Without getting into exotic toys, expensive foods, or unanticipated health issues, the average cost of maintaining an Abyssinian is about $400 a year.

Abyssinian laying on striped pillows

Abyssinians are typically priced from $500-$2200, while those with premier bloodlines can cost $5000.



Like most other cats, Abyssinians have litters in the range of about six kittens. Kittens tend to be somewhat darker than their parents when born but will lighten up as their distinctive coat develops.

They reach full height in about six months. After that, they gradually put on bulk until they are fully developed at around one year from their birth.

Like their parents, the kittens are very playful and intelligent. They make wonderful pets for children to grow up with.

Abyssinian kittens playing

Abyssinian kittens tend to be born with darker coats than their parents, which lighten as they grow older.



Their curious nature and love of heights can artificially shorten their natural lifespan due to accidents. Barring any early death due to misadventure, however, Abyssinians easily last into the 13-15 year range. With proper care and diligence, living into their 20s is not too uncommon.

Given the large initial investment in acquiring one, Aby owners usually watch their cat’s health very carefully and tend to their veterinary needs promptly. This means that Abyssinians are less likely to develop conditions that require them to be euthanized at an earlier age.

Their longevity is also helped by their endomorphic body characteristics and their generally vigorous levels of activity throughout their lives. Conversely, the relatively small genetic stock of the breed has led to some lingering hereditary issues that appear more often in Abyssinians than in the general cat population.

Abyssinian playing with water

The longevity of the typical Abyssinian is aided by its endomorphic body characteristics and vigorous levels of activity throughout its life.

©Vlad Thepesh/Shutterstock.com

Among the diseases which most commonly afflict these cats are:

  • Chronic Renal Failure – Also known as simple kidney failure, this hereditary condition is one you will want to guard against by carefully examining the ancestry of any prospective kitten you may be in the market for.
  • Hyperthyroidism – The general litheness of the breed can be accentuated by hyperthyroidism. This condition forces the body to burn energy it does not necessarily need or want to burn. This in turn causes the already thin cat to be thinner still and makes it harder for them to put or keep weight on their bodies. Medication can control the problem.
  • Luxating Patella – In a human, this would be known as a dislocated kneecap. Painful to suffer, painful to force back into its correct position, it is nevertheless not a major worry since a large number of quadrupeds have been known to suffer from this malady at one time or another.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy – In the long-lived Abyssinian, retinal atrophy first strikes in the form of increasing night blindness. This eventually develops into full-fledged blindness under all conditions. This is a genetic trait of the breed for which there is no cure. The only available prevention is to carefully scrutinize the genealogy of any prospective kitten or cat purchase.
  • Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency – This is the big one for Abyssinians. Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency is an inheritable red blood cell condition that causes anemia and other blood afflictions. The only known cure is a bone marrow transplant.
Abyssinian cat side view full length, isolated on white background
To be considered a true Abyssinian by breeders, the cat must be colored either ruddy, cinnamon, fawn, or blue.

Breed Versus Mixed Breed

To be a genuine Abyssinian, breeders require that a specimen must be one of four colors.

  • Ruddy – The first recognized coat color for an Abyssinian is ruddy, which is a combination of reddish-brown with ticks, or small lengths, of black peeking through in places. This ripple of multi-hued fur color along any individual strand is one of the main distinctive features of an Abyssinian. The black is found on the ends of the fur and is most pronounced on the tail and at the lower extremities of the paws. It must also have a fully red nose to qualify.
  • Cinnamon – More reddish than the brownish Ruddy Abyssinian, and more of an orange-brown in the underneath areas of the coat. All Abyssinians require the darkest hues to be on the tips of the fur. The Cinnamon has Chocolate Brown at the tail tip and feet as well as a darkish pink nose.
  • Fawn – The lighter-hued Fawn Abyssinian is somewhat evocative of a light Siamese color coat with rose-beige as the primary color and light brown at the ends. Light cocoa brown on the tail tip and feet are matched with a salmon-colored nose.
  • Blue – The Blue Abyssinian is not a blue cat but rather one that has a warm beige coat somewhat similar to the Fawn but is tipped with bluish-gray slate highlights rather than brownish ones. Tail and lower paws have the same requirement for predominate dark hues and the nose is a reddish pink.

Very slight variations of these color schemes are enough to disqualify a cat from being a cat breeder’s standard purebred Abyssinian. Black hair on a red Aby will disqualify. With few exceptions around the face, white patches or spots will disqualify. A dark necklace, or ring that goes entirely around the neck area, will disqualify. There are no recognized crossbreed Abyssinians.

There is, however, a separate group called Silver Abyssinians which includes the colors: black silver, blue silver, fawn silver and sorrel silver.

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About the Author

Abby Parks has authored a fiction novel, theatrical plays, short stories, poems, and song lyrics. She's recorded two albums of her original songs, and is a multi-instrumentalist. She has managed a website for folk music and written articles on singer-songwriters, folk bands, and other things music-oriented. She's also a radio DJ for a folk music show. As well as having been a pet parent to rabbits, birds, dogs, and cats, Abby loves seeking sightings of animals in the wild and has witnessed some more exotic ones such as Puffins in the Farne Islands, Southern Pudu on the island of Chiloe (Chile), Penguins in the wild, and countless wild animals in the Rocky Mountains (Big Horn Sheep, Mountain Goats, Moose, Elk, Marmots, Beavers).

Abyssinian FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are Abyssinians herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores?

Abyssinians are Omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and other animals.

What Kingdom do Abyssinians belong to?

Abyssinians belong to the Kingdom Animalia.

What phylum do Abyssinians belong to?

Abyssinians belong to the phylum Chordata.

What class do Abyssinians belong to?

Abyssinians belong to the class Mammalia.

What family do Abyssinians belong to?

Abyssinians belong to the family Felidae.

What order do Abyssinians belong to?

Abyssinians belong to the order Carnivora.

What genus do Abyssinians belong to?

Abyssinians belong to the genus Felis.

What type of covering do Abyssinians have?

Abyssinians are covered in hair.

What are some distinguishing features of Abyssinians?

Abyssinians have silky fur and almond-shaped eyes.

How many babies do Abyssinians have?

The average number of babies an Abyssinian has is 6.

What is an interesting fact about Abyssinians?

Abyssinians are the oldest breed of cat in the world!

What is the scientific name for the Abyssinian?

The scientific name for the Abyssinian is Felis catus.

What is an Abyssinian cat?

An Abyssinian cat is a breed of small domestic feline that was popularized in the UK first. There is some question as to whether breeders created it from several UK domestic tabby and shorthair cats, if it was an exotic import brought home from military campaigns in Africa in the 19th Century, or if it happened to be a combination of both.

In any event, the original UK breed was nearly annihilated in WWII due to the Luftwaffe bombing and severe restrictions on the domestic economy such as extreme meat rationing. By the end of hostilities, a mere dozen Abyssinians remained, but the numbers were replenished via imports brought back from North American stocks of the breed. The cat is a medium-sized, intelligent, and friendly creature with a distinctive coat. It is not famous for being a lap cat or meowing a lot.

How much does an Abyssinian cat cost?

Non-breedable Abys start for sale at around $500 and the price goes up from there. Sexually intact Abyssinians can start at about $1200 and run up to the high price of $5000 for very pedigreed examples.

What does Abyssinian mean?

Abyssinian is an adjective that describes someone or something from Abyssinia, which is a region on the eastern horn of Africa and south of Egypt. A pair of exotic cats that were obtained in this area were brought home to England and were thus called Abyssinian cats.

Are Abyssinian cats mean?

In the sense of being aggressive or cruel, the answer is no. Yet they are not fond of being held in the lap and may express displeasure at this violation of Abyssinian etiquette. They are very loving animals but prefer sitting alongside rather than on top of their human friends.

Are Abyssinian cats cuddly?

So far as all domestic cat species are concerned, the answer is probably a qualified no. They love being doted upon and petted but are not big fans of being held tightly. Individuals may of course acquire a taste for such things but they are not notable for appreciating such constricting but well-meant actions.

Are Abyssinian cats hypoallergenic?

No breed of a domestic house cat is 100% hypoallergenic. In most cases, keeping the house clean and the cat brushed will reduce allergens to the point that almost anybody can tolerate the presence of a cat on the premises. Abyssinians are, however, rated as being among the most nearly hypoallergenic cat breeds, particularly female Abyssinians.

Do Abyssinian cats shed?

All cats shed to some degree but the Abyssinian’s peculiarly structured tabby style fur and short hair make them low on the list of shedding cats.

Are There Any Rescue Abyssinians Available?

Unlike the average tabby in a distressed home environment, it is not likely that an Abyssinian would be given up for rescue. If it did happen, it would be because it was found as a stray, or perhaps the cat’s owner did not recognize its value before giving it up for rescue. It would be in the interest of both cat and owner to offer it for sale to a genuine Abyssinian fancier.

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