Somali cats are both elegant and lively. They make great furever companions! It may not be certain just how this breed got its start, but it is wonderful that they are here to stay.
For this month’s breed profile I am very honored to have a special guest. Thank you so much to Summer and her human for the use of their photos! If you haven’t met Summer yet, she is a gorgeous, award-winning Somali cat who blogs at www.Sparklecat.com . Please stop by and say hello to her!
That Foxy Look
The Somali is known for it’s fox-like looks. Their full, thick hair gets longer around the tummy, britches, and signature tail. Large, semi-pointed ears sit on top of dramatically marked face with rounded contours. The Somali has large richly colored, almond-shaped eyes ranging from green to copper. Facial markings are tabby-like with dark “eyeliner” surrounded by a lighter color. They are medium to large sized, muscular, but lean cats.
The coat is vibrantly colored with agouti (ticked) hairs. Each hair can have anywhere from 4 to 20 different bands of color! The Somali coat colors that are accepted by most cat fancier associations are red, blue, ruddy, and fawn. However, other colorings exist (some of which are gaining in popularity): silver, lilac, chocolate, cinnamon, and silvery variations of all of the colors. In many cases the Somali cat’s back will have the agouti hair while it’s underside and chest will be a lighter solid color.
The History of the Somali Cat
Somali cats are the product of a recessive gene for long hair in Abyssinian cats. Other than that fact, the origin of the Somali breed is highly debated. There are some that believe that the recessive gene was a spontaneous mutation that occurred in Abyssinians. Another theory is that Abyssinians gained the long haired recessive gene when British breeders were desperately trying to keep the Abyssinian blood lines going after World War II. The war had done a lot of damage to the populations of many breeds of cat, leaving breeders short on breeding stock. Those breeders may have intermixed their Abyssinian cats with cats that from breeds that had long hair.
No matter which theory you prefer, breeders were not fond of the long haired Abyssinian cats at first. Kittens with long hair were considered “tainted” or “polluted” and quickly discarded. Breeders didn’t want anyone to know that these kittens were produced in their litters.
One lucky long haired Abyssinian cat slipped through the cracks and made it to the United States in 1953. This cat’s name was Raby Chuffa of Selene and he was the first Abyssinian in the United States to be identified to have the long haired gene. He is considered the father of the Somali cat breed for both the United States and Canada.
The Somali cat breed took a huge step toward recognition by fanciers when a New Jersey breeder named Evelyn Mague took up their cause. She was a breeder of Abyssinian cats and an animal shelter volunteer. One day while she was working at the shelter, a long haired Abyssinian cat named George was relinquished by this 5th owner. She fell in love with George even though he was antisocial (it was believed that he was mistreated). After doing a little home work, Mague realized that George was part of a litter that had be sired by one of her very own cats! She was able to gain ownership of George’s mother and produce a litter with long haired kittens just like George.
Mague teamed up with other breeders around the world (Canada, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand) who had also been working on the long haired Abyssinian breed. Due to pressure from purist Abyssinian breeders that did not want these long haired cats called Abyssinians, the name Somali was chosen. The reason for this is that Somalia borders Ethiopia (which used to be called Abyssinia) in the same way Somali cats are close in relation to Abyssinian cats. The Somali Cat Club of America was founded in 1972. It wasn’t long until cat fancier associations took to the new Somali cats.
A Few Small Glitches
Somali cats are mostly healthy, happy cats. However there are a few uncommon health problems that have been seen with the breed. These problems include:
- Tooth decay
- Amyloidosis (protein build up in the organs)
- Feline Infectious Anemia (FIA)
- Auto Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (AIHA)
With good breeding and veterinary care, these problems can be avoided.
The Silly Somali
Somali cats are every bit as silly as their “Aby-silly-an” relatives. They are delightfully playful and mischievous. Somali cats are driven by curiosity and not easily deterred once they’ve decided to do something. They have been known to open kitchen cupboards and use their paws to grab things (almost like little hands). Pet MD even calls them the “hairstylists of the cat world.”Obedience to your rules may come slowly, but they are trainable. These energetic cats love to explore and be around their humans. Somali cats may not always be lap cats, but they are very affectionate. You can expect to have an enthusiastic helper for all of your daily activities.
Thinking about adding a Somali cat to your family? Check out all of the adoptable Somali cats in your area!
What is your experience with Somali cats?