Abyssinian: Cat Breed Profile, Characteristics & Care

Appearance, Personality, History, Care, & Helpful Information for Pet Owners

An Abyssinian cat laying on a blanket.

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The Abyssinian cat, nicknamed "Aby," is a medium-sized cat with a lean, muscular body and a short coat. Unlike many domesticated cat breeds, it is extremely active and playful; it loves to climb tall pieces of furniture, tackle toys, and play interactive games with its owners. Friendly with children and other pets, the Abyssinian makes an excellent addition to an active family. It is recommended, however, to provide your Aby with a companion cat—they're very social and can become bored if left alone for too long.

Breed Overview

Other Names: Aby

Personality: Friendly, interactive, animated, active, and playful

Weight: Up to 12 pounds

Length: Up to 28 inches

Coat Length: Short Hair

Coat Colors: Ruddy, red, blue, cinnamon, or fawn

Coat Patterns: Solid, ticked

Eye Color: Green or gold

Lifespan: Up to 15 years

Hypoallergenic: Somewhat

Origin: Indian Ocean coastal regions and parts of southeast Asia

Characteristics of the Abyssinian

The Abyssinian has a friendly and outgoing personality, so it loves to play and hates being alone. While this medium-sized cat is very social, its adaptable temperament and playful nature allow it to find fun in tackling toys or racing up and down stairs (or scratching posts) all by itself. Soon enough, though, an Aby will seek attention from its housemates, no matter the species. Full-grown around a year of age, the Abyssinian will maintain a kitten-like quality well into adulthood despite its elegant, refined appearance.

Affection Level Medium to High
Friendliness Medium to High
Kid-Friendly Medium to High
Pet-Friendly Medium to High
Exercise Needs Medium
Playfulness High
Energy Level High
Intelligence High
Tendency to Vocalize Low
Amount of Shedding Low

History of the Abyssinian

According to lore, Abyssinians were once owned by the Egyptian pharaohs, but some people claim they were developed in Britain by selective breeding of silver and brown tabby cats.

Since their mysterious premiere at the Crystal Palace Cat Show in 1871, genetic testing has determined that Abyssinians likely developed somewhere along the Indian Ocean's coastal regions and parts of southeast Asia. A taxidermied cat with the Aby's ruddy color and ticked markings at the Leiden Zoological Museum in the Netherlands supports this theory; the stuffed cat is thought to have hailed from India.

Many believe Abyssinians were given their name because Zula, the cat displayed at the 1871 Crystal Palace Cat Show, was allegedly imported from Abyssinia (present-day Ethiopia). Variations in the coat color and markings are likely the result of Abys breeding with other domesticated cats.

American cat fanciers began to import Abyssinians in 1900 but didn't start breeding programs until the 1930s. During this time, many cats were exported from Britain to the United States, which was fortunate because the breed was nearly wiped out in Europe during World War II.

Since then, Abyssinian populations have grown rapidly, and they've become one of the most popular cat breeds in the world.

Abyssinian Care

Despite their high exercise needs and energy levels, the Abyssinian can be a relatively low-maintenance cat. Because Abys have short coats and shed minimally, they don't need frequent grooming. Weekly combing and occasional baths can help remove dander, debris, and loose hair.

Like all cats, it's important to develop a regular oral health routine. Daily brushing is ideal, but even brushing once per week can help protect your cat from periodontal disease.

Check your Aby's ears weekly for dirt and debris, or signs of infection. You can clean dirt or waxy build-up with a soft, cotton cloth. Avoid cotton swabs, as they can damage the delicate inner-ear structures.

Abyssinians are active, playful cats that appreciate cat toys and interactive playtime. It's also a good idea to invest in a cat tree or wall-mounted shelves, so your cat has high places to climb and perch.

Common Health Problems

The Abyssinian is a generally healthy cat, but a few conditions are common in the breed. Be on the lookout for symptoms of:

  • Periodontal disease: an infection of the tissues that hold the teeth in place
  • Patellar luxation: hereditary tendency to experience dislocation of a kneecap
  • Progressive retinal atrophy: a degenerative eye disease that can lead to blindness

If you're concerned about your cat's health, talk to your veterinarian about the steps you can take to ensure she lives a long, happy, healthy life.


The Abyssinian is a medium-sized cat with a lean, muscular build that is fully developed around one year of age. Its ears are relatively large, giving the cat a wild appearance similar to a savannah cat. The Aby's short and rather dense coat can range in color from ruddy, red, and cinnamon to blue or fawn (females with fawn coloration are rare and expensive). It's large, almond-shaped eyes can be green or gold.

Diet and Nutrition

Your cat's dietary needs will depend largely on its age, sex, and activity levels. Consult the feeding guide from your favorite cat food brand, or talk to your veterinarian about how much to feed your Abyssinian. Remember: Overfeeding can lead to dangerous health conditions associated with obesity.

Abyssinian Overview

Abyssinian cats are very active and will generally thrive as indoor cats in larger homes as long as they have company and toys. They love to climb, so cat trees are appreciated by Abys (stairs and high surfaces are also fun to scale). Generally healthy and low maintenance, an Abyssinian is a relatively easy cat to care for throughout its 15-year lifespan.

Most importantly this breed craves attention and interaction with its humans and fellow household pets. If you're extremely busy and away from the home often, you may want to consider giving your Aby a companion cat that also loves to play.

  • Friendly to children and other pets

  • Playful with high energy levels

  • Low maintenance grooming

  • Needs exercise (playtime), which may be difficult for busy families

  • Prefers to have a companion cat

  • Sheds seasonally

Where to Adopt an Abyssinian

It may be difficult to find a purebred Abyssinian at your local shelter, so try searching for rescue groups in your area. Pet search sites, like Petfinder.com, also make it easy to search for pets in your area and filter by breed.

If you choose to purchase an Abyssinian from a breeder, conduct research to ensure they're ethical and responsible. An ethical breeder will work hard to uphold the breed standards and produce healthy cats. Be on the lookout for red flags, like multiple cats on-site or unhealthy cats. Never allow a breeder to ship a cat to your home or charge your payment online.

More Cat Breeds and Further Research

If you’re interested in similar breeds, check out:

Otherwise, check out all of our other cat breed profiles.

  • Do Abyssinian cats like to be held?

    While Abyssinians are very friendly and social cats, they don't love being held—unless they ask for it.

  • Do Abyssinian cats meow?

    These cats are not extremely vocal; they occasionally make noises that sound more like chirps than meows.

  • Are Abyssinian cats hypoallergenic?

    No cat breed is truly hypoallergenic, but Abyssians work well for some people with mild allergies. They don't shed a lot and produce minimal dander. They also have lower levels of a certain saliva protein that can aggravate allergies.