Somali: Cat Breed Profile, Characteristics & Care

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

Portrait of a Somali cat lying down

grase / Getty Images

The Somali is an active, intelligent cat with luscious locks and an athletic build. Known for its playfully curious nature, the Somali enjoys interacting with humans and does not adjust well to boredom. It makes a wonderful cat companion for someone who spends most of their time at home or has other pets to keep the Somali company. Solitary Somalis, however, are notorious mischief-makers.

Breed Overview

Personality: Playful, intelligent, sociable, affectionate, mischievous

Weight: Up to 12 pounds

Length: Up to 26 inches

Coat Length: Medium-long hair

Coat Colors:  Red, ruddy, blue, fawn, and sorrel

Coat Patterns: Ticked

Eye Color: Green or gold

Lifespan: Up to 14 years

Hypoallergenic: No

Origin: Australia

Somali Cat Characteristics

You'll rarely find a Somali lying around—this cat has energy to burn! Active, curious, and sociable, the medium-sized Somali is always on the lookout for something to do and someone to do it with. If unsupervised or under-stimulated for too long, the Somali is likely to create its own entertainment. Climbing curtains, scaling the refrigerator, or tipping knick-knacks off shelves are just a few of the fun activities that may be on the menu. Svelte and muscular, the long-haired Somali is beautiful to behold, which may make up for some of the mischief it may make when left alone.

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly  Medium 
Pet-Friendly  Medium 
Exercise Needs  High 
Playfulness  High 
Energy Level  High 
Intelligence  High 
Tendency to Vocalize  Low 
Amount of Shedding Medium 
Somali cat reaching into air with its front paw.

photo by Volchanskiy / Getty Images

History of the Somali Cat

Essentially a longer-haired version of the Abyssinian cat, the Somali cat has a rather mysterious history. Some experts theorize that a recessive gene was introduced into the Abyssinian breed population in the early 1900s through crossbreeding with long-haired cats of unknown origin.

The one thing breed historians know for sure is that the first Somali, then referred to as a “long-haired Abyssinian,” appeared in Australian cat shows in 1965. Thereafter, breeders began actively developing Somalis as a breed. Today, all major cat associations recognize the unique and relatively rare Somali cat breed.

Somali Cat Care

Grooming

Somali cats have soft, silky coats that require regular brushing (once or twice a week) to keep their coats free from tangles. Somali cats often enjoy being groomed, which makes the job much easier.

These cats also benefit from regular tooth brushing because they are prone to periodontal disease, and occasional veterinary dental cleanings will also help prevent the development of gum or tooth issues.

Exercise

Rambunctious, intelligent, and active, Somalis have relatively high exercise needs compared to other cat breeds. Play with your Somali multiple times a day to help it burn energy and to strengthen your bond with your cat.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even take your Somali cat on leashed walks. Somalis love the outdoors and spending time with their humans, so this is a win-win. And because Somali cats are so intelligent and eager to exercise, they are easily trained. They are known to play fetch on occasion and learn commands like "sit" and "stay". Just make sure to keep sessions positive and rewarding.

Common Health Problems

Like their Abyssinian relatives, Somalis are susceptible to two particular hereditary health issues:

If you’re purchasing your Somali from a breeder, ask for proof that their cats are free of these conditions before committing to buy.

Like most other cat breeds, the Somali is prone to plaque and tartar buildup, which can lead to periodontal disease.

Appearance

Somalis are stunning cats with flowing, soft coats and muscular bodies. While their coat is medium length over most of their bodies, they have longer, fluffy tails and tufts of hair between their toes. Inspired by their ruddy coloration and plumed tails, these cats have been called "fox-like" in appearance. Somalis have large ears and eyes that always seem alert and attuned to any action happening around them.

Diet and Nutrition

Because Somalis are so active and muscular, they need high-quality cat food with plenty of protein to remain in good shape. Stick to foods with quality meat-based ingredients and avoid ones with unnecessary fillers or grains with little nutritional value.

Your best resource is your veterinarian. They will be able to let you know which foods will be best suited for your Somali cat.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Somali

Somalis are a relatively rare breed, but the Somali Breed Council maintains a directory of reputable breeders. If you don't care about a registered cat, then you may find a Somali mix or a cat that closely resembles a Somali for adoption at a shelter. Check Petfinder for cats with Somali characteristics.

Somali Overview

With regular exercise like intensive training sessions to tire out their minds and bodies, Somalis are less likely to get into trouble in the house. But if you leave your Somali home alone for long, you may return to ripped-up tissues or a dumped-over garbage can. Luckily, this rascal of a cat is easy to love because it is as charming and personable as it is beautiful. Somali owners count themselves lucky to share their lives with such entertaining and interactive felines.

Pros
  • Easy to train

  • Affectionate

  • Entertaining to interact with

Cons
  • Mischievous when bored

  • Prone to certain health problems

  • Rare; may be hard to find

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.

FAQ
  • Do Somali cats like to be held?

    While Somalis are very friendly and personable, they aren't always interested in being held. They prefer to cuddle on their terms.

  • Do you need to brush a Somali cat?

    Somalis' medium-length, soft hair requires regular brushing—once or twice a week—to avoid tangles and matting.

  • How much does a Somali cat cost?

    A Somali cat from a reputable breeder costs between $1,000 and $1,500.