Somali: Cat Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Rust-colored Somali cat on the floor.

grase / Getty Images

Somali cats are active and playful, with luscious locks and athletic builds. If you’re looking for a social cat with a wild look and curious personality, consider the Somali cat. With their mischievous nature, Somalis are natural entertainers. They do best with someone who spends most of their time at home—they may get into trouble when you’re away.

With long, soft coats and muscular bodies, Somalis are undoubtedly stunning cats. But they can be quite mischievous, so make sure you're prepared before deciding to get one as a pet. Keep reading to learn more about this unique breed.

Breed Overview

Weight: 8 to 12 pounds

Length: 11 to 14 inches

Coat: Long

Coat Color: Smooth coat in red, ruddy, blue, fawn, and sorrel

Eye Color: Green or gold

Life Expectancy: 10 to 14 years

Characteristics of Somali Cats

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

Long-haired versions of Abyssinian cats, Somali cats have a largely mysterious history. Some experts have theorized that a long haired gene was introduced in the Abyssinian breed population in the early 1900s as a recessive gene when other cat breeds bred with purebred Abyssinians.

The first Somali, then referred to as a “long-haired Abyssinian” was shown in cat shows in Australia in 1965. It was then that breeders actually began to develop Somalis as a breed. Today, all major cat associations recognize the unique and relatively rare Somali cat breed.

Somali Cat Care

Somali cats have soft, silky coats that require regular brushing to maintain. Brush your Somali once or twice a week to keep their coat free from tangles. Somali cats often actually enjoy being groomed, which makes the job much easier for you.

If you have a Somali, consider brushing their teeth at home on a regular basis. These cats can be prone to periodontal disease, so you may want to schedule occasional veterinary dental cleanings to prevent any problems.

Rambunctious, intelligent, and active, Somalis have relatively high exercise needs compared to other cat breeds. Play with them multiple times a day to help them get their energy out (plus, it helps you two bond).

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 fun tricks, like sit and stay. Just make sure to keep sessions positive and rewarding.

With regular exercise and 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 without exercising them, you may come home to ripped up tissues and a dumped over garbage can.

Common Health Problems

All cats are prone to some genetic diseases. Most Somali cats are happy and healthy, but there are a few hereditary diseases they are prone to. 

Like some Abyssinian cats, some Somalis may develop a hereditary health issue called pyruvate kinase deficiency, which can cause anemia. If you’re purchasing your Somali from a breeder, ask them to test for this condition before committing.

Somalis may also be prone to an eye condition, progressive retinal atrophy. It causes progressive blindness in cats. Ask your breeder if their cats have been affected by this condition to determine if your kitten is susceptible.

Like most other cat breeds, the Somali cat breed is prone to plaque and tartar buildup, which can lead to periodontal disease. Brush their teeth regularly with a pet-specific toothpaste to prevent this. You should also book occasional professional dental cleanings. Ask your vet for specific recommendations.

Diet and Nutrition

In terms of dietary needs, each cat breed is unique. And cats all have their own tastes—if you’re a cat owner, you know they can be picky eaters. But 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 ingredients like fish and chicken and avoid ones with unnecessary fillers with no 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.

Pros
  • Easy to train

  • Affectionate

  • Not chatty

Cons
  • Require regular grooming

  • Shy around strangers

  • Mischeivous

Where to Adopt or Buy a Somali Cat

If you’re considering purchasing a Somali cat from a breeder, make sure they are reputable. Ask them for clean bills of health for their cats and inquire about genetic diseases. If a breeder tells you their cats are not prone to any diseases, they aren’t being truthful—all cats (and humans, for that matter) are susceptible to some type of condition.

While there’s no surefire way to avoid purchasing a sick kitten, you can significantly reduce the likelihood of that ever happening by thoroughly researching the breed and understanding what to expect. And do your homework before deciding on a breeder to ensure that the organization is reputable.

But breeders aren’t your only option—you can sometimes find Somalis at shelters as well. Most likely, Somalis in a shelter will be adults. Research rescues and shelters in your area to learn more.

Either way you go about it, you’re in for a treat when you adopt a Somali cat. Here’s where to look for your new furry friend:

More Cat Breeds and Further Research

If you’re interested in learning about other cat breeds like the Somali, check out breed profiles for these similar cats:

Otherwise, checkout all of our other cat breed profiles.