Cat Breeds 101: Somali

Cat Breeds 101 - Somali
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To one who has never seen a Somali, this cat breed can best be described as a “fox-like cat”, because with its richly hued, longhaired coat with a ticking pattern on every hair shaft, that’s pretty much what the Somali looks like: a small fox.

This foxiness even extends to the Somali’s personality. Incredibly clever and full of tricks, this cat always has its paws in something it probably shouldn’t be touching in the first place. [1] The Somali’s human companion had better be a work-from-home professional because, first, this cat hates being left alone, and second, because you don’t really want to leave this cat unsupervised.

Now although this cat sounds like a handful – and it is – it actually fits in very well in a family with little children. After all, with kids in the house, you’ll have to clean up anyway whether you have a Somali or not. By their distracting presence, your kids may actually help keep your Somali out of trouble, and vice versa.

Another descriptive name for the Somali is “longhaired Abyssinian”; and indeed, that’s basically what this cat is. The first recorded Somali was in fact born a long-haired Abyssinian kitten.

In 1963, cat breeder Mary Mailing entered one of her long-haired Abyssinian mutants in a pet show, and judge Ken McGill got interested in breeding it. McGill then worked with breeder Evelyn Mague to develop the breed, [2] which was later dubbed the Somali because it was so closely linked genetically to the Abyssinian, as Somalia is so closely linked geographically and politically to the erstwhile Abyssinia, which we now call Ethiopia. [3]

Like the Abyssinian, the Somali also features a wedge-shaped head; a ridged brow; large, forward-arching ears; and big almond eyes that may be colored green, amber, or gold. [3] The Somali’s medium-length coat requires thrice-a-week brushing to keep it clean, minimize shedding, and prevent mats. With all the places this cat squeezes itself into, it can get grimy real fast despite its own instinctive efforts to keep itself clean. [4]

There are also a couple of health issues that this breed is susceptible to. Like the Abyssinian, the Somali can be genetically predisposed to pyruvate kinase (PK) deficiency, which is a form of anemia; myasthenia gravis, a disorder that causes muscular weakness; and retinal atrophy, which can eventually lead to complete loss of vision. [1][5] Before purchasing a Somali kitten, it is advisable that you ask to see written proof from the breeder that the parents were tested for these genetic problems, and make sure too that the breeder gives you a written health guarantee for the cat that you are bringing home.

[1] Somali. Vetstreet.
[2] Somali cat. Wikipedia.
[3] Somali. The International Cat Association.
[4] Somali. Animal Planet.
[5] Genetics Home Reference.

Somali Cat Video: