A Somali is essentially a long-haired Abyssinian. Both breeds share the same characteristics, except for hair length. Half-fawn, half-fox, these felines are distinguished by the wild colour of their coats and the vaporous appearance of their fur, but also by their rather effervescent personality!
Key facts about the Somali
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Origins and history
Two theories are possible as to the origin of this breed. It could be a genetic mutation, where long-haired kittens were born spontaneously in standard Abyssinian litters. The other theory is that after the Second World War, when there were only a dozen Abyssinians left in England, breeders allowed illegal cross-breedings. A long-haired breed, such as the Persian (which did not have a flat nose at this time), could be responsible for the appearance of the longhair gene in long-haired Abyssinians. The long-haired offspring were initially removed from the farms, but since the gene is recessive, it could have resurfaced only several years later. Still, in the 1950s, in the United States, breeders paid attention to these little "erroneous Abyssinians", valued them and created a new breed. They were called the Somalis in honour of the country of the same name, which neighbours Ethiopia, formerly known as Abyssinia. They are now a very popular breed around the globe.
Physical characteristics of the Somali
Female : Between 12 and 14 in
Male : Between 12 and 14 in
This cat reaches full maturity relatively late, between 1 and a half and 2 years.
Female : Between 7 and 9 lb
Male : Between 9 and 11 lb
Ruddy, cinnamon (red), blue, fawn
The Somali has exactly the same colour genes as the Abyssinian. The coat is the result of the Agouti gene. Each hair’s pigments are separated along it, in 4 to 6 bands of pale and dark alternating colours. The result is a warm, iridescent colouring. The hare colour is formed by an alternation of orange and black bands, similar to a hare’s fur in summer. This cinnamon coat resembles that of a puma and is composed of light apricot and dark cinnamon hues. The colours blue and fawn are the genetic dilution of the hare and cinnamon colours. This cat is also found with chocolate and ginger genes, and their dilutions, lilac and cream. All these coats can be modified by the silver gene, which makes the pale colour of the coat a silvery white.
Type of coat
Gold / yellow, hazel, coppery, green.
Of regal appearance, this feline’s head is a well proportioned, rounded triangle, trimmed with a delicate collar. Their large rounded almond eyes shine with intelligence. The ears, two large flared domes low on the skull, always seem to be listening. Average in size, the body is muscular but slender. They’re thought to be heavier than they really are, because of the longer hair on their flanks and rump. Very feline in their posture, a Somali always seems to tiptoe as if ready to pounce. Finally, a graceful tail completes the portrait of this elegant and refined cat.
Good to know
The variety of pigmentation of the fur gives each colour of coat an equally variable degree of softness.
Each individual is different, but in general, they love to be stroked. Once you’ve won your cat’s confidence, he’ll be almost too affectionate.
Tirelessly playful, they will remain so all their lives. They will need high places and diversity to be happy.
This cat is all but calm. They simply enjoy playing too much.
Very curious, they’re interested in everything that happens around them and will always want to join in!
Fearful / wary of strangers
If the Somali needs time to get used to a new person, the best way to earn his trust is undoubtedly to play with him.
Despite a reputation for indepence, this cat will nevertheless be a very present member of the family.
Behaviour of the Somali
Discreet and melodious, the chatter of a Somali is generally pleasant, if sometimes insistent.
Need for exercise / Sporty
Even though the Somali’s appearance might suggest otherwise, this is a very active cat that needs to play every day.
Tendency to run away
Their curiosity can sometimes lead them astray but they’ll always be loyal to their owners.
Greedy / Gluttony
This playful character can also be a great eater ... Interactive bowls can satisfy his two basic needs.
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Somali and cats
By providing an adequate introduction, the Somali may well appreciate, or at least tolerate, the presence of another feline, even if he does not feel the need to do so.
Somali and dogs
A Somali can develop a beautiful bond with a dog, provided they are introduced respectfully. If he is uncomfortable, it is important to respect him and offer the Somali some raised places so he can be out of reach.
Somali and children
An active family with children can be the perfect fit for this feline, as long as the individual cat’s personality is comfortable with children!
Somali and the elderly
Energetic like their short-haired cousin, they may be a bit too much for a quiet home.
On average, the price of a Somali is approximately £400, depending on lineage, age, provenance, gender, etc. It will cost £30/month on average to provide for their needs, to offer a quality diet and ensure good health.
The Somali requires brushing almost daily, especially on the tail and collar, but their non-woolly fur and is quite easy to maintain.
This cat does not lose hair in very large quantities, especially if their diet is of good quality.
Nutrition of the Somali
This cat’s caloric needs are a little higher than average because of their high level of activity. But to avoid excess weight gain, do not overdo it.
Health of the Somali
On average they live 13 to 15 years.
Strong / robust
These cats are typically quite robust.
Tendency to put on weight
You’ll need to make sure this cat stays active to avoid him becoming overweight.
Generally healthy, Somalis can still succumb to the same illnesses as all other cats. They are susceptible to periodontal disease (gingivitis and tartar build-up). Prevention and dental care are recommended. They can equally suffer from the same genetic diseases as their Abyssinian counterparts:
- Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency, which causes anemia (genetic testing is available)
- Progressive Atrophy of Retina, which causes blindness (genetic testing is available)
- Amyloidosis, which leads to irreversible renal failure following the deposition of amyloid in the body. (No genetic test for the moment, but the cautiousness and vigilance of breeders has nevertheless slowed down the disease).
A Somali can be mated with an Abyssinian, since they are essentially a descendant of the latter. Kittens from this cross may be long-haired, in which case they will be recognized as Somalis. They may also be born with short hair and in this case, recognized as Abyssinian carriers of the “long hair” gene.