The striking coat of a Somali Cat is sure to catch your eye. But their loving personality and playfulness will catch your heart! Learn more about the Somali Cat’s history, trainability, and grooming needs in this Cat Breed Corner!
Weight – 3.5 – 5.5kg
Lifespan – 12 – 16 years
Country of Origin: United States
Best breed for:
- Families that spend a lot of time at home
- Families with children
- Households with other pets
Somali Cat Breed History ♜
There are some cats that make you feel like you’re in the presence of feline royalty. Clearly, this distinguished cat must be part of some beautiful ancient breed of felines who have roamed the landscape of Somalia for thousands of years.
Well, not quite.
Somali cats are actually a recent breed; their history doesn’t even cover a full century. And, they have nothing to do with Somalia. So, what is this cat’s history, then?
Unfortunately, there are conflicting reports as to how the Somali cat was developed. But we’ll share some of the more prominent theories.
The first one suggests that the Somali was a complete accident. There are rumours that in post-war Britain, cat fanciers were trying to salvage the Abyssinian breed after it had been decimated during WWII. The cat breeders relied upon the cats that were available, including perhaps the ever scrappy Domestic Longhair. But, when they saw that the kittens they produced were not true to the Abyssian they loved, the cat fanciers gave up the endeavour.
The more widely accepted story of Somali origin takes place ten to fifteen years later, in the US. Throughout the 1960s, cat breeders were experimenting with all kinds of cat crossings, one of which was a new long-haired Abyssinian. The American responsible for the new breed was New Jersey-based cat fancier, Evelyn Mague. While long-haired Abyssians had long been shunned in the cat world, Evelyn saw the potential in the breed. So she put the word out to find other long-haired Abyssians in Canada, Europe, and Australia and found that she wasn’t the only one in possession of one of these long-haired beauties. Her next step was to recruit other cats to broaden the gene pool, and the new breed, which she named Somali, was born.
Exactly which breeds went into the new Somali cat lineage is unknown, but there’s probably some influence of Burmese and Russian Blues. The longhaired gene itself might have come from a longhaired cat breed or appeared as a natural mutation.
There’s one thing left to talk about here: the name. Why call these cats Somali? Well, Evelyn wanted to tip her hat to the original cats responsible for her new breed, Abyssians. Formerly known Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) is bordered by Somalia, hence, the sister breed of the Abyssinian is the Somali Cat.
Somali Cats have gained popularity for their gorgeous coat and eye colours, but even more so for their personality. A wonderful family cat, the Somali has become a beloved pet all over the world.
Somali Cat Personality Traits ★
Somali Cats have a lot in common with the bold, boisterous Abyssinian. But you’ll also find a few lovable qualities that are unique to the Somali.
Let’s start with the similarities. For one, Somali Cats are just as outgoing and social as the Abyssinian. They will follow their beloved humans from room to room and rarely give much of a thought to personal space. In fact, whether you’re working from home or trying to tidy up, this faithful cat will be around to provide moral support.
As such, Somalis don’t enjoy alone time. Owners who can’t be at home most of the time should consider the help of a Pet Sitter or perhaps another cat for company. Otherwise, the Somali is liable to take out their frustrations on your home.
Also like the Abyssinian, the Somali Cat has a sweet soft meow. They’re not as vocal as other cat breeds, and when they do want to chat, their little chirps will melt your heart.
Finally, the Abyssinian and the Somali are equally clever. Their high intelligence and active personalities can make them difficult to handle if they’re not given proper outlets. And, their curiosity and excellent problem-solving skills mean that even closed doors and drawers are no match for the lovably nosey Somali cat.
So, what makes this cat unique compared to their Abyssinian ancestors? They tend to be a bit more mellow. Somalis can sometimes be shy around newcomers, but not exactly standoffish. They simply prefer to be affectionate with their close family members. And, while curious, Somalis may not be quite as assertive as Abyssinians. They want to know what you’re doing, but they may not be so quick to stick their whiskers in your business.
Trainability & Training Tips
Not all cats will take to training as easily as this one. These felines are so people-oriented, curious, and active, that you’ll find training a Somali cat easy and enjoyable.
The easiest way to train these cats is with treats. Somalis love attention, but they love their favourite snacks even more. So, get a handful of treats and get started with some basic commands like sit, shake, and roll-over. Somali Cats can even be taught to fetch, and once they’ve learned that fun game, they may pester you all day to drop what you’re doing and throw their favourite toy.
Because these cats are so active and curious, training can also be a good way to keep them out of trouble. If you want your Somali to stay off camera for your Zoom meetings or out of the kitchen when you’re cooking, you can train this cat to stay in specific areas. You’ll want to provide them with plenty of cat trees or cat-friendly ledges where you can instruct them to sit and wait for their treat.
Somalis are people-pleasing, but they’ve also got a naughty side, so training is a good way to incentivise them to follow your house rules. With positive reinforcement training and plenty of treats, your Somali will learn quickly that listening to your commands has a better payoff than their own troublesome games. And, the added bonus of training is that it gives this intelligent cat a chance at mental stimulation. If you can incorporate training that makes them think, you’ll be amazed at how engaged they are in the process!
Exercise Needs & Living Conditions ⌂
If you ever want your Somali Cat to curl up and cuddle with you, you’ll need to get them on a rigorous workout schedule. These cats have a lot of energy, and aren’t likely to want to cuddle up unless they’re absolutely exhausted.
The good news is, Somali Cats do a great job of entertaining themselves. As long as they’ve got an array of toys, space to roam, and cat-friendly perches to jump on, Somalis will naturally find ways to have fun on their own.
That said, leaving them up to their own devices might not be enough to keep them healthy and happy. One-on-one guided playtime is a better way to make sure they’re getting enough exercise. And, you can work on their athleticism and strength by making good use of your vertical spaces. Jumping and climbing, in other words, are the best ways to exercise this athletic cat.
As we mentioned, because Somalis are so social, having another pet in the house is another good way to keep them active. Somalis especially love other high energy cats; more mellow felines are likely to get grouchy with the rambunctious Somali cat bothering them to play.
And, if you’re up to teaching this cat how to walk on a leash, they’ll love to explore the outside world with you. With their brave and self-assured attitude, Somalis are wonderful walking companions!
Somali Cat Health +
In general, Somali cats are pretty healthy, although it’s always a good idea to be wary of highly sought after cats, as there’s a risk of irresponsible breeding practices. With the right screening, though, Owners have a short list of health concerns to look out for:
- Progressive retinal atrophy
- Renal amyloidosis, a type of kidney disease common in Abyssinian cats
- Patellar luxation
Keeping a Somali cat healthy is fairly easy. They need some guided exercise but aren’t likely to become overweight. And a balanced diet will help them recoup the energy they lose during their energetic playtime.
Somalis, like all cats, should be seen regularly by their vet to monitor their growth and get ahead of any health concerns.
Grooming & Care ✄
The Somali Cat didn’t just adopt their amiable personality from the Abyssinian. They also inherited a gorgeous and distinctive coat that is quite rare in the cat world.
Both of these cats have what’s called a ticked coat. Don’t worry, it has nothing to do with ticks. Rather, a ticked coat refers to the unique colouring of the Somali Cat, which is made up of agouti, or banded, hairs. What this means is that each hair follicle has both light and dark colour bands, giving the Somali a complex and beautiful coat. You’ll notice darker fur around the head and spine, with lighter auburn or grey fur on the rest of the body.
But, as complicated as the genetics are, grooming this luxurious coat is fairly simple. Somalis sport a lightweight fur that is more wispy than fluffy. To keep it from tangling, Owners should brush or comb this longhaired cat every few days or as needed.
Somalis do shed, but they don’t have that downy undercoat that really gives Pet Owners a hard time. And, the shedding will pick up when the seasons change, but again, it’s not as much as you might see with other longhaired cats.
While the Somali cat is not hypoallergenic, their grooming needs are a definite advantage. This is a great cat for anyone who loves the look of a longhair cat but doesn’t want a ton of maintenance to go along with it.
Some Somali cat owners choose to bathe their feline friend, but this isn’t a requirement. Unless your cat loves water and or has grown accustomed to taking baths as a kitten, bathing may stress out an otherwise brave Somali. And, on the other hand, it’s simply not necessary. Unlike cats with thicker dust-trapping fur, bathing won’t have much of an effect on the Somali’s generally clean fur coat.
Fun Fact about the Somali Cat ♥
Somali cats can get into all kinds of trouble, and that’s thanks in part to their unique paws. Somalis have an amazing level of dexterity in their paws that allows them to grab treats, slide doors, and even turn knobs when their watchful humans are distracted.
If you hold a treat in your closed hand in front of at Somali, you can see those flexible toe beans go to work.
Final Thoughts on the Somali Cat
Somali cats are usually mentioned in the same breath as the Abyssinian, but clearly, they deserve their own fame and recognition! These gorgeous cats may have a lot in common with their parent breed, but they’ve developed some adorable traits of their own.
Somalis are great family pets, and will get along with everyone from children to other pets. And, while they may not warm up immediately to house guests or strangers, it doesn’t take long for them to come around. They’d much rather be in the care of a friendly Pet Sitter than left alone for too long.
Make sure to give this cat plenty of opportunities to play, problem-solve, and explore, as their curiosity and energy can make them difficult to handle otherwise. In fact, many Owners opt to throw a second cat in the mix to help manage this cat’s active lifestyle.
Grooming and general care are easy for the Somali, who has a low-maintenance coat and few health concerns.
Overall, the Somali is much more than just a stunning fur coat. They’ve got the personality and quirkiness to draw everyone in, and life with a Somali cat is full of surprises and smiles!