ABOUT ABYS


BREED INFO | ABY VIDEOS | ABY CARE | FOOD & NUTRITION | ABY COLORS & GENETICS


ABOUT THE BREED

The Abyssinian is generally recognized as the oldest breed. Abys were companions for the Egyptian pharaohs. They were also prized for their mouse catching abilities. Grain was one of the most important Egyptian commodities and Abys were quite good at protecting it. In ancient Egypt if a person killed a cat even by accident, the penalty was death. Cats are still treated with respect and kept as companions in Cairo and other Egyptian cities, although street cats that look like Abys are now mostly found in northern India near and in Calcutta, because the wild ancestor of the Aby, the jungle cat (Felis chaus), is still found there.

The history of the Abyssinian cat - Abyssinian Cat Association - with old photos.


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Abyssinians have been bred as much for their friendly and affectionate nature as for their beauty and agility. As a breed, they are quite fearless and outgoing, coming to the door to greet strangers and going at once to investigate noises. They usually get along very well with other cats and with dogs and other animals.

Abys are always on the go! Some are lap cats and others prefer to sit or sleep next to you when they are finished playing. Even though they are quite independent Abys always take time to say hello and purr and rub against you before going to investigate something else. They often love to play fetch and will bring you a favorite toy to throw for them over and over again. They are naturals in cat agility contests such as ICAT. They vary in nature from very active and involved to gentle and loving. They act like kittens all of their life, especially during play. They look like little cougars or mountain lions.

They are the quietest breed of cats, usually only trilling once in a while. Although they can and do meow like other cats when they are upset it is usually at a much lower volume. They are very people-oriented and want to be around you even when they are playing with each other. They will "help" you with whatever you happen to be doing, too! They are loyal friends who always seem to know when you need an extra snuggle or purrs.


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Here are some videos of Abyssinians:

Learn about Abyssinian cats as pets - About.com Video

Ideal companion: Abyssinian - YouTube Video

Abyssinian kittens playing - Dancer's Kittens - YouTube Video

4 1/2 week old Aksum Aby kittens playing - YouTube video

Adorable Aby Kittens - YouTube Video - Helmi Flick, cat photographer extraordinaire and her cat wrangler husband Ken, photograph some cute Abyssinian kittens.  Before and during the photo shoot - video  Photos by Helmi

Mango Madness - very cute and very Aby pictures of an adorable Abyssinian named Mango and some of his Aby friends from around the world

Note: Please respect the copyrights.

Aksum Abyssinians prizes this fearless, sweet nature and selects for it more than any other feature (after health, of course) as we choose the next generation of Abys.


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ABY CARE

Regular care
Abys don't need much daily care. They shed about as much as any other cat, a little more in the spring and fall at normal shedding times. They enjoy being groomed, but it is not necessary to bathe or groom them every day or even every week or month. One reason for this is their resilient shorthair coat which stays neatly in place and is one of the breed standards. They also tend to be very neat cats, keeping themselves clean.

Allergies to cats: like most cats, Abys cause allergic reactions in sensitive people. However, it turns out that people have a lot less allergic reactions to particular cats, especially spayed females (another link to hypoallergenic breeds) than to un-neutered male cats of other breeds, for example (385 vs. 62,000 mg/g of Fel d1 in fur samples). Neutered female Siberians probably have the least allergic reactions (at 205 mg/g). This is not a guarantee that any person will not be allergic to them. Here are some tips for allergy sufferers who want to own a cat despite their allergies: 1) take antihistamines regularly, and whatever other medications your doctor suggests, 2) go to an allergy specialist and take allergy shots to be de-sensitized to cats and other allergens, 3) don't allow them into your bedroom, where you sleep, and 4) wipe them down with a damp paper towel once or twice a day and throw away the paper towel after you are finished.

Clip your Aby's claws front and back once every week or two. If you need help learning how, ask a groomer or your vet to teach you or do it for you. Only clip the clear part of the claw at the tip, and clip it from the side. This will reduce the scratches you receive and the damage they do to furniture. There are several more things you can do to reduce furniture damage from your Aby's claws, starting with providing several sisal rope scratching posts, at least one in each room, especially where they have already tried to scratch the furniture. You can also use 'fake nails' on Abys that you can find in most pet stores, which are glued on and need to be replaced every 2-4 weeks. This will also help your cat not try to climb your curtains!

Aby ears should be cleaned about once every month or two with a feline ear cleaning solution, preferably one with neem oil in it since this also naturally eliminates fungus and yeast infections (we use and prefer M&C Ear Cleaner with neem oil). Hold the head still while squeezing a few drops into the ear canal. Massage the base of the ear from the outside. Let the cat shake their head, then wipe the ear clean with a cotton swab or paper towel.

Your Aby's teeth need to be examined once a year during the annual vet check and if necessary, their teeth should be cleaned, usually when they get older. This usually costs $100-$200 each time. You can avoid your cat having dental surgery if you clean your Aby's teeth daily with a paste from a pet store, with a cat product that has chlorhexidine in it, or even with regular baking soda. Like us, cats can have serious health issues, particularly with their kidneys, if their teeth are not cleaned regularly. With good dental care, they can live years longer. They can also die during dental surgery of complications from anesthesia as in any surgery, so be careful to balance these two aspects of your cat's life. If necessary because of gum disease, stomatitis, or tooth decay, asking your vet to pull your cat's teeth can prolong life and quality of life, including helping to prevent kidney disease, which is linked to gum disease in cats and humans. Cats don't need their teeth to eat normal food, even dry food.


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Vaccinations & Surgery
It is best to vaccinate your Aby at 16 weeks old and again at one year old, then once every three years with a modified live virus (MLV) vaccine, preferably Merial Purevax 3-in-1. Talk to your veterinarian about the best way to avoid over-vaccination and consider ELISA testing instead of vaccinating again, especially for an older cat that has had vaccines every year of their life.

If you get your kitten before they are 16 weeks old, please remember to give the last kitten vaccination when they reach 16 weeks old or older so the maternal antibodies won't interfere with the vaccine and the vaccination's protection will last until the 12 month old booster.

If a rabies vaccination is required by law, use the 1-year Merial Purevax Recombinant Rabies ONLY. Abys are sensitive to vaccinations. Indoor cats do not need Feline Leukemia vaccinations, which are not 100% guaranteed to work anyway, and most (about 85%) adult cats have a natural immunity to Feline Leukemia, so it is NOT considered a "core" or necessary vaccination for indoor cats. The FIV vaccine is REALLY not a good idea, since it will cause your cat to test positive for FIV aftereward.

Don't declaw your Aby, or any cat, for that matter. It's cruel and leaves them defenseless. Here is an article from The Conscious Cat about declawing. Don't ever let your Aby outside as their curious and friendly nature will lead them inevitably to tragedy (run over by a car, killed by a dog or other cat, killed by an animal abuser, killed and eaten by a coyote, etc.) and they are very likely to be stolen as well. Outdoor cats live an average of 2-3 years. Your indoor Aby has a good chance of living well into their teens and even up to 20 years old!

Tell your veterinarian before any surgery that Abys have been known to be sensitive to anesthetic and pre-anesthetic and to watch carefully for any reactions to these. There are usually antidotes they can give if there is a reaction. Gas can be used instead in most cases, spay or neuter for example. Regarding spay/neuter, your cat does NOT need to have a litter of kittens first! Please be a responsible pet owner and spay/neuter your kitten. Please don't contribute to the homeless pet population! There are many places nationwide that will spay/neuter your cat for a reduced cost. For example, here in Atlanta CatSnip and others charge $60 for a spay and $40 for a neuter. We ALWAYS spay/neuter our kittens before they leave us to go to their new pet homes.


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Nutrition
We use and recommend feeding only fresh meat (raw or cooked lightly) and/or canned food without grains, but with vitamins and minerals, especially Vitamin A and taurine. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning that they require a high percent of meat protein in their diet (minimum of 40% protein by dry weight) to receive complete nutrition. We prefer Wild Calling, Organics by Nature Turkey & Chicken and Weruva canned food (at least 10% protein on the side of the can). Our favorite dry food is Young Again Cat Food - especially Mature for older males and neuters, Pinnacle, and Fromm (from Chewy.com or Petfooddirect.com) in different flavors. These foods have not had a recall. These can all be bought online and delivered to your door.

Here is an interesting look at the ingredients in a typical cat food with grains in it.

I have completed the thorough trial with Young Again Cat Food with my cats. I have found with free feeding all of them, that the neutered cats lose weight naturally to a very healthy size, and the pregnant and nursing cats keep their weight up, even the ones that used to have trouble with that because they're small. They also drink more water (which is good because there is less chance of urinary tract infections and crystals) and after about 2-4 weeks, they slowly ate less, to about half of the amount they used to eat and still kept their weight at a very healthy size. My friends who used it after my recommendation are also happy with it, and their cats are also moving to or staying at a very healthy weight.

Free feeding is much easier for a busy lifestyle and to me, much more natural a way to feed. I am very happy with these results. There is an affiliate program, but I chose not to join it and sell the product because I prefer to refer people to it without any bias, just as a happy customer. I also really like Young Again's brand new supplement to add to raw food, and my cats like it very much too. My favorite raw food is Kitten Mix by Blue Ridge Beef, since it has beef, organs, chicken, and bone and is a finely ground raw food.

The preferred percentage of protein, fat and carbohydrates in Young Again is deliberately similar to what the cat has eaten in the wild for thousands of years: mice. Mice have about 55% protein, 30% fat, and 2% carbohydrates in their bodies (dry weight analysis, after water is removed, since there can be varying amounts of water). Therefore we recommend looking at the ingredients list and buying dry cat food that has at least 40% protein, 20% fat, and less than 10% carbohydrates (preferably about 5% carbs). For canned food, it should say at least 10% protein, 4% fat and less than 2% carbs. Exact percentages for canned food can be calculated using dry weight analysis (protein% divided by the non-water% -- for a canned food that says 11% protein and 78% water, the non-water or dry percent of the food is 100%-78%=22%, and the equation is 11/22=50%). Here is some more information on the best, most nutritious diet for your cat.

Read the book "Your Cat: Simple New Secrets to a Longer, Stronger Life" by Elizabeth M. Hodgkins, D.V.M., Esq. It explains the basics of feline nutrition, which is VERY different from human or canine nutrition.

A good probiotic mixed in their food every day like Only Natural Pet Probiotic or GNC Super Probiotic Complex (my current favorite) or GNC Ultra Probiotic Complex 25 Packets helps an Aby's immune system stay healthy (most of the immune system cells are in the intestine). It also helps treat IBD/IBS (Irritable Bowel) and is great for helping to repopulate the intestines with good bacteria during and after antibiotics. This is the same probiotics that we humans need and is also in live cultured yogurt.

I have also heard that giving CoQ10 to your cat every day helps keep their gums healthy, if you see any problems with gum disease starting. Healthy gums help keep your cat's kidney healthy, there is a direct connection between gum disease and kidney disease for people and cats.

Since they were originally desert animals, like most cats Abyssinians naturally don't drink much water. The majority of their water comes from food. However, to encourage them to drink more, especially when they are fed mostly dry food, always keep a clean bowl of fresh water available for your cat. Metal or ceramic bowls are easier to keep clean than plastic ones. A constantly recycled water supply in a fountain like the Raindrop is even better because it encourages your cat to drink because they are attracted to running water, and it also filters the water. You will still have to clean it regularly, however. We use a 10% bleach solution or chlorhexidine 4% when cleaning food and water bowls by hand, and regularly put them through the dishwasher. You can also add a tablespoon of colloidal silver to the water and it will reduce the number of bacteria that live in it, keeping it cleaner and better tasting.

The best natural cat litter we've found is World's Best Cat Litter, Extra Strength. Sprinkle baking soda liberally on the bottom of the litterbox, then pour 3-4" deep of the litter, then sprinkle some Earth Friendly Products Kitty Litter Treatment or more baking soda on top. If you want to save some money, Purina Layena corn chicken feed is very similar to World's Best Cat Litter and is $11-$15 per 50 lb bag from your local feed store. Use the baking soda the same way with the generic version (although you may need more of it). Our second favorite cat litter is Tidy Cat Immediate Odor Control scoopable clay litter.

We have Litter Robots now and LOVE them! They keep the litterbox fresh and they really work!

Here is the ASPCA's simple guide to a poison safe home.

Here is the current pet food recall list by the FDA.


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ABY COLORS

The four main Abyssinian colors recognized by TICA and other cat registration organizations are: ruddy (rich dark brown also known as usual or tawny), blue (the dilute of ruddy, a slate blue-gray), cinnamon (rich deep cinnamon-red also called sorrel or red), and fawn (the dilute of cinnamon, a pale tan).

Abyssinian Color Comparisons
Actual photos from each different color of Aby

New and unusual colors recently approved for Championship titles and points in TICA and GCCF are: chocolate (rich dark reddish-brown, called brown in genetic dna testing) and lilac (the dilute of chocolate, a pale cream with very light blue-gray or lavender shading). The silver versions of the six colors above are also recently approved by TICA for titles and points, for a total of 12 approved colors. For consistency, we use the TICA color names for Abyssinians on this website.


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SEX-LINKED RED BREEDING PROGRAM

Aksum Abyssinians is following in Alexy Abyssinians' footsteps with our sex-linked red breeding program. Until recently, these new colors were only available in the UK and Europe, bringing the total Aby colors to 28! The new red colors are the torbies (ruddy, blue, chocolate, lilac, cinnamon, or fawn torbie females), red males and females, and cream males and females. Be one of the first to have an Aby with a rare new color!

Linc, a sex-linked red male
Helmi Flick Cat Photography
Mikey, a cream male,
dilute of red

Helmi Flick Cat Photography

These sex-linked red Abyssinians are TICA registered with the normal SBT registration numbers. Their kittens, or even their littermates, can be shown in TICA for Championship titles and Regional and International points, if they are one of the colors approved for Championship. They are pure Abyssinian just like any other TICA registered Abyssinian, and are exactly the same except for their color. These colors have been bred in Europe and the U.K. since 1980, so they are not new. They are only somewhat new and rare here in the U.S.


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ABYSSINIAN COLOR GENETICS - USUAL

All Abys have ticked tabby coats, which means each hair has bands of different colors starting with a lighter color at the base, in a modified tabby pattern. The ticked tabby is a result of the Agouti gene (which forms the bands of color on each hair) and a mutated form of the common tabby gene (which is often referred to as the "Abyssinian tabby"). You can still see a small portion of the original tabby pattern in the classic "M" on the forehead of all Abyssinians as well as their white chin, which is also part of the tabby pattern.


Ticked Hairs of an Abyssinian

Ruddy, chocolate and cinnamon are "black" colors and are called "black" because the hair color of the cat changes to ruddy, chocolate or cinnamon based on the position of the black color gene on the black color allele. Without the modifying factors of the ticked tabby genes and the different positioning of the black color allele, the cat would be solid black in color. Ruddy is dominant over chocolate, and chocolate is dominant over cinnamon (the darker the color, the more dominant it is). Cinnamon is the most recessive color. (Also see http://www.messybeast.com/gene-loci.htm for how this works.)


Rocket, a ruddy male (genetically black or B)


Sunrise, a chocolate female (genetically brown or b)
Photo by Helmi Flick


Kopper, a cinnamon male (genetically light brown or b1)

Abyssinians as a modern breed started in England. Unfortunately, the original type and two nice attributes (ear tufts and dark hocks) of the Aby have been mostly lost in Abyssinians here in the U.S. We are working to get these nice ear tufts and dark hocks back into our lines while also keeping the moderate body type with the rounded contours of the modified wedge for the head. We do NOT prefer the more Oriental look that some Abys have, with a flattened head and very low big ears. To that end, we are choosing our breeding Abys carefully as well as importing from overseas.


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ABYSSINIAN COLOR GENETICS - SEX-LINKED RED

Tortoiseshell or tortie colored Abys have a random mix of sex-linked red and "black" which is called "torbie" because it is short for tortoiseshell tabby.

You may have seen torties and calicos in domestic cats before, and noticed they are all female. The red gene is sex-linked (meaning that it is only on the X gene of the sex-linked alleles that determine the sex, male or female, of animals such as fruit flies, mice, cats and humans). This is a different gene placement than the black color gene and therefore coexists with the black gene (the cat has both colors).

The patchy look of the tortie is caused by one of the two female X genes being "turned off" (mostly) at random during embryonic development creating inactivated X chromosomes in each cell, called Barr bodies. If the sex-linked red X is the one turned off, the color of that hair is the "black" color. If the "black" colored X is turned off, the color of the hair becomes the dominant sex-linked red.

Since males only have one X gene (they are XY) and females have two (XX), only female Abys can be torbie with the sex-linked red color and the "black" color, one on each X gene. The very rare male exceptions to this are usually sterile and have three genes (XXY) instead of the usual XY for male or a chimera with four genes (XXXY) which can sometimes sire kittens.

If the sire (father) of the kittens is a sex-linked red like Linc and the queen (mother) is NOT sex-linked red, all female kittens will be torbies and all male kittens will be one of the "black" colors (ruddy, chocolate, or cinnamon or their dilutes). None of the kittens will be sex-linked red or cream. This is because the females have two X genes, and one of them must come from their sire which always has the sex-linked red gene. However, the other X gene for the female kittens must be a "black" color since it comes from the non-sex-linked-red queen. The males can only get the Y gene from the sire, so they cannot be sex-linked red if the queen isn't sex-linked red, because their X gene must come from the queen.

If the sire of the kittens is a sex-linked red like Linc and the queen is a torbie like Sky, male kittens may be sex-linked red or cream OR one of the "black" colors, and the female kittens will be torbies OR an extremely rare sex-linked red or cream female. The male kittens get their Y gene from their sire and since only one of a torbie queen's X genes carry red, they can get a sex-linked red X gene, or not, from the queen. The female kittens get one X gene from the sire (always sex-linked-red) and one from the queen (can be sex-linked red or not) and therefore can be torbie or sex-linked red or cream.

If the sire IS NOT sex-linked red and the queen IS sex-linked red or cream (not a torbie) like Sky's mother Ginger, all male kittens will be sex-linked red or cream, and all female kittens will be torbies. The male kittens get their Y gene from their sire and since both of the queen's X genes carry red, they get a sex-linked red X gene from the queen. The female kittens get one X gene from the sire (non-sex-linked-red) and one from the queen (must be sex-linked red) and therefore are torbie.

If the sire IS NOT sex-linked red and the queen IS a torbie like Sky, male kittens may be sex-linked red or cream or one of the "black" colors, and the female kittens will be torbies or one of the "black" colors, giving the most diverse possibility of colors for the kittens. The male kittens get their Y gene from their sire and since only one of a torbie queen's X genes carry red, they can get a sex-linked red X gene, or not, from the queen. The female kittens get one X gene from the sire (non-sex-linked-red) and one from the queen (can be sex-linked red or not) and therefore can also be torbie or a "black" color. It is sometimes impossible to tell whether the female kittens have the red gene or not, especially with the cinnamon torbie, as with Rose .

If the sire and queen are both sex-linked red (not torbie), their male kittens will all be sex-linked red or cream and the female kittens will all be sex-linked red or cream. The X genes from sire and queen will all have the sex-linked red gene, which is dominant over all of the "black" colors. On all sex-linked red cats the "black" colors still exist on the black allele and are a part of that cat's genetics. However, all of the hair will be changed to the sex-linked red color by the dominant red gene. (For example, Linc is red but he is also genetically chocolate.)

The Abyssinian ticked tabby genes are not affected by the red gene so as you can see from the Color Comparison photos in the table above, a red Aby looks very much like a cinnamon Aby with the modified tabby pattern and ticking/banding on each hair. Likewise, a fawn torbie looks very close to a fawn, and a cinnamon torbie looks like a cinnamon. One of the distinguishing features that looks most promising is to look at the underneath part of the tip of the tail for bands of white for the torbies or a much whiter color than usual for the reds and creams. And of course, the color is an orange-red as opposed to a brownish red, but without a comparison or experience it is harder to tell the difference.

It is quite challenging and interesting to work with the red sex-linked genes! They are all the same wonderful Abys underneath these interesting and beautiful new colors, however, and except for the color they share the same characteristics in both conformation and personality. The breeder saying is: Build it, then paint it.


If you are into genetics or want to know what the percentages are for a particular breeding, Stacym Somalis has an excellent color genetics chart here where you can look it up! :-)


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Common misspellings for Abyssinian:
Aby Abysinian Abisinian Abyssian Abbyssinian Abbsynian Abbisinian Abyssinan Abysinnian Abyssin
Abys Abysinians Abisinians Abyssians Abbyssinians Abbisinians Abyssinans Abbsynians Abysinnians Abyssin