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Somali Breed Description

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Breed Organization

TICA Executive Office

The Cat Fanciers' Association

Native Country

Other Names
Longhaired Abyssinian, Fox Cat

Coat Length

Life Expectancy
No Information Available

General Description

Like its Abyssinian forebear, the Somali has a ticked coat: each hair on its body has three to 12 bands of color that produce a vibrant shimmer when the cat is in full coat. The striking facial markings resemble eyeliner. The Somali is a natural hunter that thrives on outdoor activities and will only accept confinement if introduced to it at an early age.

The usual or ruddy Somali is golden brown ticked with black. There are 28 colors of Somali in total although certain organizations accept only some of these colors. All organizations that register Somalis permit usual (also known as ruddy), sorrel (a.k.a. red), blue, and fawn. Most clubs also recognize usual/ruddy silver, sorrel/red silver, blue silver, and fawn silver. Other colors that may be accepted by some registries include chocolate, lilac, red, cream, usual-tortie, sorrel-tortie, blue-tortie, fawn-tortie, chocolate-tortie, lilac-tortie, and silver variants of these (e.g. blue-tortie silver).

Breed Standard

Head: Viewed from the front, shaped like a triangle with rounded contours. Slightly domed forehead. In profile, the head has a gentle curve. Muzzle neither small nor pointed. A whisker pinch is a fault. Nose of medium length, without stop. Firm, well-developed chin.
Eyes: Large, almond-shaped, well-spaced, with dark markings below the eyes. Above each eye is a short vertical marking (remnants of the tabby "M"). Color: amber, green, gold.
Neck: Carried gracefully.
Body: Medium in size and length, semi-foreign type, graceful. Slightly arched back. Powerful muscles.
Paw: Long and thin, well-muscled. Compact, oval paws. The Somali appears to stand on tiptoe.
Tail: Long, carried high, and well-furnished like that of a fox.
Coat: Semilong, dense, very fine, and soft hair. Short on the face, front of the legs, and shoulders; semilong on the back, flanks, chest, and belly. It is long on the throat (ruff), behind the thighs (britches), and tail (plume). The undercoat is not long as in the Persian. Color: Ticked coat, that is, the presence on each hair of alternating bands of dark and light coloration. At least two or three bands, up to eight banks. The tip of the hair must have a dark band. Let us mention several varieties: - ruddy ("usually" in Great Britain): black bands and apricot bands - blue: slate blue bands and cream bands - red (or sorrel): chocolate bands and apricot bands - fawn beige: dark cream bands and dull beige bands - black silver: black bands and white bands - sorrel silver: chocolate bands and white bands - blue silver: blue bands and white bands The C.F.A. accepts the ruddy, red, blue, and fawn. A greater number of colors is accepted in Europe.
Fault: Round, Siamese type head. Pronounced stop. Round eyes without markings the same color as ticking. Small or pointed ears. Body too stocky. Short legs and tail. Disqualify: absence of or too little ticking. Ringed tail and legs. Whip tail. White locket, markings on the belly, etc.


For a long time, kittens with semilong, soft hair appeared in litters of Abyssinians (which were actually of a much heavier type than today). But breeders were not interested in them and did not use them in reproduction. The gene responsible for semilong hair was probably introduced by crossing Abyssinians with longhaired cats (Persians or Angoras). In Canada, it was not until the 1960s that breeders Don Richings and Mary Mailing and judge Ken MacGill became interested in these new cats. In 1967, American breeder Evelyn Mague managed to pin down the semilonghair gene in Abyssinians. The new breed was named the Somali, in reference to the neighboring country of Ethiopia, the supposed birthplace of the Abyssinian. Mague founded the Lynn Lee Cattery and the first breed club in the United States. She showed the first Somali in 1972. The C.F.A. recognized the breed in 1978. Lynn Lee's Picasso and Lynn Lee's Pearl, two Somalis from Mague's cattery, arrived in France in 1979. The F.I.Fe. approved the breed in 1982. It is highly prized by more and more people.


This very lively cat is active but not exuberant. Hardy, well-balanced, and even-tempered, he is calmer than the Abyssinian. Somalis have a gentle temperament and are sociable toward other cats and strangers. Very playful, they get along well with children. Gentle and very affectionate, they demand lots of attention but are less possessive than the Abyssinian. Although a bit sensitive to cold. In terms of grooming, they require only weekly brushing. During shedding, they should be brushed daily. Somali kittens are born with nearly bicolor coats: dark on the back and light on the underparts. Ticking appears very gradually. Similarly, the length and final appearance of the coat are not attained until the second year.


The Somali cat is usually healthy, with few breed-related health issues, though some problems may occur. These include gingivitis, tooth decay, and renal amyloidosis, which are also seen in many other breeds of cats. Renal amyloidosis (often called RA) is a condition in which there is a deposition of the protein amyloid in various tissues which hinders that part of the body's normal functioning. Other problems that are prevalent in most cat breeds, the Somali included, are feline infectious anemia (FIA) and autoimmune-mediated hemolytic anemia (AIHA). Some AIHA-related diseases are inherited erythrocyte disorders, such as pyruvate kinase deficiency and osmotic fragility.

Recently found in cats has been myelodysplasia. It is normally known to affect humans but was recently found in a litter of Somali kittens. Like AIHA, myelodysplasia causes anemia and is speculated to be the cause of anemia in Somalis in the past.

Somalis may also have hereditary retinal degeneration due to a mutation in the rdAc allele. This mutation is also seen in Abyssinians, Siamese cats, and other related breeds.

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