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Feline Breed Spotlight: Somali

The Somali!

History

The Somali is the long haired version of the Abyssinian. The name suggests that the breed was found and created in Somalia, but that isn’t the case.  The breed actually came about after the second World War, when breeders were trying to breed back populations of the Abyssinian. Due to the lack of breeding stock, some Abyssinian breeders were using cats of unknown linage, and some cats must have been carrying a recessive long haired gene. Many Abyssinian breeders were not pleased with the occurrence of the long haired cats in their litters, and quickly dismissed them out of breeding programs and placed them in homes as pets. A few breeders did like the long haired version and continued to breed them to create a new breed of cat. The name was chosen because Somalia is next to Ethiopia, formerly known as Abyssinia.

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Temperament

Somalis are a very active cat breed. They seem to be continually in motion: jumping, climbing, playing, chasing. Their high energy and active personality leads to your days being filled with endless entertainment. They love their people and love being the centre of their owner’s attention. They are not a very vocal cat and talk in a soft, quiet voice.

Is this breed right for you?

  • The Somali requires regular grooming. Brushing 1-2 times per week will keep their coat shiny, silky and mat free. Expect more shedding in the spring, where brushing may be needed daily.
  • They requires a lot of physical and mental stimulation. If you don”t have the time to spend playing and entertaining a Somali, they may not be the right fit your you.
  • They require vertical space. Ensure you have a few tall cat trees, (preferably in front of a window) for your Somali.

Health concerns

Both pure-bred and mixed-breed cats have varying incidences of health problems that may be either influenced by genetics or environmental factors. Since the Somali and the Abyssinian are historically similar in their genetics, they are susceptible to the same health concerns.  Here are some health concerns that tend to have a higher occurrence in both Somalis and Abyssinians.

Dental disease leading to gingivitis and periodontitis can be more prominent in these breeds.

They can become blind from hereditary retinal degeneration.  The gene responsible for the retinal degeneration can be screened for at some veterinary genetic laboratories.

Breeds more prone to Pyruvate Kinase deficiency include the Somali. This deficiency impairs the red bloods cells’ ability to metabolize. This can cause anemia or other red blood cell related health issues.

Somalis can also have a genetic disorder that can cause renal amyloidosis. This disease causes abnormal amounts of amyloid (a fibrous protein) to collect in healthy kidney tissue, causing the kidneys to not function properly.