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October 26, 2013 at 8:00 AMComments: 0 Faves: 0

The Somali

By Erin Froehlich More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the Feline 101 Blog Series

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Cat of the Week: The Somali

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Fun Facts About Somali Cats

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  • The Fox Cat: The Somali is often called the “little fox cat” - a title it received for its richly-hued, often reddish fur, large ears, full neck ruff, and luxuriously plumed tail.
  • Long-Haired Abyssinians: Now accepted as the longhair version of the more popular Abyssinian breed, the Somali was not always so welcome in the Cat Fancier community. In fact, though experts believe they date back as far as the 1940’s, it wasn’t until 1978 that the Somali received full championship eligibility with the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA). The reason, as seems typically to be the case with these sorts of lengthy feline inductions, stems from the dishonesty of some breeders.
  • A Shady Past: The first Somalis weren’t actually bred intentionally. They were the accidental result of some Abyssinian breeders in England who found their available gene pool dwindling in the 40’s during WWII.  When a few less scrupulous among them secretly out-crossed their queens with what experts believe to Siamese, Burmese, and Russian Blue studs, the long-haired gene was introduced, though not embraced. When long-haired Abyssinian kittens were born, they were quickly given away by breeders who didn’t want their line thought of as “impure.”  It took 20 years for breeders to see the potential appeal in these stunning cats.
  • The Rise of Somalis: Though breeders initially considered pursuing the acceptance of these cats as a long-haired subset of Abyssinian, outspoken opposition and lingering concern over purity implications proved too much, and they decided to go another route. If the Aby community didn’t want them, they’d simple leave and be their own breed.  Spurred by U.S. breeder Evelyn Mague, who herself had adopted an outcasted long-haired Abyssinnian male, the Somali Cat Club of America was founded in 1972. This move finally brought the breed serious consideration by the CFA, and the Somali was finally considered its own unique breed worthy of Champion status in 1978.
  • Misleading Name:  Though you might rightly assume these cats have their roots in Africa, their name is misleading. The name was chosen because, like the Somali and Abyssinian breeds, Somalia borders Abyssinia (now known as Ethiopia).

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How to Spot a Somali

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Long Silken, Ticked Coat. Ironically, the coat that created so much trouble for these cats in the Aby community is probably the most eye-catching, distinctive, and best-loved physical characteristic of this medium-sized, athletic cat! As for color, the coat follows the Abyssinian – color ticked red, blue, ruddy, fawn, and silver versions of all of these. According to the CFA, the ideal coat should be “ warm and glowing” with deeper coloration being more desirable. Regardless of color, Somalis should be darker along their back. White fur anywhere besides the throat or chin is considered a major show cat fault.

Ruffed Neck, Bushy Tail. Though the Somali’s very soft, double coat is generally long, it’s not evenly so. Fur should be shorter on the shoulder and spine, and longest around the neck, haunches, and on their tail which should have that fox-like “full brush” of fur.

Large Eyes and Eyes.  Like the Abyssinian, large, tufted, moderately pointed ears add to the Somali’s alert appearance.  Their big almond-shaped eyes of either gold or green (the deeper color, the better) are emphasized by first a light and then dark line circling them.

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What to Expect from a Somali

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An Active Cat.  Actually, active is probably an understatement. Like the Abyssinian, these cats are athletic and playful. If they don’t get enough exercise you’re going to hear about it – not literally so much, as they tend to be pretty quiet, but they’ll get your attention whipping through the house at night, pushing things off your bookshelves and mantle, climbing the curtains and generally wreaking kitty havoc. For this reason, experts sometimes advise against the breed for older people and people that are often away from home working or otherwise out. However, if you’re willing to devote a good amount of your time at home to active play, this can be overcome.  A second cat that can match their enthusiasm (not an old, crotchety cat or a breed like the leisurely Persian) will also help.

A Smarty Cat.  Not only are these cats active, they’re pretty smart too. They are particularly well known for their ability to open cabinets and grab toys, treats, and your dinner (if you’re not careful!) with a monkey-like use of their paws. To keep them from boredom-inspired mischief, engage them with puzzle toys and chase games.

An Independent Cat. The Somali is an intelligent, active cat who doesn’t really appreciate being forced to stay still in your arms or on your lap. Grab them, and they’ll squiggle and squirm until they have their freedom back again. However, this isn’t to say they aren’t a friendly or loyal breed! They’ll follow you from room to room, curious to see what you’re up to and happier to be near you. The Somali are people cats that love attention, they just demand respect for the gorgeous felines they are.

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More Somali Cats!!!

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 SOURCES

VetStreet: Somali

Animal Planet: Cat Breed Directory: Somali

Cat Fanciers Association: Somali Breed Profile

PawNation: Somali

PHOTOS

lu_lu@flickr

Finn Frode@flickr

Somali Cat Club UK@facebook

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