Somali cat resting on her bed.

Somali Cat Breed

This cat with dramatic looks, gorgeous coat, and a colorful personality makes an attention-seeking yet loving pet.

This beautiful breed is a longhaired descendant of the shorthaired Abyssinian. At first, breeders of Abyssinians had rejected longhaired kittens; other people, however, found these cats attractive, and breeders started to produce them intentionally. The US Cat Fanciers’ Association accepted the Somali as a breed in 1979.

The “ticked” coat of the Somali comes in a variety of colors, from rich, earthy red to blue, with each hair having bands of lighter and darker color; a dark stripe runs along the back and tail. It can take up to 18 months for a young cat to develop its full coat color.

The Somali’s most striking feature is the long, plumed tail. The cat also has a ruff around the neck (fuller and more pronounced in males), giving a regal appearance.

Lively and insatiably curious, the Somali makes an entertaining pet. Although highly affectionate and family-friendly, this is not generally a lap cat; the Somali has too much energy to sit still for long. Its confident temperament makes the breed ideally suited to the show ring.

Early Rejects

When a gene for long hair occurred by chance in Abyssinian cats, the longhaired kittens that appeared alongside shorthaired siblings initially found little favor with breeders. There was no interest in developing the trait, and the longhairs were sold as pets.

When a few pioneer breeders recognized the potential for a new cat, they made slow progress; the first Somalis received scant attention at shows from exhibitors and judges. But with determination came success, and in 1979 Somalis achieved full recognition.

Origin: US, 1960s

Breed registries: CFA, FIFe, GCCF, TICA

Weight range: 8–12lb (3.5–5.5kg)

Grooming: 2–3 times a week

Colors and patterns: Various colors, some with silver tipping; tortie pattern; silver hairs always ticked.