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Somali Cat Breed: Info, Pictures, Care, Traits & Facts

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By Nicole Cosgrove

a red somali cat

Height: 8 – 10 inches
Weight: 6 – 10 pounds
Lifespan: 12 – 15 years
Colors: Red, ruddy, fawn, and blue
Suitable for: Families, singles, couples, multi-pet households
Temperament: Intelligent, playful, curious, good-natured, active, independent

The adorable Somali Cat is the long-haired cousin of the Abyssinian Cat, with a similarly playful, curious, and active nature. These cats have a long and fascinating history and almost disappeared at one stage, but they are fast becoming one of the most popular breeds in the United States.

Somalis are medium-sized cats, with a medium-length coat and fluffy tail that gives them a unique, elegant, and wild-looking “fox-like” appearance. While these cats are known for their active personality, they are also known to be somewhat independent animals, making them a good choice for owners who aren’t at home all the time. They are not by any means aloof, though, and they do form strong bonds with their family and are highly affectionate felines — when they feel like it!

If you’re looking at bringing home one of these gorgeous felines, read on for everything that you need to know about their history, temperament, and care.

Somali Kittens

Somali kitten
Image Credit: ok_fotoday, Shutterstock

Before bringing home a Somali cat, it’s important to know that these cats are extremely active and playful animals that are almost constantly on the go. This makes them great playmates for children and other cats, although if they’re kept exclusively indoors, they will most certainly get up to mischief! The Somali will be far happier if they have access to the outdoors, and this will enable them to burn off most of their abundant energy too.

While Somalis can certainly live happily as exclusively indoor cats, you’ll need to make sure they have access to loads of toys and a cat tree or two so they can get enough exercise.

3 Little-Known Facts About the Somali

1. Their exact origins are unknown.

The Somali was first developed as a unique breed fairly recently, as early as 1970, although long-haired versions of the Abyssinian were first described early in the 20th century. This is likely because Abyssinian breeders introduced long-haired cats into breeding programs after WWII, when breeding dramatically slowed and Abyssinians were somewhat rare. While the initial development in the early ’70s is fairly well-documented, little is known about the exact origins of the Somali.

2. They’re named after an African country.

Somali cats were first developed into the breed that we see today in the U.S., but their genetic origins lie on the African continent. Abyssinian cats, from which Somali cats were developed, were named after Abyssinia, now called Ethiopia, where the breed is believed to have originated. Somalis were named as a nod to this African heritage and were named after the country of Somalia, which borders modern-day Ethiopia.

3. They are often nicknamed “fox cats.”

While Somalis can be found in several official coat colors, they are most commonly found with a ruddy red or fawn coat, which is what they’re most famous for. This unique coat and their medium-length hair and bushy tail give them a wild, foxy appearance, earning them the nickname, “fox cat.”

a portrait of ruddy somali cat
Image Credit: Nataliya Kuznetsova, Shutterstock

Temperament & Intelligence of the Somali

Somalis are known to be more independent and shy than their Abyssinian cousins, but they still love to be around their human family. They are certainly affectionate cats, but they are not needy in any way. These cats are intelligent, active, and curious felines that are seemingly always on the go. This active and inquisitive nature makes them endlessly entertaining but also challenging at times, especially if they are kept solely indoors.

These cats are incredibly curious and are always looking for something to do, be it chasing birds, climbing trees, and scaling every high piece of furniture in your home! This busy nature can be overwhelming for some people, but if you have other cats or small children in your home, they’ll provide a constant source of entertainment and make great playmates for kids. While they are independent cats, they love socializing and will do well in a home with other cats, especially if you are away from home for long periods of the day.

Are These Cats Good for Families? 👪

With their active, playful, and affectionate natures, Somalis are great for families, and in fact, they do better in a home with plenty of activity. They are ideal playmates for children, always up for a play session, usually gentle in nature, and happy to be held and handled. Even with their comparatively independent personality, they thrive in a social environment and enjoy being around their human family.

Does This Breed Get Along With Other Pets?

The social nature of Somalis doesn’t stop at humans — they love to be around other cats and even dogs. In fact, they will do better in a home with other pets. They are not aggressive or territorial cats, and they will swiftly make friends with even other neighborhood cats. Of course, cats will be cats, and if you have any smaller pets like guinea pigs or rats, they will certainly be seen as prey. Even if they’re in a secure cage, small pets are best kept far away from your Somali!

a ruddy somali cat
Image Credit: Julia Shepeleva, Shutterstock

Things to Know When Owning a Somali

Food & Diet Requirements🐡

Since Somali cats are such active felines, they need a high-quality diet that can keep up with their lifestyle. Cats are obligate carnivores, and as such, they need food with a high amount of quality animal-based protein. Both dry and wet food are great options, and feeding them a bit of both is even better. Try to split their meals into two per day to support their high energy and fast metabolisms, and keep treats to a minimum to avoid them getting overweight.

Protein is the most important nutrient for cats, so you should aim to give them food with animal protein as the first listed ingredient, as this should make up the majority of the food’s content. Avoid foods with too many grains or filler ingredients, as these are not necessary for their diet and can quickly cause weight issues. Dry food is ideal because it’s relatively inexpensive and convenient, but wet food is a great source of additional hydration for your feline. Either way, make sure they have constant access to fresh, clean water.

Exercise 🐈

Sufficient exercise is essential to the health and well-being of cats, but since Somalis are so active, exercise is all the more important. This is especially true if your cat spends most or all their time indoors — they’ll need a suitable outlet for their abundant energy. Cat trees and toys are great options, but your Somali will need more than just that, and interactive play is essential, whether with their owner or another cat. If your Somali has access to the outdoors, they will largely entertain themselves and get plenty of exercise from their curious nature and endless exploration.

a fawn somali cat
Image Credit: nelik, Shutterstock

Training 🧶

Somalis are highly intelligent animals, and as such, they are usually a breeze to train. Since they are such curious and playful animals, they’ll love the process of learning new commands and tricks and are almost dog-like in their ability to retrieve toys and learn verbal commands. Making training sessions into a fun game is a sure way to quickly train your Somali!

Grooming ✂️

Somalis have a medium-length coat that is easy to keep well-groomed. They are generally not heavy shedders, and a light brushing once or twice a week is more than enough to rid their coats of any dead hair and avoid any matting. That said, they may need daily brushing during shedding season in spring. It’s a good idea to brush their teeth regularly to avoid any dental disease and trim their claws occasionally too.

Health and Conditions 🏥

Somalis have a long lifespan of up to 15 years and are healthy cats in general. But their close cousin, the Abyssinian cat, has several hereditary health issues that can be linked to the Somali cat. Somalis are also more susceptible to dental issues like periodontal disease, so it’s important to keep a close eye on their dental health. They are susceptible to a kidney disease known as renal amyloidosis and an inherited disease called pyruvate kinase deficiency that can result in anemia.

Minor Conditions
  • Allergies
  • Obesity
  • Dental issues
Serious Conditions
  • Progressive retinal atrophy
  • Pyruvate kinase deficiency
  • Periodontal disease
  • Renal amyloidosis

Male vs. Female

There are few differences in the personality of male and female Somali cats, and this is further negated by neutering and spaying. All cats are individuals and will have their own unique personality that is far more determined by their upbringing than their sex.

Physically, male Somalis are slightly bigger and more muscular than females and may be more active than females too. Males also tend to be more attention-seeking, while females are known to be more independent, but these traits are largely anecdotal and your Somali may be the opposite!

Final Thoughts

The Somali is an active and curious cat that fits well into family households and homes with other cats or dogs. These cats are more independent than their Abyssinian cousins, but they are still affectionate felines that love to be around their human owners and involved with household activities. They are not needy, though, so if you are away from home for long periods, Somalis are adaptable and happy to spend hours entertaining themselves. They will still enthusiastically greet you at the door when you get home!

Somalis are good-natured, playful, and entertaining cats that make excellent additions to any household!

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Featured Image Credit: Oleksandr Volchanskyi, Shutterstock

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