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Somali Cat Breed Info: Pictures, Traits & Facts

Height: 8-10 inches
Weight: 6-10 pounds
Lifespan: 12-15 years
Colors: Ruddy, red, blue, and fawn, with darker shading along the spine and through the tail
Suitable for: Families with children, owners with plenty of time to play with their cats, homes with other cats and dogs
Temperament: Playful, enthusiastic, curious, and intelligent

The long-haired cousin to the ever-popular Abyssinian, Somali cats have a fascinating history and unknown origin. With a genetic lineage that almost died out twice — after World War I and World War II — every Somali we know and love today is descended from a single Abyssinian from 1953.

Exceptionally active and playful, these curious and strikingly colored cats have earned the nickname of “fox cat” due also in part to their bushy tails. A rare crossbreed of recessive Abyssinian genes, they are renowned for their keen sense of feline humor. If you’re looking for a cat that will keep you or another cat occupied all day long, look no further than this fluffy feline.

We’ll tell you everything you need to know about the breed, from their intelligence to how well they get along with other pets, as well as what’s necessary to care for their health.Cat ball divider 1

Somali Kittens – Before You Buy…

Energy
Trainability
Health
Lifespan
Sociability

Most notable for their high energy and playful demeanors, living with a Somali can be very much like living with a small, curious human. Constantly on the prowl for mischief to make, you’ll need to be sure to remove all breakables in your house from even the highest of shelves. If you can see it, your Somali can get to it — and if they can get to it, they will try to play with it.

Starting as a spontaneous genetic mutation of the Abyssinian, the Somali still very much resembles its genetic forebear. Active and hungry for attention, they make excellent additions to families with children, or in houses with other animals to keep them company.

The Somali’s limited genetic variation does make it prone to a variety of inherited health conditions, ranging from minor to severe. Chief amongst these is PK deficiency, a type of anemia that severely reduces a cat’s lifespan. If buying from a breeder, always inquire as to whether their Somali cats have been screened for PK deficiency; if they don’t know what this means or don’t perform the screening, do not purchase a Somali from that breeder.

What’s the Price of Somali Kittens?

Costs of adoption for a Somali kitten or adult run the usual $75 to $150. If purchased from a breeder, you can expect to pay between $400 and $600, with impressively pedigreed cats on the higher end of this range.3 cat face divider

3 Little-Known Facts About Somali

1. They are Named After an African State

Abyssinia, now known as Ethiopia, is the country which gave its name to the Somali’s genetic ancestor (the Abyssinian). As the border state to Ethiopia, Somalia gives the Somali its name.

2. Their Paws are Incredibly Dexterous

Possessing some of the nimblest paws of any cat breed, the Somali can be seen grabbing and holding onto treats and toys with its flexible paws — almost like a monkey. This also means that they can easily open cabinets and cupboards, or even turn on the faucet in the middle of the night.

3. Somali Cats Have a “Hairdresser Gene”

Like the Abyssinian, the Somali absolutely loves playing with peoples’ hair, beards, and mustaches. That has led cat fanciers to jokingly speculate that it must have a “hairdresser gene” responsible for these behaviors.

somali cat with green eyes
Image Credit: Louno Morose, Shutterstock

Temperament & Intelligence of the Somali

Intelligent, willful, and curious, the Somali is not a cat for the faint of heart. When they get an idea into their feline heads, they are happy to pursue it with uncanny vigor — even if this includes waiting until your back is turned to cause trouble. Happiest in homes with lots of stimulation, they will act out and destroy furniture if they aren’t given frequent playtime and exercise.

Combine this penchant for activity with their nimble hands, and it’s clear that Somali owners will have two main types of experience with their cats: raucous playtime and entertainment with one of the most resourceful cat breeds around, or unexpected frustration at the sound of a cabinet opening at odd hours of the night.

Are These Cats Good for Families? 👪

Somali cats absolutely are a good choice for larger families. In fact, if you don’t have at least a few children to help keep your Somali busy, these cats might wear you out!

In many ways, adding a Somali to your family is just like having another child, but smaller and hairier. They’ll require constant attention, regular feeding, and plenty of affection in order to grow up happy and healthy.

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets?

The sociable Somali gets along equally well with cats and dogs and hardly knows a stranger. They make quick friends with cats and dogs of all breeds, including animals from the neighborhood that don’t live in your home. When introduced to a house that already has pets, expect your Somali to get to know their new brothers and sisters by playing lighthearted pranks on them.

Due to their hunter instincts and constantly inquisitive nature, Somali cats should not be kept in the same home as small animals such as rats, guinea pigs, or rabbits. Their grabby hands will get into even the most securely locked of cages, leaving your small animal pets critically endangered.3 cat divider

Things to Know When Owning a Somali:

Is owning a Somali sounding better and better to you? Here are a few things to keep in mind as you consider adding one to your home:

Food & Diet Requirements 

A steady diet of high-quality dry cat food, fed at regular intervals and in moderation, will be plenty to keep your Somali happy and healthy. They have no particular dietary concerns in excess of any other cat breed and are not prone to obesity.

Somali Cat Breed
Photo credit: Ruddy Somali female by FinnFrode licensed by CC 4.0.

Exercise🐈

If not given enough stimulation through playtime, pets, and moving around, the Somali will find its own outlet for excess physical energy. Usually, this means finding the nearest fragile item in your home and batting it around the room. If you plan on adopting a Somali, be sure that you’re ready to provide it with plenty of exercise and entertainment!

Training 🎾

Somali cats take well to training and will love to learn how to fetch and retrieve thrown items and toys. Once they know how to play this game, you can expect to have them bring toys to you all day long.

Grooming ✂️

Despite their long, silky coats, Somali cats do not require much extra grooming. A simple brushing once or twice weekly will suffice throughout most of the year. During their shedding season in spring, you’ll likely need to brush them once per day or more to prevent the development of any unsightly hairballs.

Health and Conditions 🏥

While the Somali has few genetic defects, they are much more prone to plaque, gingivitis, and tartar buildup than other cat breeds. Left untreated, these dental problems can lead to the much more serious periodontitis — a degenerative bone disorder that will greatly diminish the Somali’s health.

A small number of Somali lineages pass down a rare kidney disease. Known as renal amyloidosis, this can lead to sudden and irreversible kidney failure. Similarly, some genetic lines exhibit inherited anemia that can seriously damage the Somali’s health.

Minor Conditions
  • Plaque
  • Gingivitis
  • Tartar buildup
Serious Conditions
  • PK deficiency
  • Renal amyloidosis
  • Periodontitis
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Male vs Female

On average, the male Somali cat tends to be heavier and more muscular than the female. Both sexes are seen to be equally playful and mischievous and possess similar degrees of sociability and friendliness. It’s highly recommended to have your Somali spayed or neutered, as they tend towards more aggressive behavior if they have not been desexed.

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Final Thoughts

Cute, playful, and friendly, the mischievous Somali makes an excellent addition to any home where it can get its exceptionally high stimulation requirements met. If you’re looking for a cat to keep you constantly entertained and on your toes, it would be hard to find a better companion than these dexterous little devils!

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Featured image credit: Somali cat in Fifé Worldshow by Pieter Lanser / Fish Icon