Somali cats were the inadvertent result of Abyssinian cat breeding back in the 1950s, when it was found that some kittens were born with bottle-brush tails and much longer, fluffly coats than regular Abyssinian cats. These irregular Abyssinians were at first neutered and given away as pets, but some unneutered cats made their way to interested parties and thus the Somali breed was first bred in earnest in the late 1960s. However, this particular irregularity is not unknown to America, where this breed started; a long-haired Abyssinian showed up in an Australian cat show in 1964.
The Somali cat is thus known by the nickname fox cat because of its tail’s resemblance to that of a fox, not to mention that some of this breed’s colors happen to be common to those of foxes. A typical Somali cat, as mentioned, has long fluffy fur, but unlike other long-haired cats such as the Persian, for example, they shed their hair about once or twice a year rather than shedding constantly. Due to the length of their hair, Somali cats do require a lot of brushing to help groom them.
In addition, Somali cats have other distinct fox-like features, such as full ruff and breeches, a long black stripe down their tails, and large ears. They can also appear ticked, and a show-bred Somali often has just one tabby marking, which is an M-like shape on the face area. They come in four recognized colors, namely ruddy, red, blue, or fawn. In Europe, they are also recognized in shades of silver. Typically, three to four Somali kittens are born in every litter, and it takes them about two years to fully mature.
Somali cats are very social creatures. They are playful, active, and amiable, and are inquisitive creatures. Somali cats can manage to open cabinets and other secret places and hide there. Some report that their activity takes place in daily bursts, when they end up running around the house and playing with toys. Their dexterity and agility could sometimes be likened to that of monkeys. Thus, it is recommended that owners should give Somali cats room to explore. It is recommended also that Somali cats be able to play with other cats as well. Somali cats are quiet communicators, with soft, high pitched purrs.
Two major genetic health defects have been found with Somali cats, which could be a cause of some concern. These could mostly have been a consequence of inbreeding. The first is that some Somali cats tend to lose their adult teeth, thus making them unable to eat properly and vulnerable to the fatal hepatic lipidosis. Breeders report that they have been able to breed out this particular defect. More recently, it has also been reported that some Somali cats may have auto-immune hemolytic anemia, which is more commonly found among dogs than cats. So far, breeders have not yet found a way to breed that one out.
Finally, it has been found that, most likely as a consequence of self-grooming, Somali cats have been known to groom their human owners’ beards, hair, and moustaches, especially if these have been previously groomed with mousse or hair gel.