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rec.pets.cats: Somalis Breed-FAQ

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Archive-name: cats-faq/breeds/somalis
Posting-frequency: 30 days
Last-modified: 12 Mar 1997

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                              Somali Breed FAQ
   _Author:_ Barbara French, Tarantara Cattery, USA,
   _Comments and Editing:_ Elina Laine, Bitterblues Somalis, Finland,
   Copyright (c)1995 Barbara C. French, 
   All Rights Reserved.

  Table of Contents
    Physical Description
    Characteristics and Temperament
    Is This Breed for Me?
    Care and Training
    Special Medical Concerns
    Famous Somalis
Physical Description

   The Somali is a moderate-sized cat with soft, medium-length fur and a
   bushy tail which has sometimes earned the cat the nickname "fox cat".
   Somalis are also referred to as "longhaired Abyssinians", since
   Abyssinians are the "parent breed" of the Somali breed.
   Somalis are sweet-faced, lithe, muscular cats with an overall
   impression of alertness, intelligence and keen curiousity. A standing
   Somali should almost give the impression that it's standing on its
   toes. The best term for a Somali would be "moderate" -- medium hair,
   medium size, medium type (neither cobby nor svelte).
   Somalis are ticked cats. Each hair on their bodies has bands of darker
   color, sometimes as many as 10 or 12 in a Somali. The ticking is
   darker than the ground color, giving the impression of a gloss or
   shimmer to the cat. Although ticking is a type of tabby, the
   show-quality Somali has no stripes on its body. A pet-quality Somali
   may show some tabby striping on its legs, tail or throat. The ticking
   usually causes a darker shine of color along the cat's back and on the
   tip of its brushy tail, and gives the cat an exotic, wild look.
   Although the fur might look coarse, it's extremely soft, almost
   Somalis have the tabby "M" on their foreheads, and display
   pencil-strokes of darker color drawn out from the corners of their
   eyes. As the darker color also rims their eyes, Somalis may look as if
   they're wearing eye liner. They usually have no white on them, other
   than white around their mouths and under their chins. White on other
   parts of their bodies is considered a disqualifying fault for the
   show-quality Somali.
   Somalis are accepted by all cat associations in four colors: ruddy,
   red, blue and fawn. The chart below will help decipher these colors.
   Somalis also have corresponding nose and paw leather colors, depending
   on the color of the cat.
	Color Class    Color of cat   Color of ticking    Nose leather

	Ruddy          Ruddy-red      Black               Tile red
	Red or sorrel  Warm red       Chocolate brown     Rosy pink
	Blue           Soft blue      Slate blue          Mauve
	Fawn           Rose-beige     Light cocoa brown   Salmon

   They are accepted in some European associations in various silver
   tones, but as yet silvers are not accepted in the United States. Some
   European associations also accept sex-linked orange and tortiseshell.
   Somalis have gold or green eyes in all colors, with the more depth and
   richness of color the better. Some associations, such as the American
   Cat Association, also accept hazel. Females are smaller than males,
   weighing about 8-10 pounds on average as adults. Males are an average
   of 10-12 pounds as adults, although some may be larger. The Somali
   coat color develops slowly, and doesn't show its full, mature ticking
   and coloring until age 18 months. Kittens tend to be darker and less
   warm-colored than they will be in adulthood.
   Somalis generally have longer hair over their chests (the "ruff") and
   on their hindquarters (the "breeches"). Their tails are full and
   brushy, almost like that of a fox.
Characteristics and Temperament

   Somalis are active, playful, interactive cats. Like their parent
   breed, the Abyssinians, Somalis seem to wake up every morning with a
   "to-do" list. They should be given plenty of room to run, lots of
   individual attention and play, and a variety of toys.
   Somalis seem happiest if kept with another cat of about their own
   activity level. Contrary to what some cat books say, though, Somalis
   do very well as indoor-only cats, provided that they are given plenty
   of room to run and play.
   Somalis are even-tempered and easy to handle. They are ideal cats for
   households with children, as they are quite gentle (provided the
   children do not abuse them). They also do well as in a "mixed pet"
   household, getting along well with other animals.
   Somalis are extremely affectionate and people-oriented -- "loves a
   party and all the guests", as one of my kitten buyers told me.
   They are also extremely inquisitive and clever, which may cause some
   trouble for the cat! An open door is as good as an invitation, as are
   garbage pails, windows and open drawers. Fortunately, they are also
   easy to train to use scratching posts.
   Like Abyssinians, Somalis are generally quiet cats, with soft voices
   they don't use a great deal. Somalis are adept communicators, but
   don't rely on their voices to do so. This can be frustrating for
   breeders, as a Somali female may have a "silent heat" (in heat but
   doesn't call). Buyers of pet Somali females should also be careful to
   have their female spayed as soon as she is old enough for this reason,
   so an inadvertant breeding doesn't take place.
   They also shed very little, less than many short-haired cats. They
   have two seasonal moults in spring and fall, but otherwise shed
   minimally throughout the year.
Is This Breed for Me?

   If you want a cat which is playful and interactive, almost "dog-like"
   in this way, the Somali is a terrific breed. They are loving and
   affectionate and make wonderful companions. Many are avowed and
   devoted lap cats and are forever following "their" human around.
   If you're looking for all the beauty of the long hair without the fuss
   or shedding, the Somali is a good choice. (See Care and Training
   If you're looking for a breed that's good with children or to
   introduce into a multi-pet household, the Somali is a good choice.
   If you're looking for a cat which will spend a great deal of time
   snoozing peacefully instead of playing, or a placid cat with a great
   deal of quiet and refined dignity, the Somali is not the cat for you.
   I would not recommend a Somali for an elder who is frail, as any
   Somali owner will tell you that Somalis are very good at getting
Care and Training

   Somalis are intelligent but somewhat willful. Thus, training is done
   far better with rewards than with punishment. They can be trained
   easily to use a scratching post by heaping attention and pats on them
   whenever they use it. They can be trained to do simple tricks with
   relative ease, such as fetching and shaking hands.
   Somalis need little care to keep their coats in good condition. Their
   soft, silky hair requires little brushing, although most Somalis love
   the attention if brushing is viewed as affection time rather than a
   chore. They do not mat, although the longer fur around their
   hindquarters can sometimes mat if not brushed regularly. As stated
   before, they shed very little.
   Otherwise, good food, fresh water, regular vet-checkups, regular
   vaccinations and lots of love is all they need to thrive.

   Where the longhaired gene came into the Abyssinian population is a a
   subject of speculation, but before the Somali breed began to be
   advanced in the late 1960s, longhaired kittens popped up in Abyssinian
   litters. These longhaired kittens, which couldn't be shown or used in
   a breeding program, were quietly neutered and given away or sold as
   In the late 1960s in the United States, people taken with these
   longhaired "mistakes" began breeding these cats purposely and
   advancing that the breed become accepted for championship status. This
   was not the first advancement of this breed; a Somali was shown in
   Australia as early as 1965. By the late 1970s, the Somali was accepted
   by all North American cat associations for championship status. It has
   had slower acceptance in Europe; the GCCF (Governing Council of the
   Cat Fancy), Great Britain's cat association, did not fully recognize
   the Somali for championship status until 1991.
Special Medical Concerns

   The Somali is a remarkably hardy cat, with few associated health
   Like many cats of all breeds and mixed breeds, Somali are prone to
   gingivitis. This condition should be monitored at annual veterinary
   visits (more often if a problem occurs). Feeding the cat a large
   portion of its diet as a high-quality dry food helps this problem.
   It has just been discovered that a few lines of Somali may be prone to
   a type of anemia called _auto immune hemolytic anemia (AIHA)_. If you
   have a Somali with anemia or anemia-like symptoms, , request a PCV
   blood test. This test is not usually done on a normal blood workup for
   cats, as AIHA is found much more commonly in dogs. The normal
   treatment for AIHA is steroid therapy. The problem is that the
   symptoms can be close to a fairly common cat disorder, _feline
   infectious anemia (FIA)_, which is treated with antibiotics. This is
   an inappropriate therapy for AIHA. Somalis are no more or less prone
   to FIA than any other cat.
Famous Somalis

   A Somali named Liberty Valence can be seen on "Little Friskies"
   commercials in the United States. The first two Spots on _Star Trek:
   The Next Generation_ were red Somalis (one was Liberty Valence). A
   Somali graces the cover of the _Readers Digest Guide to Cats_ , and
   the cover of the box for the software _Morph_ . (Hint: The Somali is
   on the bottom).

   Since there are not many Somali breeders and there is often a high
   demand for these beautiful kittens, many Somali breeders have waiting
   A pet-quality Somali kitten in the United States will generally cost
   about $400 US, a usual price for pet-quality kittens of many breeds.
   There are many Somali breeders who are available through electronic
   mail through the Fanciers Breeder Referral List.. (Take me to the list
   of Somali breeders now).
   Somali breeders are also listed in such magazines as _Cat Fancy, Cats_
   and _Cat World._
   Somali cats may also be available through Somali and Abyssinian Breed
   Rescue and Education (SABRE). Somalis rarely end up in shelters, but
   those few that do may find their way to SABRE and may be available. To
   date, all such rescues have been adult cats. For more information
   about SABRE and information about cats who may be available for
   adoption to an excellent home, consult the SABRE homepage, or e-mail
   contact Erin Miller. 

   Somali FAQ
   Barbara C. French,
   Last updated: December 15, 1995

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