he story of the Somali is woven into that of the Abyssinian, for it is from the Aby's lonhaired gene that the Somali was "born".
The Somali story starts with a little longhair kitten called George who was born in 1967 from two Abyssinian parents. His breeder, Charlotte Lohmeyer, gave him away at only five weeks old as he was not a good Abyssinian. Incredibly, the owner of his father, Eveleyn Mague found George in the rescue centre she worked in and traced his pedigree to discover that he was the longhaired Abyssinian that had been given away. George couldn't be used for breeding as he was not used to other cats, but Evelyn realised that if George had been produced then more longhaired Abyssinians could also be produced and she set about a breeding program using the same parents as George. Slowly but surely Somalis, as she called them even then, started to appear.
In 1972 Evelyn founded the Somali Cat Club of America and eventually after a ten year campaign the Somali breed was recognised as a true breed and was given Championship status in 1978. The first Somalis were imported into Britain in 1980 when a consortium of Abyssinian breeders imported two Somalis, Foxtail's Belle Starr and Ch Naphrani's Omar Khayyam.
In 1981 Drs Peter and Margaret Frayne imported two more Somalis, Black Iron Vagabond* and Black Iron Venus*. Richard Gebhardt, president of the American Cat Fanciers Association described Black Iron Vagabond, a Usual Somali male, as "the foundation cat of the British Somali". The semi-longhair gene is rigorously excluded for the Abyssinian gene pool today by a strict registration policy, however, although they have gone their separate ways the Somalis and Abyssinians still share their origins, temperament, type and coat pattern and both make fantastic pets.
What Is A Somali?
The Somali is an awe-inspiring cat to behold. You will often hear people comment on how fox-like they are, with their large, cupped, tufted ears, masked face, full ruff, breeches and bushy tail they do bare a remarkable resemblance to a little fox.
Somalis are extremely intelligent cats and learn very quickly, especially things like where the food is kept and how the drawer opens. They are generally a quiet cat and have a very soft voice that chirrups rather than meows; if you talk to your Somali they will invariable chirrup back and this can go on for as long as you will chat.
The Somali is a fairly active cat with a zest for life. They love to play and tend to have bursts of energy (usually when you go to bed!) where they will charge around the house, leaping in the air and throwing their toys around, playing fetch with themselves. They are extremely social cats and absolutely thrive on human companionship. They will often butt your face in order to get attention and flop in your lap looking at you adoringly. The Somali is extremely inquisitive, they love to be wherever you are, whether that is in the bath where they can sit on the rim and watch or cooking dinner, they follow you everywhere you go. Whatever it is you are doing, they are there to lend a helping paw. Many Somalis are fascinated with water, my Somalis favourite spots are in the kitchen sink or the bath with a dripping tap where they will play for hours.
The Somali is a natural show-off, when visitors come to the house they will trot in front of them with their tails curled and chat away to them whilst rolling around their feet. They also have a superb sense of humour with an almost wicked naughtiness to them at times. If told not to do something they can sit for ages looking around themselves all innocent and then as soon as your attention is diverted they dash to do whatever it is they shouldn't do. There are times when you look at a Somali and you can tell from the way it is sitting and looking so innocent that something somewhere in the house is amiss.
The Somali has a semi-longhaired coat which is non-matting and easy to care for. A weekly groom is usually sufficient to keep the coat in order with a daily groom during the malting season. You will tend to find that Somalis absolutely love being groomed, they will lie for you to do one side and then roll over for you to do the other, happily lying on their backs whilst you groom their tummy. Once the grooming session is over the Somali will trot off looking very proud with their heads high and demanding a look from everybody.
The Somali makes a wonderful addition to any household, they have seemingly forgotten what their claws are for and are so gentle and patient they make wonderful family pets. They are also a cat that will interact with a family and give back ever ounce of love they receive a hundred fold.
With thanks to The Abyssinian and Somali Cat Alliance.