About the Somali
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.
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. This shimmery line of darker color is sometimes referred to as an eel stripe. Although the fur might look coarse, it's extremely soft, almost rabbit-like.
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.
Somalis have gold or green eyes in all colors, with the more depth and richness of color the better. Females are smaller than males, weighing about 6-10 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.
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. However, they tend to be calmer and less active than the Abyssinian.
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 some few Somali females 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. Somali females have been known to go into heat as young as five months.
Many Somalis exhibit what breeders jokingly refer to as the "hairdresser gene". For some reason, many Somalis seem to have a need to "dress" the hair of their human owners! Many Somalis will try to groom their owners' hair, beards, and moustaches, particularly if they are wearing any kind of hair-care product such as hairspray or mousse.