The Abyssinian Cat And Health Issues

The Abyssinian cat's ancestry is a bit of a mystery with some people thinking the breed originated in Egypt thousands of years ago and there is some evidence that points to this in ancient Egyptian sculptures and paintings. Over the years, the breed has found its way into the hearts and homes of people throughout the world, which is hardly surprising because Abyssinian cats are quite extraordinary felines both to look at and personality-wise.

Their great natures and lovely looks could be put down to the fact that Abyssinian cats are thought to have been created by crossing Burmese, Siamese and Russian Blues which in anyone's books is a glorious mix. They also boast very long lifespans which can be 15+ years if they are well looked after and fed a well-balanced diet to suit their ages throughout their lives. The four most commonly seen colours in the breeds are golden brown, sorrel, blue and fawn, but in actual fact the breed can be any of nine colours.

Although Abyssinian cats are known to be quite healthy, they are however, predisposed to certain disorders a few of which are hereditary which is why it's so important to contact reputable, well-established breeders if you are thinking about sharing your home with an Abyssinian kitten. The most commonly seen health disorders in the breed are as follows:

  • Chronic Renal Failure
  • Retinal atrophy which can lead to a cat developing impaired vision
  • Hyperthyroidism which is an overactive thyroid gland
  • Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency which can lead to a cat developing anaemia

Chronic Renal Failure

This is a condition that goes by a few other names which includes kidney failure, renal disease and renal insufficiency. With the Abyssinian cat it can be a hereditary disorder passed on to kittens from parent cats, but with this said any cat breed may develop the condition regardless of age and sex. With this said, it is generally older cats that develop chronic renal failure.

If you are hoping to share your home with an Abyssinian kitten, it's really important to contact reputable breeders who screen all their cats for any hereditary health disorders. Only using cats that are found to be clear of the condition can you reduce the risk of offspring inheriting a debilitating and heart breaking genetically inherited health disorder.

The signs of there being something wrong with an Abyssinian cat include the following:

  • A loss of appetite which results in weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Excessive thirst and drinking water from unusual places
  • An increased need to urinate due to the fact a cat drinks more water
  • Sores in and around the mouth
  • Bad breath
  • High blood pressure which can seriously impact a cat's vision

Retinal Atrophy

Retinal Atrophy affects cells in the eye that are responsible for converting all light received through the eye into electrical charges that are then sent to the brain. These cells are called photoreceptors and there are two types found in the eye which are cones and rods. Both have their own specific job to do with cones being responsible for colour and rods deal with low-light vision and black and white.

It's typically the "rods" that fail first which results in Abyssinian cats losing their night vision and which is the very early symptom of there being something wrong with their sight. Sadly, there is no treatment for the condition which means that affected cats do eventually go blind when they are anything from 3 to 5 years old. With blue-eyed cats, their eyes end up turning a milky colour green which is often the first thing an owner notices is different about their cats. A closer examination by a vet would confirm if an Abyssinian is suffering from PRA or not.

The other bad news is there is no vaccination available for the condition, but responsible Abyssinian breeders would always have their cats screened for the condition before using them in a breeding programme.


This is another condition that's all too commonly seen in Abyssinian cats and it's where overactive thyroid glands produce higher levels of thyroid hormones. When this happens, the result can be quite serious and cats can become very ill. An over active thyroid messes up a cat's metabolic rate which means they burn off too much energy far too quickly and as a result they can't put on enough weight even though they eat a lot of food.

The good news is that the condition can be very successfully managed with the right medication and the prognosis for an Abyssinian cat with the condition tends to be very good. If treated early enough, a cat can make a full recovery. Signs to watch out for include the following:

  • A loss of weight
  • An increase in appetite which is called "polyphagia"
  • An increase in water consumption which is called "polydipsia"
  • Restlessness and an increase in activity
  • Tachycardia which is an increased heart rate
  • Coats lose condition and cats tend to look bedraggled and unkempt

Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency

When an Abyssinian cat suffers from this condition their red blood cells cannot metabolise as they should which can lead to them suffering from a secondary health disorder namely anaemia although they can also develop a few other blood related disorders too.  The enzyme Pyruvate Kinase when deficient in a cat's system is the culprit which leads to cats becoming:

  • Anaemic
  • Weak
  • Experiencing muscle wastage
  • Having pale gums
  • Having a quickened heart rate a condition known as tachycardia
  • In rare cases, cats become jaundiced

The disorder is a hereditary health issue that Abyssinian cats are born with therefore it is considered as a congenital condition that parent cats pass on to their offspring. It is a heartbreaking health condition where the only treatment is a bone marrow transplant which is not only very expensive, but life threatening to cats in itself too.

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