Section 2 – SEMI LONGHAIR – Group 2
The cat with the smiling face, the Somali is of medium build and foreign type. The Somali is highly intelligent. They are good natured and playful and enjoy games and toys. They are often more friendly and affectionate than their Abyssinian cousins and really do enjoy human company.
The Somali is a breathtakingly beautiful cat, with a ticked coat that comes in two lengths, semi-longhaired and short haired. The combination of ticked fur in a range of colours, striking facial markings, large ears and bright, expressive eyes gives the Somali a wild look which immediately captivates. The Somali is a combination of beauty and personality; a very intelligent cat, its zest for life and love of play blossoms with human companionship. The Somali is the epitome of everything most people want in a companion animal – lively, alert and actively engaged in everything that piques their curiosity. However, when playtime is over, they will seek all the attention and affection their family is willing to give.
The semi-longhaired Somali is the longhaired version of the older style Abyssinian. The longhair gene has always been present in the Abyssinian breed, regarded with horror and never mentioned in polite company! Indeed, there is a cat described as “mistress of the embalming house” in the papyrus of Nespaheran, c900 BC that closely resembles a Somali, with its ruff, alert expression, cupped ears and the suggestion of a brush rather than a tapering tail. However, the semi- longhaired variety was not bred specifically until the early 1960s in America by an Abyssinian breeder. As mentioned though, there are records of longhaired Abyssinian kittens that go far further back than the twentieth century. Abyssinians have always been used as outcrosses for Somalis to maintain a healthy gene pool, with the resulting short-haired kittens very attractive. In 2010, the Somali BAC wished to apply for recognition of Somali Shorthairs in their own right as it was wished to retain the slightly shorter wedge and more generously rounded muzzle preferred in Somalis as well as the very soft, fine coat found in the semi-longhaired version. Preliminary Recognition was granted by GCCF in 2011 proving a successful venture. In June 2014 our Short-Haired Somalis gained Championship status but are shown in the Semi-Longhaired Section.
The Somali comes in an astonishing choice of twenty-eight colours including usual (a rich golden brown), sorrel (a rich copper), blue, lilac and chocolate; also, fawn, red, cream and silver, as well as many tortie and tortie silver colours. The head forms a medium wedge with gentle contours. In profile the nose has a slight nose break and a firm chin. The forehead should be high with good width between the ears. The ears are set wide apart but not low; they are large, broad-based and well-cupped with little tufts preferred. The eyes are almond-shaped and set well apart; they are large and expressive. Dark surrounds emphasise the eyes, circled by paler spectacles; short dark lines appear at both sides of the eye, the inner lines are vertical and the outer ones point towards the ear. Somalis have amber, hazel or green eyes, the deeper and richer the shade the better. The body is of medium size – firm, lithe and well muscled. The legs are long and have oval paws and the tail is long and tapering. Well-defined ticking is crucial to the Somali. On each hair there should be at least three bands of the ticking colour giving six contrasting colour sections from base to tip. The ticking is often slow to develop in kittens, but there should be some evidence of ticking on the shoulders by the age of twelve weeks. The ear tips, tufts, facial markings, toe tufts, heels, top and tip of tail are the same colour as the ticking. The semi-longhaired coat should be soft and fine, dense but lying flat along the spine. Semi- long all over, except on the shoulders where a shorter length is permitted. All other points being equal, preference should be given to the cat with a ruff and full breeches. Ruff and breeches may not be apparent in kittens. The tail should form a full brush. Short-haired Somalis have a coat of medium length that is smooth, fine and dense but close lying. The coat will be of fairly uniform length with no ruff, toe tufts, breeches or brush. A coarse or overly resilient coat in the shorthaired Somali is to be considered a serious fault.
Somalis enjoy access to outdoor exercise but care needs to be taken that these attractive cats do not wander off. A secure garden is ideal for them but, if this is not possible, they will adapt to an indoor life if plenty of toys, scratching posts and stimuli are provided. A natural clown, Somalis are loyal, affectionate, highly intelligent and very interactive with their owners and environment, they love to chirrup to you and help with whatever task you are undertaking. No place ever goes unexplored and yet seldom do they knock anything off of a shelf or work surface. They are wonderful companions who are highly interested in everything around them and what everybody is doing. They like a good view of their surroundings and are entertained by whatever moves outside. Saying they show an intense curiosity in all that surrounds them is an understatement! Not usually considered a lap cat due to their high energy and curiosity levels, Somalis do occasionally make visits to your lap or find a way under the covers to spend time cuddled near their beloved owners. The way they transform within seconds from a radiant and regal presence into an amazingly playful character with childlike antics and an indomitable spirit is astounding. Engaging companions for people of all ages, they are happiest in the company of others. While exceedingly social, they are not always content in large cat populations where they have to share attention.
The semi-longhaired Somali does require gentle grooming to keep its coat free from tangles. However, because the hair is not so long as the likes of the Persian, it is easy to keep the coat in good order. Most cats enjoy being groomed if the routine is established as a kitten and the job is certainly easier when done regularly. The short-haired Somali benefits from hand stroking and perhaps a polish from a silk cloth. The average weight for this breed of cat is around 8 to 12 lbs. Somalis have a life expectancy of about twelve to fourteen years.
Somalis are healthy cats, strong and athletic. Care should be taken to keep an eye on their teeth to ensure there is no build-up of tartar which can cause gingivitis, a problem found in many breeds. Somalis can suffer from an inherited disease called pyruvate kinase deficiency that can cause anaemia. The Somali Breed Advisory Committee has worked with the Langford Laboratory in Bristol on this as a reliable test is available. Fortunately the disease has been eradicated from the breed owned by members of the Somali Cat Club. Prospective owners should ask breeders if their cats have been tested and are clear of the problem. An eye problem, called progressive retinal atrophy, which causes progressive blindness has been identified in some countries but there are no recorded cases of Somalis with this problem in the UK.