Theo is a chocolate pedigree Abyssian cat who has lived with me since 2012 – I got him when he was 3 months old. He came from Legend Abyssinians – the very knowledgeable Maria specialised in Abyssinians with a chocolate coat, a coat colour I wasn’t familiar with until happening across Legend Abyssinians.
After the sad loss of Simba, who passed away due to illness in 2012, I knew I’d want another Abyssinian in my life. It’s a fantastic breed, one I adored long before owning an Abyssinian of my own, and I couldn’t imagine live without one around! There aren’t a huge number of Abyssinian breeders around and there didn’t seem to be many litters around when I was looking. Originally I was after another “usual” boy, or perhaps a “blue” boy, but the first few breeders I made enquiries with didn’t have any litters at the time or due soon. One of the breeders pointed me in the direction of Maria at Legend Abyssinians though, and she potentially had one chocolate and one sorrel boy available. I provisionally reserved the chocolate boy from Maria and made arrangements to visit. It was a bit of a long drive from Berkshire around to Essex but worth it to meet the Legend family and the kittens. All the Aby kittens were ridiculously cute, and it was great fun wearing them out by teasing them with toys, and I was sure that I wanted to give little Theo a home.
I’d already decided that I wanted a second male kitten as a playmate for the Aby kitten, and I was pretty sure I wanted a Bengal, so I had enquired of a few different Bengal breeders. Having confirmed I’d be giving a home to Theo I made enquiries at Zawadi Bengals and, following a visit to Zawadi, I picked a Bengal who was only 1 week younger than Theo to come and join us – he was to be named Loki. I made arrangements to pick them up on consecutive days in the hope that they could bond as litter mates – as Theo was further away (about 2 and a half hours drive in each direction) we collected him first. Unsurprisingly he wasn’t terribly happy about his first time away from home being 2 and a half hours in a cat carrier in a car, but we covered the top of the carrier with a blanket to try make it feel a little safer. We used the kitchen as the safe room to start him in, and offered him food as he came out of the carrier and he tucked straight in and then was playing and purring within 10 minutes. He wasn’t happy about being left alone, in fact – when we left the kitchen and shut the door he’d call lots and occasionally bang against the door – but with my older female cat in the rest of the house, and Loki due the following day, I felt it best to keep him confined to the kitchen at least until introducing him to Loki.
When Loki arrived the introduction, after giving Loki a little time to settle in the carrier, didn’t go too badly. Loki was a bit hissy and growly at first when Theo would approach him. Theo wasn’t phased by this though, and after replying with hisses the first couple of times he just didn’t bother reacting to Loki’s noises. Theo was certainly the more confident of the two at first – the Legend household had several adult cats, including non-Abys, and also a Jack Russell, which I think is why Theo was initially fairly confident. It wasn’t long before Theo and Loki tentatively played chase a couple of times (taking it in turns). After letting both of them out into the rest of the house they had their first encounters with my older female cat, Misty. Misty wasn’t impressed by the kittens and would hiss at them, and both Theo and Loki would hiss back (although both were also curious about her). Loki gradually became more relaxed about Theo and it was only a few days from introductions until they started curling up together.
Theo and Loki have continued to get on well over the subsequent years. They still curl up together at some point most days, but also play chase and wrestle. Loki is sometimes a bit more keen to wrestle than Theo is, and Theo is at a weight disadvantage, but Theo is very tenacious and has needle sharp claws which he uses to remind Loki that he’s no push over before sprinting under the coffee table or up somewhere high. Although Theo will squeal when the wrestling is getting a bit much for him they have never injured one another, and also still take turns in playing chase, so I know it’s never too serious. I do separate their food bowls though, with Loki’s up on the counter top, and Theo’s on the floor. Initially this was mainly because Theo eats like a starved dog – a trait which Simba had as well – out of concern that if I left Loki’s bowl on the floor that Theo would keep alternating bowls. These days the food mixture I give Theo (wet and dry together) takes him a lot longer to eat than Loki, so the tables are now turned and Loki will try get into Theo’s food after eating his own – I have to shoo Loki away and stand guard!
On the subject of Theo’s eating habits – I’m not convinced he knows he’s a cat. When I’m walking him outside he’ll munch on grass like a goat (and surprisingly, it’s rare for him to throw up from it). I’m careful not to let him eat much of either, but he seems to like pizza crusts and bread – in fact the oddball once dragged an unopened bag of gluten-free flour from the kitchen counter into the hall and chewed a hole in it. I’m partial to snacking on raw broad beans (fava beans) and also raw garden peas, and I’ve discovered Theo loves both. Again I’m careful not to let him eat many, but he’ll beg for either and chase after them like they’re cat treats! He also loves lettuce leaves. Another taste he shares in common with Simba is a love for galia melons. It’s bizarre, but he gets as excited for galia melon as he would for tuna. After I’ve eaten half a galia melon I’ll put the rind down for a little bit for him to lick and chew at, it’s quite bizarre.
There were signs early on that Theo might be a little bit needy in terms of attention – as mentioned earlier he wasn’t happy at being left on his own in the kitchen on the first day and night. He’ll still get a little frantic initially when I take Loki out for a walk, but soon hops up on to the window ledge to watch us from the window. It does seem to be a little bit food-driven, in that as meal times approach (usually starting about an hour before his meal time) he becomes very affectionate with lots of bunting and purring (which is a little bit annoying first thing in the morning) and after meal times he’s not quite so full-on. In the run up to meal times it’s nigh on impossible for me to go into the kitchen without him shadowing me! At other times, when he’s not napping, he’s still fairly affectionate though. He is a lap cat and it’s lovely having my legs super-heated by him during winter. He often likes to have a cuddle at bedtime – once I’ve put my head down he’ll lie next to me and knead a little, before he turns over for a little with his back to my chest – but he doesn’t stay too long and for much of the night, like Loki, he’ll find a patch on top of the duvet to rest against my legs.
I kept Simba and Misty as mostly indoor cats, and I decided to do the same with Theo and Loki. I’d decided to try walking Loki to help him burn off some of that Bengal energy and wanted to give it a go with Theo too, to see how Theo reacted to the outside and if he’d enjoy being walked, and also to gauge if it might be safe to let him have supervised exploration off the leash as well. Like with Loki, I bought a walking jacket for Theo from Mynwood Cat Jackets and a long Flexi Classic leash. Theo’s reaction to wearing the jacket at first was one that seems to me more common with most breeds, which is to behave as if his legs have stopped working! It was slow progress for him to become more comfortable with it. Although Theo was more confident than Loki initially, he seemed to develop to be a little highly strung generally (in fact the vet had commented on it after they’d had their neutering ops), and it showed with how he was getting used to the leash and with introducing him to the outside world. He was nervous about going out at first on the leash, and we had a bit of an early set back when my partner accidentally knocked a metal bin and the noise spooked Theo and also created a negative association with the noise of the metal leash clip. Because he was generally nervous of the outside world I felt it would be ok to supervise him without the jacket and leash at first to build his confidence (without risk of him wandering off).
He gradually did start to get a bit bolder and would explore a bit further outside, and was starting to roam a little too far such that it could become risky with him wandering into the road, and he also managed to get himself stuck in a neighbours garden after going through a hole in the fence but not being able to find the hole again to get back (I had to push my way into the bushes to hold some food near the hole in the fence to help him find his way back). He was still a little nervous about just having the jacket on (no leash), but getting better. My partner worked patiently with getting him used to the leash again and eventually he would explore the garden on the leash. I tried walking him on the leash and found, at first, he was actually keen to stay fairly near to me so he’d tentatively follow me. To a degree walking him is a little bit more like walking a dog, although he’s still a bit nervy when outside so progress can be slow. Sometimes it’s possible to walk with him to local woods and he quite enjoys walking through the woods as they’re a lot quieter (no traffic, few people).
Theo has plenty of bursts of activity during the day, enjoying playing chase with or wrestling with Loki some of the time, or just running around for the fun of it (when he gets crazy eyes and puts his ears back). He doesn’t jump as high as Loki and generally doesn’t jump as much for toys as Loki, but he can still enjoy chasing toys when the mood takes him (he seems to have developed a preference for string or shoe laces over cat toys, though). I have been trying out action photography with both him and Loki with some success and in fact photos of both feature in some of the online and printed material for Frenzy Cat Toys (you can see Theo in the banner of that website at the moment). He is a little bit clumsy though, so I’m always very wary if he’s jumping around near me as he can misjudge slightly!
Theo’s colour is “chocolate”, 23b on the breed standard – the standard describes this as “rich copper brown ticked with dark chocolate”. I think the colour sits between “usual” (rich golden brown ticked with black – also known as “ruddy” in the USA) and “sorrel” (lustrous copper ticked with chocolate – also known as “cinnamon” in the “USA”). He’s not as dark as a “usual”, but not as red/gingery is a sorrel often is and I believe has darker shading on his spine and tail tip than sorrel – you’ll see in the many photos of him that his colour will look a bit different depending on the light and processing of the photo! His eyes are stunning and in some light, depending on the angle, his iris can look multicoloured with darker browner regions. He has developed a belly flap (aka “primordial pouch”), which my previous Aby also had – not all cats develop it, but some do, and it’s not a sign of being overweight. He has a small head – especially compared to Loki – which means I have to be careful putting the walking jacket on him to make sure the neck loop isn’t too tight but is tight enough to stop him being able to slip his head out (with Loki it’s easier as Loki’s head is much bigger compared to his neck).
He’s a very sweet cat, and great fun – there are some more photos of him below (click on them to view full size)…