Let's talk Sokoke cats

Wide-eyed and big-eared, the Sokoke cat breed originally came from the forests of Kenya, which also gave them their name. But these sociable felines have left those wild origins behind and are now known for their liveliness, loyalty and for just wanting to be near their people ... all the time if possible. Beautiful short-haired Sokokes, with their distinctive agouti (dual-tone hair) markings, make great companions and family pets as long as they aren’t left alone for long periods. Their high level of intelligence also means they thrive on playing games and learning tricks.

Official name: Sokoke

Other names: African Shorthair

Origins: Kenya

Side view of Sokoke looking at camera in black and white

 Shedding level:

Very low

Warm weather? Medium
 Energy level*: High Family Pet?*  Very high
 Compatibility with other pets:

 * We advise against leaving pets alone for long stretches. Companionship can prevent emotional distress and destructive behaviour. Speak to your veterinarian for recommendations.

Every pet is different, even within a breed; this snapshot of this breed specifics should be taken as an indication.
 
For a happy healthy and well-behaved pet, we recommend educating and socializing your pet as well as covering their basic welfare needs (and their social and behavioral needs).
 
Pets should never be left unsupervised with a child.
 
Contact your breeder or veterinarian for further advice.
 
All domestic pets are sociable and prefer company.  However, they can be taught to cope with solitude from an early age.  Seek the advice of your veterinarian or trainer to help you do this.

 
Spider chart of Sokoke characteristics
Illustration of Sokoke
Male
18 - 20 cm Height
2.7 - 4.5 kg Weight
Female
18 - 20 cm Height
2.7 - 4.5 kg Weight

 

 Baby cat  Birth to 2 months
 Growing kitten  2 to 12 months
 Adult  1 to 7 years
 Mature  7 to 12 years
 Senior  From 12 years

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Get to know the Sokoke

All you need to know about the breed

Sokokes are loyal and intelligent and they have some unusual (for a cat) habits, such as playing with water and allowing themselves to be walked on a lead. No surprise then, that this is a breed often said to have a lot in common with dogs.

Looks-wise, of course, it doesn’t get much more feline, these beautiful cats have large tufted ears, huge almond-shaped eyes and distinctive blotched tabby markings on their smooth short-haired coats.

Sokoke cats also have an impressive ability to learn tricks – perhaps partly because of the strong bond they form with their owners – and seem to thrive on playing games, even fetch. These strong and muscular medium-sized cats are often to be found running, jumping, chasing, exploring… anything goes to burn off some of that Sokoke energy.

The Sokoke breed also has a well-deserved reputation for loyalty. These cats are content as long as their humans are nearby. This is a breed that is ideally suited to the bustle of family life – definitely not the best choice for a home that is left empty all day long.

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2 facts about Sokoke cats

1. Agouti markings

The Sokoke breed is known for its distinctive mottled tabby markings, while the base colour of the breed’s smooth, short-haired coat is made up of agouti fur – this term describes fur made up of individual hairs with two or more different colour bands, which gives a salt-and-pepper effect to the coat. Not to be confused with the animal, the agouti, a South American rodent.

2. The cat formerly known as the African Shorthair

In the early days of what we now know as the Sokoke breed – a natural breed, which means it developed without human influence to fit in with its original environment – these cats were known as African Shorthair Cats. Thankfully the imaginative prevailed over the purely factual and the breed gained a name that better reflected the cats’ wild forest origins.

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History of the breed

Sokoke cats are thought to be descended from lean and long-tailed khadzonzo, the feral cats that roamed the forests of the eastern, coastal region of Kenya. The breed takes its name from the Arabuko Sokoke Forest in Kenya. The story goes that in 1970s Kenya, wildlife artist Jeni Slater found a mother and her litter and hand-raised a male and a female kitten which later mated. A friend of hers then took two of the resulting kittens to Denmark, thus introducing the breed to Europe.

Those Sukoke kittens were the foundations of the breed as we know it today but more cats were added to the gene pool at the beginning of the 2000s when a documentary maker began to gather Sokokes as part of her research into the breed. While her film was never made, those kittens were distributed to breeders in Europe and in the U.S., ensuring the Sokoke’s gene pool broadened and the breed became better known – although it remains very rare. It was accepted for registration by the International Cat Association in 2004.

Black and white portrait of a standing Abyssinian cat

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From head to tail

Physical characteristics of Sokoke cats

1. Body

Long lean body with hindlegs longer than forelegs.

2. Head

Wedge-shaped head, large tufted ears, almond-shaped eyes.

3. Coat

Short-haired blotched tabby coat.

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Things to look out for

From specific breed traits to a general health overview, here are some interesting facts about your Sokoke
Sokoke lying on beige rocks looking at camera

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Caring for your Sokoke

Grooming, training and exercise tips

Grooming is simple for this glossy short-haired breed – they need no more than a weekly brush to keep matted hair and tangles at bay. Sokokes, like other cat breeds, need access to a scratching post so they can fulfil their natural urge to scratch and keep their nails (and your curtains) in good condition. It’s important to clean cats’ teeth regularly–ideally daily–whatever the cats in question may seem to think about the process. These intelligent cats thrive on having games to play or tricks to learn, while a decent-sized cat tree, while not exactly replicating the Arabuko Sokoke Forest of the breed’s origins, will give them a good opportunity for climbing and a nice vantage point over their home.

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All about Sokoke cats

The breed name Sokoke is made up of two syllables: the first syllable is pronounced like ‘sew’ and the second like ‘coke’ the drink.

Yes – Sokoke cats are among the rarest of the domesticated cat breeds. But if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on one of these beauties you’ll be wondering why they are not more popular.

Other breeds that might interest you.

Sources

1 - Veterinary Centers of America https://vcahospitals.com/ 

2 - Royal Canin Cat Encyclopaedia. Ed 2010 and 2020

3 - Banfield Pet Hospital https://www.banfield.com/

4 - Royal Canin BHN Product Book