One of the world’s rarest cats is the Sokoke cat. There are possibly only as much as about 100 of this breed in the entire world. This is a naturally occurring breed that involved no human intervention. It is native to the Arabuko Sokoke Forest in Kenya, Africa. The first people to discover and live with the Sokoke for generations were the Giriama natives. In fact, the original name of the Sokoke, given by the Giriama tribe, was Kadzonzo, which in Swahili translate literally to “looks like tree bark”.
The ancestry of the Sokoke is a mystery. There had been speculation that the breed was a cross between a domestic cat and a wild cat. However, new discoveries from DNA tests placed the Sokoke on a branch of the Asian Cat breed group with cats descended from the Arabian wild cat, the Lamu Island cat and street cat of coastal Kenya.
The Sokoke breed was being exported to the Europe and United States to strengthen the breed line. The breed was accepted as Registration-Only breed under the Fédération Internationale Féline (FIFe) and The International Cat Association (TICA) in 2003 and 2004 respectively. In May 2008, the TICA advanced the breed to Preliminary New Breed status, making it eligible for show. Though rare, the Sokoke certainly has an exciting future as it undergoes development under these major cat registries.
Physical appearance and attributes
The Sokoke is a medium sized cat that weighs between 8 – 12 pounds. It has a long, slender body that is both light and graceful. It has a body composition that boasts of a well-developed chest, a level back and a rounded rib cage. The excellent musculature is especially pronounced in the neck and shoulders. The Sokoke has complementing long, lean legs of medium to fine boning and they taper into oval medium sized paws. The hind legs are slightly longer than the forelegs and they dispose of a tiptoe gait that is characteristic of the Sokoke. This feature has made the Sokoke an excellent and incredibly fast jumper. Balancing the body is a well-proportionate tail that tapers into a narrow tip, giving it a whip-like feel. Overall, the body appears fine and delicate but is in fact heavier, sturdier and stronger than it looks.
Head of the Sokoke is of a modified wedge that appears small in proportion to the body. While the cheekbones are high and well defined, the head is slightly longer than it is wide. The Sokoke has a pair of large upright ears with slightly rounded tips. They are set well apart and are able to rotate 180 degrees, enabling the Sokoke to locate and identify the slightest of sounds. The almond shaped eyes are moderately large and are set at a slight slant towards the base of the ears. Eye colors are brilliant and expressive, and they can come in amber to light green colors with black outline. The Sokoke’s muzzle composes of a strong and broad chin as well as well-defined whisker pads. Viewed in profile, the chin should be in a vertical alignment with the tip of the nose. The broad medium-length nose also presents a slight gentle concave curve at the eye level. Supporting the head is a relatively long and thick neck this is of good strength and musculature.
The coat of the Sokoke is short and close-lying to the body. The hair texture feels slightly hard to the touch rather than silky like most other cats. Unique from any other domesticated cat breed is the blotched tabby coat of the Sokoke. Sokoke does lack an insulating layer of coat and this may be due to it being a native to the hot and humid Kenyan coast. Thus, this breed is sensitive to the cold. The coat can come in any shades of brown tabby.
Personality and temperaments
The Sokoke is a well-balanced cat that is family orientated, being able to bond fiercely with its chosen humans. It has a keen awareness to the idea of hierarchy both in the family as well as with its feline counterparts. Coupled with this awareness is also a high sense of intuition towards the emotions of its owners. This is a moderately active cat that can sometimes be seen perching near the windows where it waits upon its owner or observe the surroundings. The Sokoke may also be territorial. It has high athleticism and agility, and has the propensity to play in sudden spurts. The Sokoke is considered a highly intelligent and curious breed that loves to play and can keep itself entertained for hours. It is not aggressive and is able to get along well with other cats and dogs. In fact, the Sokoke has been observed to thrive in groups. Being talkative, this breed also has a relatively strong voice. The Sokoke is also one of those few cats that display a love for water.
Care and health issues
The Sokoke is a healthy breed that has an average life span of 12 – 15 years. There are no known genetic or hereditary diseases specific to this breed. It is recommended to send the cat for annual checkup and vaccination to achieve an overall good health. While it may be a hearty breed, it is still important to ensure that the cat is obtained from responsible and qualified breeders who will be able to produce a written health guarantee upon the purchase of the cat.
This is a low-maintenance cat; a weekly brushing with a rubber-grooming glove will suffice to keep the coat in good condition. Other basic grooming care should extend to the cat’s teeth, nails and ears.
The ideal family
This breed is suited for both indoor and outdoor living. Outdoor living, however does not mean free roaming; the space needs to be cat-friendly and must be escape-proof. In colder climates, it is best to keep the Sokoke indoor since it lacks a layer of insulating coat. Indoor living would require an adventure zone for the playful, athletic and agile Sokoke. Provide it with interactive toys, cat gym sets and cat trees. Verbal, outgoing and friendly, the Sokoke do make a great family companion to most types of household. It requires the family to be ready and willing to shower it with care and attention. This rare and endearing breed is certainly a treasure to have in the home.