Sokoke Cat: Breed Profile, Characteristics, and Care Guide

| Updated: May 1, 2023
Sokoke cat standing on hind legs showing of remarkable pattern

What is the rarest domestic cat? It might, arguably, be the Sokoke cat. This rare breed originated from the feral cats of eastern Kenya and has a distinctive coat pattern that resembles tree bark. The Sokoke cat is known for its friendly, dog-like personality and fondness for water. In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about this amazing breed, from its history and appearance to its temperament and health.

Breed Overview

Weight 5-10 pounds
Length 12-16 inches
Coat Length Short
Coat Colors Brown, gray
Coat Patterns African or blotched tabby
Eye Color Greenish amber, hazel
Personality Friendly, intelligent, curious, loyal, independent, confident, adventurous
Lifespan 10-15 years
Hypoallergenic No
Good with Kids Yes, if well-socialized and respectful
Good with Pets Yes, if well-socialized and respectful
Origin Kenya, Denmark, United States

History of the Sokoke Cat

The Sokoke cat breed was discovered by accident in 1978 when wildlife artist Jeni Slater found a mother cat and her kittens near the edge of the Sokoke forest, a protected area in eastern Kenya. She was fascinated by their unique appearance and decided to take two kittens home with her. She named them Tigger and Mzuri and soon realized that they were very different from other domestic cats.

Slater contacted a local tribe, the Giriama, who told her that these cats were called Khadzonzo or Kadzonzo, which means “look like tree bark” in their language. They also said these cats were rare and had been living in the Arabuko Sokoke Forest for centuries. Slater suspected that they might be a new subspecies of the wildcat, but genetic tests later confirmed that they were domestic cats with Asian ancestry.

Slater wanted to preserve and promote this unique breed, so she contacted a friend in Denmark, Gloria Moeldrup, who was a cat breeder. Moeldrup agreed to take some of the kittens and start a breeding program. She also registered the breed with the Federation Internationale Feline (FIFe) in 1990 under the name Sokoke Forest Cat. Later, the name was shortened to Sokoke.

The Sokoke cat breed was also introduced to the United States by Jeannie Knocker, another friend of Slater’s who lived in Florida. Knocker imported some of the cats from Denmark and began to show them in cat shows. She also registered the breed with The International Cat Association (TICA) in 1994.

Today, the Sokoke cat is recognized by four major cat registries: FIFe, TICA, Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA), and Canadian Cat Association (CCA). However, it is still one of the rarest domestic cat breeds in the world, with only a few hundred registered individuals.

What Does the Sokoke Cat Look Like

The Sokoke cat is a medium-sized cat with a slender and muscular body. It has long legs, a long tail, and a wedge-shaped head with large ears and almond-shaped eyes. The eyes are usually greenish amber or hazel in color.

The most striking feature of the Sokoke cat is its coat pattern, which is called African or blotched tabby. The short, coarse, glossy coat has dark brown or black markings on a lighter brown or gray background. The markings form rosettes or blotches on the body, stripes on the legs and tail, and an M-shaped mark on the forehead. The coat pattern is caused by the agouti gene, which gives each hair banding of light and dark colors.

The coat pattern of the Sokoke cat is believed to be an adaptation to its natural environment in the forest, where it helps them blend in with the tree bark and avoid predators. The coat pattern also varies depending on the season: it becomes darker and more contrasted in winter and lighter and more blended in summer.

The Sokoke cat comes in two main color varieties: brown tabby and snow tabby. The brown tabby has a warm brown base color with black markings, while the snow tabby has a cool gray base color with brown markings. The snow tabby is very rare and is only found in some lines of the breed.

Sokoke Cat Personality

The Sokoke cat is a friendly, intelligent, and curious cat that loves to explore its surroundings. It is very active and playful and enjoys climbing, jumping, and chasing toys. It also likes water and will not hesitate to splash in puddles or bathtubs.

The Sokoke cat is very loyal and affectionate to its owners, but it is not a lap cat. It prefers to be near its people rather than on them and will follow them around like a dog. It also likes to talk to its owners with chirps and trills and will greet them at the door when they come home.

The Sokoke cat is not fond of being picked up or cuddled and will tell you when to stop. They are also very independent and confident and will not tolerate being bossed around by other pets or humans. It needs a lot of mental stimulation and environmental enrichment to keep it happy and prevent boredom.

The Sokoke cat is best suited for owners who are looking for a cat that is more like a friend than a pet. It is not recommended for people who want a cuddly, quiet, or low-maintenance cat. They need ample space and freedom to roam, so it is not ideal for an apartment or indoor-only lifestyle.


  • The Sokoke cat is a rare and exotic breed that has a striking coat pattern and a friendly personality.
  • The Sokoke cat is very healthy and robust, with no known genetic issues and high resistance to diseases.
  • The Sokoke cat is very intelligent and curious and enjoys exploring its surroundings and playing with toys.


  • The Sokoke cat is not a lap cat or a couch potato; it needs a lot of space and freedom to roam and exercise.
  • The Sokoke cat is not very tolerant of being picked up or cuddled; it prefers to be near its people rather than on them.
  • The Sokoke cat is one of the rarest domestic cat breeds in the world; it is hard to find and expensive to buy.

Common Health Issues in Sokoke Cats

The Sokoke cat is a very healthy breed with no known hereditary health problems. Thanks to its wild ancestry, it has a strong immune system and a high resistance to diseases. However, because of its long isolation, its immune system is also untrained and may not be able to cope with some common feline infections. Therefore, keeping up with preventive vaccinations and regular vet check-ups for your cat is important.

The Sokoke cat has an average lifespan of 10 to 15 years but can live up to 20 years or more with proper care. Some of the factors that can affect its longevity include diet, exercise, grooming, and stress levels. To keep your kitty healthy and happy, you should feed it a high-quality diet that is rich in protein and low in carbohydrates, provide it with plenty of fresh water, groom it once a week with a brush or glove, keep its nails trimmed and ears clean, and offer it lots of toys and activities to stimulate its mind and body.

Where to Buy a Sokoke Cat

The Sokoke cat is one of the rarest domestic cat breeds in the world, so you might have a hard time finding one. Only a few breeders in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Australia specialize in this breed, and they usually have long waiting lists and high prices. The average cost of a Sokoke kitten ranges from $500 to $2000, depending on the breeder, location, pedigree, and quality.

Try contacting the major cat registries, as they may be able to point you in the direction of a reputable breeder.


The Sokoke cat is a rare and beautiful breed that has a lot of personality and charm. It is friendly, intelligent, curious, and loyal to its owners but also independent, confident, and adventurous. It has a striking coat pattern that resembles tree bark and helps it camouflage in the forest. It is also very healthy and robust, with no known genetic issues.

But if you manage to find one; if you manage to bond with one; if you manage to love one, then you will have a wonderful companion that will last for a lifetime. The Sokoke cat is a breed like no other; it is a breed that will capture your heart and soul with its good looks, intelligence, and charisma. It is a breed that will make you feel like you have a piece of the African forest in your home.

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you learned something new and interesting about this amazing cat. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below. And if you have a Sokoke cat or know someone who does, please share your stories and experiences with us. We would love to hear from you.

Have a great day, and happy catting! 😊


Here are some common questions that people have about the Sokoke cat breed and their answers.

Are Sokoke cats hypoallergenic?

No, Sokoke cats are not hypoallergenic. They shed little hair but still produce dander and saliva, which are the main causes of cat allergies. If you are allergic to cats, you should consult your doctor before getting any cat.

Do Sokoke cats get along with other pets?

Yes, Sokoke cats can get along with other pets, especially if they are introduced at a young age. They are friendly, playful, and curious and can make friends with dogs, cats, and even smaller animals. However, they may not tolerate being bullied or dominated by other pets and may use their claws and teeth to defend themselves if necessary.

Do Sokoke cats need a lot of grooming?

No, Sokoke cats do not need a lot of grooming. Their short, coarse, glossy coats do not mat or tangle easily. They only need to be brushed once a week with a grooming glove or brush to remove loose hair and dirt. They also need to have their nails trimmed and their ears cleaned regularly.

Do Sokoke cats like water?

Yes, Sokoke cats like water. They are not afraid of getting wet and may even enjoy splashing in puddles or bathtubs. They may also drink water from faucets or fountains. However, you should always supervise your cat near water sources and ensure that it does not drink contaminated water or fall into deep water.

How can I find a Sokoke cat breeder?

The best way to find a Sokoke cat breeder is to contact one of the cat registries that recognize the breed, such as FIFe, TICA, CFA, or CCA. They can provide you with a list of reputable breeders in your area or country. You can also search online for websites or forums dedicated to the Sokoke cat breed and ask for recommendations from other owners or enthusiasts.

How can I adopt a Sokoke cat?

If you want to adopt a Sokoke cat instead of buying one from a breeder, you can check your local shelters or rescue groups for any available cats. Sometimes, people may surrender their Sokoke cats due to various reasons, such as allergies, moving, divorce, or financial difficulties. You might be able to find a Sokoke cat that is looking for a new home and give it a second chance at happiness.

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