Sokoke Cat Breed Information And Pictures

Russell Cargill


Said to be the rarest breed of domestic cat in the world, there are less than 30 Sokoke individuals registered with the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy in the United Kingdom. With that said, the Sokoke can often unknowingly be found in shelters; therefore, there could be many more individuals that simply have not been identified as a Sokoke.

Since their markings are consistent with a classic tabby cat, it can be easy to misidentify the breed based solely on the coat. However, for those who are lucky enough to adopt or buy a Sokoke, they are extremely peaceful and family friendly making a great addition to any family.

Sokoke Breed Overview
Height7-8 inches (18-20 cm)
Weight6-10 lbs (3-4.5 kg)
Lifespan12-15 years
ColorsGreen/amber, brown, or gray
Suitable forSingles, families with children or other household pets, elderly
TemperamentSociable, playful, friendly
Breed Traits Overview

History Of The Sokoke Forrest Cat

This East African breed originated in the Arabuko Sokoke rainforest in the coastal forests of Kenya. Due to the ring type pattern on the fur of the cat, the local Mombassa tribes referred to the breed as Kadzonzo, which translates to “looks like tree bark”.

The origin of the breed is completely natural with no human intervention to select for certain features; however, that changed in the late 1900s when Jeni Slater came across some Sokoke kittens on her coconut plantation in 1978.

After seeing how unusual the cats were, she took two to raise herself and later decided to take the two cats from East Africa to Europe. She later imported three more to begin breeding Sokokes, making them the first of their breed to start a population outside of the Arabuko Sokoke forest.

In the early 1980s, Gloria Moeldrup of Denmark visited Slater in East Africa and decided to take some Sokokes back to Denmark with her as well in an attempt to build a population there. With the tropical forests becoming overpopulated, she feared the Sokoke would be lost forever if breeding populations were not made outside of their native forest habitat in East Africa. 

Later in the early 1990s, Slater brought more cats to Europe to continue strengthening the genetics of the breeding pool there. It wasn’t until 2015 that the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy gave preliminary recognition to the breed.

However, with the breeding population starting out so small, there have never been many Sokoke cats available across Europe, the United Kingdom, or the United States and today, the cats are almost extinct in their native Arabuko Sokoke Forest.

How Much Does The Sokoke Cost?

While a Sokoke can cost on average between $500 and $2000, €420 to €1680, £360 to £1430, and A$660 to A$2640. Of course, the price range found is highly dependent on the reputable breeder purchased from; but if you are seeking a Sokoke, it’s highly recommended to first check human societies and shelters to adopt as they are often found abandoned or homeless. 

Note that outside of their home, the greater Arabuko Sokoke Forest area, the breed is mostly found in Europe. Therefore, even with the willingness to pay the top end of the average cost, it may be impossible to find one of these cats in Australia or the United States. The average cost reported in Europe is around €1,000 but can range much higher. 

With an estimated 100 individuals left between Europe and the Kenyan coast, it’s no easy feat finding a Sokoke cat to adopt with any budget.

Personality Traits Of The Sokoke

The personality of the Sokoke is often compared to that of a dog due to their high level of intelligence, ease of training, and even their interest in playing with water. 

The breed is very loyal making them exceptional family cats that can be trusted around small children. Since the Sokoke is such an elegant and peaceful breed, they will not be one to take their claws out or become combative when handled in a way they dislike; rather they will simply run away. This makes them very easy to read and well-tempered for younger children who may be more hands on with the cat.

Their family-oriented personalities make them a breed that will stick close to you throughout the day, often sleeping nearby or asking for attention. With their desire to socialize with their human family, the Sokoke does best in a busier family home where there is almost always someone home that they can follow around or have playtime with. 

Although they desire close interaction with humans and appreciate being pet, the Sokoke isn’t a lap cat. 

As intelligent and inquisitive cats, they will explore the home and get into your belongings if they are not given proper enrichment. These cats do well with large cat trees to climb on and several perches so that they can achieve new vantage points.

The Sokoke is a great breed to introduce into a home with other household pets. With their similar temperament and interests to dogs, they will adapt peacefully to other animals in the home and benefit from the extra exercise and play they can get from it. 

Keep in mind that Sokokes create very strong bonds with their families, whether it be other animals in the home or humans. Because of this, it’s very challenging to rehome them successfully without causing a great deal of stress to the animal.

If you are not completely sold on the breed, avoid adopting or purchasing one until you are sure you can care for them for the entirety of their lives to avoid more cats winding up in shelters or unhappy homes.

How To Take Care Of A Sokoke

Because of their very recent shift into households, the Sokoke is a very independent breed that can manage their care very successfully. From grooming to ensuring their dietary needs are met, you will find that these cats are self-sufficient when necessary. 


Although the Sokoke so recently emerged from the wilds of the Arabuko Sokoke Forest, they don’t have any special dietary needs to be aware of. Therefore, you can go ahead and buy any balanced cat food your veterinarian recommends for your Sokoke.

As with all other cat breeds, be sure to invest in high quality kitten food when they are less than one year old, then make the transition to high quality adult cat food. 

Although it can be tempting to supplement your cat’s food with human food, it’s not recommended to give your cat any table scraps. Although offering them things like raw chicken will not be toxic for their bodies, it can be hazardous with large bones or throw off the balance of their existing diet.

With too much additional supplementation of your cats’ diet, you may see more weight gain as well as looser or unhealthy looking stool. As a general rule, consult your veterinarian before making any changes to your cat’s food to prevent any stomach problems or imbalance of vital vitamins and minerals. 


With very thin, short coats, the Sokoke will not be a breed that requires much brushing or bathing. A simple hand groom or brush about once a week will get any excess hair off of your cat. You can stick to bathing your cat a few times a year to maintain healthy skin; however, if your cat spends a lot of time outside or playing in water, it may be recommended to bathe more.

The main form of grooming you will need to stay consistent with for the Sokoke is maintaining their ear health. With large pointed ears, they are prone to getting infections, mites, and other common ear problems. 

These can be avoided with frequent cleaning of the ears to prevent any build up of dust or dirt. You can easily clean your cats’ ears at home, but if you start noticing abnormal behaviors involving itching of the ears or shaking of the head, be sure to bring your cat to the vet to ensure they don’t have an infection that requires medication. 


A unique trait of the Sokoke is their high level of intelligence and canine-like playfulness. With this, they are incredibly eager and will play fetch, go swimming, and learn tricks all with the right level of training!

In addition to training your cat for play, you will find that they grasp litter box training and furniture training with ease. Be sure to set household boundaries with your cat early on to give them a good understanding of what they can and can’t play on. 

When you begin training your cat, you may find that they have either too much energy to focus, or are unmotivated and looking for rest. It can take a few attempts to find your Sokoke in the ideal mood for a training session, but it can greatly benefit your success in training this breed to be consistent and keep training sessions short. 

Stick to a 10 minute session one to two times a day to see the highest level of remembering and progress in your Sokoke. 


Apart from their previously mentioned high motivation to play and socialize, the Sokoke makes for a decent outdoor cat. Since they have keen instincts, heightened hearing with dynamic ears that can rotate to be more aware of any danger, you will not need to worry about this breed getting injured or predated on when roaming around outside. 

This opens up the option to play with your cat outside which can make games such as fetch and water play much more entertaining for them! However, as with any breed, it’s not recommended to leave your cat outside all the time as this can lead to unwanted breeding as well as ticks or mites getting lodged in their coat or ears. 


One of the major benefits of this Arabuko Sokoke forest breed, since they were so recently domesticated as wild animals, is that they are very strong healthy cats. The biggest health concern to keep an eye on is the health of their ears as they are susceptible to mites. 

However, you can treat mites in your home after consulting your veterinarian. Beyond this, it’s always imperative to be cautious about common feline diseases such as feline herpesvirus and parvovirus. Always be sure your cat is up to date on their vaccinations and deworming to keep them as healthy as possible.

Like all other cat breeds, you should pay close attention to the health of their mouth and nails. By doing frequent tooth brushing and nail trimming, your Sokoke will be desensitized to the process. 

This will be made easier with the purchase of a cat toothbrush and cat specific nail clippers.

Physical Attributes Of The Sokoke

The Sokoke has features much more in line with those of wild cats since they were so recently domesticated. This shows in their body structure as well as their facial attributes.

  • Head: Distinct facial features include large ears, rounded eyes, and a longer muzzle. 
  • Body: Consistent with their long legs, these cats have sleek, athletic bodies. 
  • Ears: Their ears are extremely large and upright, with rounded tips and the ability to rotate 180 degrees. This makes them more alert to any sounds or predators and was adapted for survival in the Arabuko Sokoke forest. 
  • Eyes: Sokokes eyes are usually amber or light green and fairly round in shape. 
  • Tail: Their long patterned tails give them a very balanced and sleek look
  • Legs and Paws: Unlike older cat breeds, the Sokokes back legs are longer than their front legs. This allows them to be incredibly fast and agile. Their legs are muscular giving them a very athletic look. The cat also tends to walk on its tiptoes much like other wild cat species. 
  • Coat: Sokokes have short coats with thin hair and no undercoat. They are not prone to shedding very much, making them a great choice for those with mild allergies. 
  • Color: A brown tabby pattern can be seen among the Sokokes. This pattern goes down to the tip of their tail and makes them extremely well camouflaged. 

Conclusion On The Sokoke Cat Breed

Since the Sokoke is thought to be the rarest cat breed in the world, you will likely face challenges trying to track one down for adoption.

However, if you are fortunate enough to bring one of these cats into your family, you will find that they are a fun, affectionate, and endearing breed!

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