All About The British Shorthair
Introduction & History
The British Shorthair probably traces its ancestry back to the domestic cats of ancient Rome. Historians believe that these pedigreed British cats are the descendants of cats originally brought to the British Isles by Romans in the 1st century A.D. Mingling with the local feline population produced a large, robust domestic cat with a short, thick coat. For centuries this was the domestic British cat. If you’re familiar with cats in English nursery rhymes and fiction, this is that cat. This is the Cheshire Cat from Alice In Wonderland, for example. In the 19th century fanciers became interested in standardizing the breed. A British Blue variety became especially popular and this is still the most recognizable color in the breed today. The “new” breed was displayed at the first cat show ever to be held – in London – in 1871. After this time the British Shorthair became very popular. However, by the 1890s, many Persians, longhaired breeds, and a number of oriental cat breeds were being introduced into Britain and the popularity of the pedigreed British Shorthair was in decline. (There was no shortage of the native British cat.) By World War I purebred British Shorthairs were at a critically low number. As a result, there were crosses of the British Shorthair with Persians, other longhaired cats, native unregistered cats, and with Russian Blues. There was a further loss of breeding stock during World War II. Following the war, breeders introduced more Persians, Russian Blues, and the French Chartreux into the British Shorthair gene pool to try to restore the look of the original British Shorthair. By the late 1970s the breed was once again re-established and had achieved recognition from various cat registries. Today the British Shorthair is the most popular registered cat in the UK and it has many fans around the world.
Nicknames for this breed include the “British,” “Brits,” and, in the UK, “Shorthairs.”
How To Recognize a British Shorthair
The most popular color for a British Shorthair is the “British Blue” color which is a solid blue-gray hue. These cats often have copper eyes. The British Shorthair does come in many other colors: black, white, red, cream, silver, golden, cinnamon, and fawn are all solid colors. They also come in color point, tabby, shaded, and bi-color patterns. Some registries accept chocolate and the dilute lilac. All of these colors and patterns also come in tortoiseshell variants.
The British Shorthair’s coat is short and very thick but the cat does not have an undercoat. The texture of the coat is plush and not fluffy or woolly like some cats. It has a “crisp” look when the cat moves.
You can see many pictures of this handsome breed here.
Most British Shorthairs in the United States are blue, with over half of the cats of this breed registered with the Cat Fancier’s Association (CFA) being blue.
British Shorthairs are considered to be large cats. Males usually weigh 9-17 pounds (or more) and females weigh 7-12 pounds (or more). They have a powerful, sturdy appearance and are somewhat compact. They have a broad chest with strong, thick legs. Their heads are comparatively large and rounded with broad cheeks. Males are prone to developing noticeable jowls. Because of their size and bone density, British Shorthairs do not usually reach fully maturity until they are about three years of age.
Along with the British Blue color of some British Shorthairs – and their copper eyes – the breed is known for it’s thick, dense fur, chunky body, and round face. It’s often compared to a teddy bear.
British Shorthairs are typically good-natured, intelligent, calm cats. Some have called them lazy as adults. They are considered to be friendly and affectionate. Males tend to be more outgoing than females. They are not necessarily lap cats but they will follow you and curl up near you for a good snooze. They are usually moderate, reserved cats. Not too demonstrative and not stand-offish. They are dignified in a cat way but easy-going. Most sources say that the British Shorthair is not a very active cat but they can have their wild moments when they race around the house. They can be devoted to their owners but they don’t usually like to be held or carried. They usually get along well with children and other pets, including friendly dogs. (As always, it’s important to teach your children how to interact gently with cats.) This is not a talkative breed unless you have an unusual cat.
Living with a British Shorthair
Humans and British Shorthairs
It’s easy to live with a British Shorthair. This is not a demanding cat. They are considered to be easy-going and easy to care for. They do not require any special grooming though you will probably want to apply a brush when they are shedding to remove loose hair from their thick coat. You may need to groom a senior cat more often to help prevent mats from forming. This breed does well as an indoor cat but they are prone to gaining weight. Make sure you provide your cat with some activity and play; and take care to manage his weight. British Shorthairs are loyal, devoted cats but they usually prefer to be near you rather than in your lap. Most of them do not enjoy being picked up or carried. Males are usually more outgoing and friendly with strangers than females. They make a wonderful family cat.
Dogs and British Shorthairs
British Shorthairs usually get along well with friendly dogs. It’s always important to oversee these relationships, especially in the early days. Many times it’s easier to introduce a small puppy to an older cat since the cat will have the upper paw (so to speak). We do recommend that you keep your cat’s food out of reach of your dog. Most dogs will eat your cat’s food if they have the opportunity. You should also place your British Shorthair’s litter box in an area that your dog can’t reach. Many dogs have an unsavory habit of eating things out of the litter box when they can. It’s also good to have perches and other high places handy for your cat to escape in case your dog gets pushy.
Other Cats and British Shorthairs
Many British Shorthairs enjoy the company of other cats. They are known for getting along well with other pets, including other cats.
If you are introducing a new cat into your home, regardless of age, it may take some time for the cats to get to know each other and become friends. You can’t rush these relationships. Cats have to work out who has higher social status, which cat gets the best sleeping spots, and other important details. They will likely become friends eventually so just be patient. You may want to add an extra perch or cat tree when you introduce a new cat to the house so there is less competition for the same spots. Consider adding an extra litter box so your current cat doesn’t have to share his box with the newcomer.
Whenever you are introducing a new pet into a home with an established cat, be sure to pay attention to your current cat. If you lavish all of your attention on your new pet, your current cat is likely to become jealous or unhappy which often leads to bad feelings toward the new pet.
Common Health Problems
According to the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy in the UK, the British Shorthair has a slow metabolism. These cats can be prone to becoming fat. The breed’s slow metabolism should be considered when choosing a cat food.
The breed has had a problem with Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) in the past but there is a DNA test for this condition which is used by breeders. The problem is considered to be under control.
Like many cats, the British Shorthair can be prone to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a heart disease. There is no DNA test yet for this disease in the British Shorthair but breeders try not to use affected animals in their breeding programs.
Hemophilia B, a bleeding disorder, is also found in British Shorthairs. Fortunately, a DNA test now exists to identify affected cats in the breed.
Urinary tract stones such as bladder stones are also seen in some British Shorthairs. These stones are not uncommon in cats, especially cats that eat a dry food diet. Feeding a food with more moisture in the diet is often beneficial. There are also prescription diets that are high in acidity to help break down the stones.
Some British Shorthairs have had issues with congenital deafness.
The British Shorthair is a very long-lived cat. According to the majority of sources, the lifespan of British Shorthairs is said to be 14-20 years.
Pet Insurance for your British Shorthair
Considering the health of your British Shorthair and the cost of vet care today, you may want to investigate pet health insurance. This kind of health insurance allows you to have insurance in place in case your cat has an accident or has certain health problems. Instead of paying the full cost of expensive veterinary care, you would only pay a fraction. You can choose how much coverage you need and pick the plan that works for you and your cat. Veterinary health care can be expensive today so this is something to consider.
Diet and Nutrition
According to most sources, British Shorthairs are not hard to feed. They are not usually picky about their food. Since this is a large, easy-going breed and most pet cats live indoors these days, it’s particularly important to pay attention to the British Shorthair’s weight and calories. They are prone to becoming overweight as they get older.
Some breeders recommend cat foods that meet the following criteria:
- Are high in protein;
- Use human grade ingredients;
- Are grain and potato free;
- Choose moist over hard food as the main source of nutrition
You should also make sure that the food has suitable Vitamin A and taurine. These vitamins and minerals are usually added to all cat foods today. We recommend that any food you buy for your British Shorthair be AAFCO-approved. While some people criticize AAFCO for various reasons, it still provides some minimal level of assurance that the food and labeling are meeting requirements. We also suggest that you look for foods that have a minimum of 40 percent protein (DMB). This is higher than AAFCO recommendations which are 26 percent for adult cats and 30 percent for kittens, but it is closer to the protein level a cat would have eating a raw diet.
Canned food brands we like for British Shorthairs include Tiki Cat and Wellness CORE Grain Free Indoor Formula. Another brand often recommended for British Shorthairs is Instinct Nature’s Variety which comes in a variety of canned recipes, including limited ingredient diets. It also comes as a dry kibble.
Another popular dry food for cats is Orijen dry cat food.
Be sure to encourage your British Shorthair to drink plenty of water, especially if you are putting down dry food. Some owners turn the kitchen or bathroom faucet on and let it trickle to encourage their British Shorthair to drink more water. Drinking fountains are also a popular way to encourage your British Shorthair to drink. Like many cats, they may not drink enough water if you simply put down a bowl of water.
British Shorthairs are an extremely old breed, dating all the way back to the 1st century A.D. They are the first pedigreed breed exhibited at the first formal cat show. Following ups and downs with the fortunes of war, this breed is the most popular breed in the UK today – and it has plenty of fans everywhere. Solid, round, a little like a teddy bear in appearance, this gentle, quiet breed makes a charming companion.