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    American Shorthair

    American Shorthair

    Place of origin

    United States and Europe


    In the early days of the cat fancy, there was extensive exchange of particularly attractive shorthaired show cats between England, continental Europe, and the United States. These were bred together under the name Shorthair until separate breed standards were established for the American Shorthair, the British Shorthair, the Chartreux, and the Russian Blue. As is often the way, early cat fanciers were more interested in exotic varieties than in the familiar homegrown shorthairs, and the local Domestic (American) Shorthair was overlooked until relatively recently.

    In the decades following the establishment of the cat fancy in Britain in the 1870s, British breeders exported a number of champion Shorthairs (it would be a while before they were called British Shorthairs) to their American counterparts to help them found the Shorthair breed across the pond. At that time, what would be the British Shorthair was closer in type to the modern American Shorthair. Two particularly influential sires, sent over in the 1890s, were Mrs. Herring's silver classic tabby Champion Jimmy and Mr. Alfred Park's Champion Silver Mine; many American Shorthairs can claim these as ancestors.

    The first Shorthair registered with the CFA in the United States was Champion Belle of Bradford, an orange tabby male born in England in 1900. In fact, many of the early cats registered were imported. Miss Jane R. Cathcart of New Jersey specialized in crossing imported Shorthairs, of both British and French parentage, with carefully selected cats from local farms.

    As more breeds appeared, it became necessary to expand the name of the American breed and distinguish domestically bred Shorthairs from the various imported breeds. The shorthaired breed developed in the United States became the Domestic Shorthair, a name intended to reflect its local origins, but the cats were frequently confused with random-bred household domestic pets. As a result, nonpedigree shorthairs were passed off as pedigree Domestic Shorthairs and the breed suffered.

    During the late 1930s, small number of dedicated breeders kept the true Domestic (American) Shorthair alive, and the strikingly marked silver tabbies remained the most popular variety. Unfortunately, breeders focused so much on colors and patterns that conformation deteriorated. Some breeders used British Shorthairs and selected American farm lines to restore the looks and vigor of the American Shorthair, in particular broad heads, square muzzles, and strong bodies. From the 1940s onward, the breed gained in interest but continued to be hindered by the confusing name Domestic Shorthair.

    In 1961, a group of West Coast breeders formed the American Shorthair Cat Association; in 1966, they convinced American cat registries to rename the breed American Shorthair to reflect its distinct character and to differentiate it from other shorthaired breeds and from random-bred domestic shorthairs.

    During this same time, the British Shorthairs were becoming cobbier due to breeding with Persians. The American Shorthairs, however, remained smaller and leaner, yet still powerfully built to reflect their working origins. Hereafter, when British Shorthairs were still allowed to be bred to American Shorthairs, they had to prove they had no Persian ancestry in the last three generations. Such cats tended to be considered pet-quality in Britain, where the standard favored the cobbier type. The last British Shorthairs introduced into American Shorthair lines came from a British cattery in the 1970s that had resisted the move toward the chunkier conformation. Around the same time, a brown mackerel tabby male with an unknown sire was controversially allowed to be registered to contribute to the health of the breed.

    Although cats of the American Shorthair type had existed since the 1890s, it was not until the late 1960s and early 1970s that the American Shorthair breed finally took off, becoming viewed as more than just a domestic pet or farm cat and kept distinct from its British cousin. Although it is still not widely known outside of North America, it has become one of the most popular breeds in the United States. When you look at an American Shorthair, you are looking at the type of shorthaired cat who was exhibited at the start of the organized cat fancy.

    Physical description

    The American Shorthair is "medium" in many ways-medium size, medium boned, and well balanced. This cat has a firm muscular body and a sweet facial expression. The American is smaller than the British Shorthair, with a less cobby body. The American Shorthair has a short, lustrous coat, which developed to be dense enough to protect its working ancestors against the elements but less plush than that of the British Shorthair. Shorthairs are considered low-maintenance cats who are generally healthy. The cat's physical features do not fully mature until the age of three or four years old.

    Colors and varieties

    The most popular colors associated with the American Shorthair breed are in the classic tabby pattern, with or without white brown: blue, brown, cream, patched (torbie), red, and silver. This pattern is elaborately described in terms that include such accoutrements as vest buttons, bracelets, necklaces, bulls-eyes, and butterflies. The silver classic tabby-patterned American Shorthair cats with bright green eyes are particularly distinctive and popular. There is a wide range of colors and patterns, including mackerel tabbies, shaded silvers, smokes, and solid colors. Chocolate or lilac colors/patterns and the colorpointed pattern are not recognized by the major registries because these are indicative of crossing with other breeds.


    The easy-going and adaptable American Shorthair makes a loving, devoted companion that is more outgoing than the British Shorthair. The American Shorthair fits into any household, making a good companion for seniors, as well as fitting into families with children. This cat is intelligent, but does not constantly demand attention. Having developed from working cats, they enjoy playing with preylike toys, such as a toy mouse, or watching outdoor activity from a windowsill. Some American Shorthairs are lap cats, while others just like to be near their people.

    Activity level


    Vocal level


    Special needs

    Although this breed does not demand any special care, stroking the coat of the American Shorthair with a damp hand or an occasional bath can help remove shed hair and bring out the sparkle of the coat. Like most shorthaired cats, they benefit from being combed once or twice a week.


    The American Wirehair is a coarse-haired relative of the American Shorthair. Chocolate-silver American Shorthairs with brown markings on a pale background have been bred under the name Vienna Woods because the chocolate color was not allowed in the American Shorthair breed. Shorthaired breeds have been developed from domestic cat populations in many countries. The Antipodean, the Celtic Shorthair, and the Mexican Shorthair are other breeds derived from shorthaired populations in other parts of the world.

    Torbie and white American Shorthair

    Solid black American Shorthair kitten

    From The Cat Bible, Copyright by Sandy Robins, licensed through ContentOro, Inc and used by arrangement with I-5 Press

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