If you’re familiar with Alice in Wonderland, then you’re already acquainted with the British Shorthair. While the fictional Cheshire cat had a mischievous grin, the real-world British Shorthair has anything but. What it does have is a happy smile bordered with chipmunk cheeks. This is a little teddy bear with a genuinely happy smile, a plush coat, and an amazing disposition that makes it ideal for families. It is the British Isles’ most popular pedigreed feline breed and the world’s number 3, according to the Cat Fanciers’ Association. The British Shorthair is for those who want a cat that can inspire them with its natural calmness. But before you bring home a British Shorthair, find out more about this fine British kitty talent.
History of the British Shorthair
Cat fanciers and historians place the origins of this pedigreed British cat to as far back as the first century AD. As such, the British Shorthair is one of the world’s oldest identifiable cat breeds. When the Roman Empire expanded westward, they brought with them Egyptian domestic cats. These felines interbred with local European wildcats that populated the British Isles at the time. The result is a large and robust cat. They have short but very dense or thick coat which served to protect them from the bitter weather that battered the islands.
While the crossbreeding was fortuitous, both the Roman Army and the locals appreciated the cat’s hunting skills, endurance, and strength. However, what endeared the British Shorthair to the island populace was the cat’s general good-natured temperament. Because of this, the Shorthair found a new purpose in its life. No longer was it relegated to hunting duties. It was now a welcome and cherished member of the commoner and his family.
Selective breeding practices began to emerge in the 19th century. The emphasis of these programs was the creation of the blue-grey variant of the British Shorthair. They called these cats the British Blue to help differentiate them from another “blue-grey” kitty, the Russian Blue.
Over the course of many centuries, the Shorthair became a quintessential British domestic cat. It shared the warmth of its human family’s hearth. One of the most loved attributes of the Shorthair is its “smile”. Pundits say that this is what inspired John Tenniel to design and create Lewis Caroll’s Cheshire Cat in 1865. Look at any picture of a Shorthair today and this warm and happy smile is still very evident on its chubby-cheeked face.
The Father of Cat Fancy, Harrison William Weir, admired the Shorthair so much that he sought to bring together like-minded people. Weir thought of showcasing the Shorthair in a formal event. This will encourage cat owners to start strengthening and enhancing the many beautiful characteristics of the British Shorthair. Part of Weir’s goal was to encourage Shorthair owners to start a breeding program that’s based on thoughtful pairings.
The result of Weir’s efforts was the very first cat show on July 13, 1871 held at the Crystal Palace in London. The show did not only feature the British Shorthair, of course, but other cat breeds as well. The event was well-received and would mark the beginning of regular feline show competitions. This catapulted both Weir and the Shorthair to fame.
Unfortunately, the show also had its unexpected drawbacks. Cat shows presented the public with new and different feline breeds. Persian cats and other long-haired feline breeds are now joining cat shows. People now wanted cats that were more beautiful and with longer coats. This saw the decline in the British Shorthair’s popularity. This also led to a decline in its breeding stock.
With the outbreak of the First World War, the population of Shorthairs became critical that fanciers and breeders had to crossbreed them with Persians. This resulted in the very first British Longhair. It was also common at the time to crossbreed a Shorthair with a Russian Blue, since the blue color was then considered a de facto trait of the Blue Shorthair.
After World War I, the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy decided that it will recognize and accept only third-generation crossbreeds between Shorthairs and Persians. This is to help maintain the standards of the cat breed.
The number of purebred British Shorthair fell to critical levels for the second time during the Second World War. This prompted fanciers to reintroduce the Russian Blue and the Persian into the breeding of Shorthairs. Some breeders also used the French Chartreux.
It was only after the war that Shorthair breeders began to reestablish the original standards of the British Shorthair breed. The result was a Shorthair that had the look of a Teddy bear complete with full whisker pads and a stout body. The cat also featured round, wide-open eyes that match well with its naturally-upturned mouth. It’s the happy smile that everyone is talking about. It retained its mild disposition and affectionate nature for which the British Shorthair is famous for.
The British Shorthair achieved formal recognition from The International Cat Association and the American Cat Fanciers’ Association in the late 1970s. The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy lists the British Shorthair as the UK’s most popular pedigreed feline breed and 2018’s third most popular breed in the world.
Quick Facts about the British Shorthair
As lovable as a Teddy bear, the British Shorthair is a favorite. They are adaptable and friendly cats. While it is true that the Shorthair has a Briton’s classic reserved personality, it can be affectionate once it gets to know you better. These are a few of the facts that one has to know about this pedigreed breed. The others are as follows.
- Shorthairs are very slow to mature. It takes them an average of 3 years before they reach their full maturity. By then, males would weigh around 9 to 17 lbs while female Shorthairs will weigh 7 to 12 lbs.
- While these cats may be slow to reach full maturity, they have one of the longest lifespans among cat breeds. On average, Shorthairs can live up to 20 years with the minimum at 14.
- This is a large cat with a broad chest and large and rounded head.
- The muzzle is short while the cheeks are broad. This is especially true among male Shorthairs because they develop more prominent jowls.
- The eyes of the Shorthair are large and round, resembling that of a Teddy bear. The British Blue’s eyes come with deep coppery orange color.
- The ears are broad and set wide apart. They take on a pointed triangular shape, too.
- The cat has strong and thick-set legs complete with rounded paws.
- The tail has a blunt tip and is of medium length.
- One of the most distinguishing characteristics of the British Shorthair is its coat. It is plush, but never fluffy or wooly. This cat may have a very dense coat, but it lacks an undercoat.
- The most famous color of the Shorthair is blue-grey. However, black, silver, golden, white, red, and cream are also common. Other newer colors are fawn and cinnamon. The GCCF, TICA, and FIFe now also recognize dilute lilac and chocolate colors. The CFA does not recognize such colors, however.
- When it comes to color patterns, the Shorthair can come in colorpoint, bicolor, parti-color, shaded, and tabby. There are calico, tortoiseshell, and other patterns, too.
Things You Should Know
It is easy to think that having a Shorthair in the family will be easy. They are not as rambunctious as other breeds of cat. They are also sturdier than most. These are just some of the things that all potential Shorthair owners have to know before they can bring a British Shorthair home. Let us learn more about this pedigree.
One of the greatest strengths of the Shorthair is its general health. Compared to most feline breeds, Shorthairs can live up to 20 years. The median lifespan for these kitties is 11.8 years in the UK and around 12.5 years in Sweden. They are not known for having cat health conditions that are specific to the breed.
Looking at its parents, the Persian is not a robust breed. It often suffers from breathing problems, birthing difficulties, eye problems, and skin disorders. Russian Blues are sturdier, nevertheless. And if you also factor in the Shorthair’s wildcat ancestors, it is possible that it got its robustness from these lineages.
This doesn’t mean the Shorthair is already immune to any type of feline disease. Like the rest of the cat kingdom, they are still at risk for the development of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy or HCM. The incidence of HCM is higher in male Shorthairs than in the female population. About a fifth of all males are at risk for HCM, while only 2 percent of female Shorthairs may have the condition. It is for this reason that males used for breeding purposes are now required to undergo HCM testing.
Another disease that the Shorthair can have is Polycystic Kidney Disease, a trait that is more pronounced in the Longhair because of its Persian blood. The good news is that the number of Shorthairs that carry the PKD trait is now at a low 1%.
British shorthairs are also at risk for hemophilia B, a type of bleeding disorder that it can inherit from its parents. Since Shorthairs have a laid-back attitude, they are vulnerable to obesity. They don’t exercise or move that much to burn off their excess calories.
When it comes to a Shorthair’s nutrition, it is almost the same as any other breed. It should always include animal protein, lots of moisture, and healthy fats. The cat food should also not contain byproduct meals as you will never know what actual ingredients are put into the mix. Be wary about preservatives, food coloring agents, and flavor enhancers.
The best type of food for a Shorthair is raw feline diet. If you can give it high-quality whole prey animals, then it’s the best food for them. Adding reduced-calorie but nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables can also help.
If you’re not sure about how to proceed with this feeding plan, then getting a high-quality wet cat food works best. You may think that cat kibbles are better. The sad thing is that dry cat food can contain more carbohydrates than protein and fats. If there are too many carbohydrates in the cat’s diet, you’re courting weight problems.
Keep in mind that the Shorthair doesn’t exercise that much. It may be playful as a kitten but it becomes a reserved cat once it turns adult. Hence, watching its calorie consumption is a must if you don’t want this kitty to become obese. Take note, obesity leads to other more serious health problems.
Caring for the British Shorthair involves regular visits to the veterinary clinic for routine vaccine shots and a general checkup. It is better to adhere to a regular veterinary schedule so as to prevent any untoward incidents from ever happening.
This cat doesn’t need plenty of exercise. As such, it is perfect for families and individuals who may not have plenty of time for pet interaction. However, this kitty will still need to know and feel your affection for it. It’s also a smart kitty. Interacting with it or giving it toys to play with can help maintain the sharpness of its mind.
British Shorthair kittens can have a price tag of $800 to $1,000. That being said, it would be wise to keep this kitty indoors, lest you lose it to cat thieves. The outdoors can be a very dangerous place for a kitty like the Shorthair. There are wild animals, stray cats, vehicles, cat-averse dogs, and other entities that can undermine the safety and wellbeing of the Shorthair.
Grooming the Shorthair is pure bliss. It has a very dense coat, yes. However, it also doesn’t have an undercoat. This makes it super easy to comb or brush its plush coat. Everyday hair care is not needed; although you should at least brush it once a week. This will help redistribute the oils on its skin while also helping improve blood flow.
The rest of the grooming routine is pretty basic. Every week, it’s important to trim the nails or at least when you start hearing scraping on the floor every time the cat walks. Inspecting the ears every week for redness, discharge, or foul smell is also important. Cleaning it afterwards constitutes good ear care in cats. Dental care is best accomplished every day. Given that this can be impractical to most folks, it’s best to brush the teeth at least once every 3 to 4 days.
Its wide and round teddy bear eyes will melt your heart and its happy grin will make your day complete. The British Shorthair is a little bundle of joy that appreciates it when you shower it with love. However, do not expect it to demand attention from you. It is not in the nature of this kitty to be very demanding. Nevertheless, it will always want to stay beside you or, at the very least, have you close by. One thing you have to keep in mind is that it is still pretty much British in temperament. It is reserved yet dignified, sometimes aloof. This is true for persons whom the Shorthair has seen for the first time.
Shorthairs are not notorious for wanting to get picked up and carried in the arms of their owners. They feel fine lying down in their favorite nook, thank you. But if you wish to turn this kitty into a Ragdoll-like feline, then you’ve got to start early in its training and socialization. The Shorthair may not be the most intelligent among the different cat breeds but it sure is smart enough to know what you want or expect of it.
The male British Shorthair has a very laid-back, easygoing personality. Its female counterpart, on the other hand, is more serious. It prefers to maintain its dignified look than looking silly playing games with its owners. Females are like quintessential British ladies. They expect nothing less than having the proper etiquette and form from people that they give their attention to.
The laid-back personality of the Shorthair makes it amiable to cat-friendly canines in the household. They are also calm around kids and would not mind interacting with them. As long as children learn not to pick up the Shorthair and carry it in their arms, everything should be fine.
You may see them patrolling every square inch of your home – their indoor kingdom. They do this with the calm demeanor of Sir Winston Churchill, making sure that everything is in order in his house. It is quiet and will never intrude into others’ affairs. They can amuse themselves in a quiet corner while you’re away, patiently waiting for your return.
The British Shorthair continues to melt the hearts of cat-loving people worldwide with its affectionate, calm, easygoing, dignified, and loyal nature. It could be the kitty that you’re waiting for all your life.