You may not realize it, but you probably grew up with the British Shorthair. He is the clever feline of Puss in Boots and the grinning Cheshire Cat of Alice in Wonderland.
The British Shorthair is native to England. With the rise of cat shows during the Victorian era, cat fanciers began to breed the cats to a particular standard and keep pedigrees for them. At the earliest cat shows, British Shorthairs were the only pedigreed cats exhibited. All others were simply described by coat type or color.
Two world wars devastated the breed, and few British Shorthairs remained after World War II. With the help of other breeds, the Shorthairs, as they are called in Britain, were revitalized.
The American Cat Association recognized the British Shorthair in 1967, but the Cat Fanciers Association did not accept it until 1980. Now, all cat associations recognize the breed.
Males weight 12 to 20 pounds, females 8 to 14 pounds.
The British Shorthair is mellow and easygoing, making him an excellent family companion. He enjoys affection, but he’s not a “me, me, me” type of cat. Expect him to follow you around the house during the day, settling nearby wherever you stop.
Full of British reserve, the Shorthair has a quiet voice and is an undemanding companion. He doesn’t require a lap, although he loves to sit next to you. Being a big cat, he isn’t fond of being carried around.
This is a cat with a moderate activity level. He’s energetic during kittenhood, but usually starts to settle down by the time he is a year old. More mature British Shorthairs are usually couch potatoes, but adult males occasionally behave like goofballs. When they run through the house, they can sound like a herd of elephants.
British Shorthairs are rarely destructive; their manners are those of a proper governess, not a soccer hooligan. They welcome guests confidently.
Both pedigreed cats and mixed-breed cats have varying incidences of health problems that may be genetic in nature. Problems that have been seen in the Shorthair are gingivitisand hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, both of which can affect any breed.
The British Shorthair’s short, smooth coat is simple to groom with weekly brushing or combing to remove dead hairs. A bath is rarely necessary.
Brush the teeth to prevent periodontal disease. Daily dental hygiene is best, but weekly brushing is better than nothing. Trim the nails weekly. Wipe the corners of the eyes with a soft, damp cloth to remove any discharge. Use a separate area of the cloth for each eye so you don’t run the risk of spreading any infection.
Check the ears weekly. If they look dirty, wipe them out with a cotton ball or soft damp cloth moistened with a 50-50 mixture of cider vinegar and warm water. Avoid using cotton swabs, which can damage the interior of the ear.
Keep the litter box spotlessly clean. Cats are very particular about bathroom hygiene.
It’s a good idea to keep a British Shorthair as an indoor-only cat to protect him from diseases spread by other cats, attacks by dogs or coyotes, and the other dangers that face cats who go outdoors, such as being hit by a car. British Shorthairs who go outdoors also run the risk of being stolen by someone who would like to have such a beautiful cat without paying for it.
Coat Color And Grooming
With his short, thick coat, round head and cheeks, big round eyes, and rounded body, the British Shorthair resembles nothing so much as a cuddly teddy bear. His body is compact but powerful with a broad chest, strong legs with rounded paws and a thick tail with a rounded tip. The coat comes in just about any color or pattern you could wish for, including lilac, chocolate, black, white, pointed, tabby and many more. The best known color is blue (gray) and the cats are sometimes referred to as British Blues.
The shorthair does not reach full physical maturity until he is 3 to 5 years old.
Children And Other Pets
This mild-mannered cat is well suited to life with families with children and cat-friendly dogs. He loves the attention he receives from children who treat him politely and with respect and is forgiving of clumsy toddlers. Supervise young children and show them how to pet the cat nicely. Instead of holding or carrying the cat, have them sit on the floor and pet him. Other cats will not disturb his equilibrium. For best results, always introduce any pets, even other cats, slowly and in a controlled setting.