Key Personality Traits:
AffectionateCalmGood with Cats/DogsGood with KidsIntelligent
The British Shorthair is solid and muscular with an easygoing personality. As befits his British heritage, he is slightly reserved, but once he gets to know someone he’s quite affectionate. His short, dense coat comes in many colors and patterns and should be brushed 2-3 times a week to remove dead hair.
The British Shorthair is a study in roundness. He has a large round head, round eyes, and rounded paws. Even his tail has a rounded tip. He was once known as the British Blue because he came only in that color, but these days his short, plush coat comes in many different colors and patterns. There is also a longhaired variety, called the British Longhair. Except for his coat, the British Longhair is the same as the British Shorthair.
These cats are dignified, intelligent, and affectionate companions. He’s not generally a lap cat, but he will want to be at your side on the sofa or at least nearby. Females tend to have a serious demeanor, while males are more happy-go-lucky. These laidback cats can get along well with dogs and are calm around children, but they don’t enjoy being hauled around. It’s important to teach children to treat them with respect.
The British Shorthair is big, but he shouldn’t be fat. Watch his food intake to make sure he doesn’t become obese. Encourage him to chase fishing-pole toys or peacock feathers for exercise.
Brush or comb the British Shorthair’s coat two or three times a week to keep loose hair at a minimum. You’ll need to brush him more often in the spring when he sheds his winter coat. Trim the nails as needed and keep his ears clean.
The British Shorthair is well suited to any home with people who will love him. Keep him indoors to protect him from cars, diseases spread by other cats and attacks from other animals.
Other Quick British Shorthair Facts
- The British Shorthair has a stocky, sturdy, square body with a broad, full chest, short, strong legs, and a short, thick tail that tapers to a rounded tip.
- He wears a plush, luxurious coat that makes you want to roll around in it. He has a round head with a short nose, chubby cheeks and round eyes, all of which combine to give him a smiling expression.
- Blue is the most popular color for British Shorthairs, so much so that the “British Blue” almost seems as if he is his own breed. Other colors and patterns include white, black, blue, cream, various tabby patterns, tortoiseshell, calico and bi-color (a color plus white). His eyes can be deep gold, copper, blue or green, depending on which of his many coat colors or patterns he sports.
The History of the British Shorthair
When the Romans invaded Britain, they brought cats with them to help protect their food supplies from rodents along the way. The Romans eventually left, but the cats remained behind, conquering a country with only their charm. When the breeding of pedigreed cats became a fad in Victorian England, the British Shorthair (known simply as the Shorthair in Britain) was one of the first varieties to be developed. The British Longhair came about when breeders made crosses with Persians during World War I.
As with so many cat breeds, British Shorthairs almost died out during World War II. They were victims of food shortages that left breeders unable to feed their cats. After the war, the breed was revived with crosses to domestic shorthairs, Russian Blues, Persians and other cats.
The American Cat Association recognized the British Blue in 1967, The International Cat Association in 1979, and the Cat Fanciers Association in 1980. In 2009, TICA recognized the British Longhair as a variety, the only cat association to do so.
British Shorthair Temperament and Personality
The Cheshire Cat was undoubtedly a British Shorthair. These smiling cats enjoy attention, are normally quiet, but occasionally have bursts of crazed activity before changing back into your affectionate, dignified friend. They get along with children and cat-friendly dogs.
British Shorthairs are calm and undemanding. Males are big, easy lugs with a happy-go-lucky nature but a natural air of command. Females are more serious. Both want only to be with their people, not necessarily in a lap or being carried around, but next to them or in the same room with them. When you’re not home, they are satisfied to entertain themselves until you return.
This is not a very active cat. You won’t find him on top of the refrigerator but instead solidly on the floor. He is smart and will enjoy having toys to play with, especially if they are interactive.
He might be laidback, but the British Shorthair is smart. Challenge his brain and keep him interested in life by teaching him tricks and providing him with puzzle toys that will reward him with kibble or treats when he learns how to manipulate them.
Always choose a British Shorthair kitten from a responsible breeder. Meet at least one and ideally both of the parents to ensure that they have nice temperaments.
What You Need to Know About British Shorthair Health
All cats have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit diseases. Any cat breeder who claims that her breed has no health or genetic problems is either lying or is not knowledgeable about the breed. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on kittens, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her kittens are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons.
The British Shorthair is generally healthy, but he’s prone to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) and hemophilia B, a hereditary bleeding disorder. A DNA test has been developed that allows breeders to identify hemophilia B carriers or affected cats.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the most common form of heart disease in cats. It causes thickening (hypertrophy) of the heart muscle. An echocardiogram can confirm whether a cat has HCM. Avoid breeders who claim to have HCM-free lines. No one can guarantee that their cats will never develop HCM. British Shorthairs that will be bred should be screened for HCM, and cats identified with HCM should be removed from breeding programs. Do not buy a kitten whose parents have not been tested for this disease. Do not buy from a breeder who does not provide a written health guarantee.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new kitten into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a British Shorthair at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to protect his overall health. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier cat for life.
The Basics of British Shorthair Grooming
The British Shorthair’s plush coat is easy to groom with weekly combing or brushing to remove dead hair and distribute skin oils. You’ll need to brush him more often in the spring and fall when he sheds his coat in preparation for new growth. Comb the British Longhair daily to prevent or remove any tangles or mats.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually weekly. Check the ears every week for redness or a bad smell that could indicate an infection. If the ears look dirty, wipe them out with a cotton ball dampened with a gentle cleanser recommended by your veterinarian. Brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste and cat toothbrush for good overall health and fresh breath. Start brushing, nail trimming, and teeth brushing early so your kitten becomes accepting of this activity.
Choosing a British Shorthair Breeder
You want your British Shorthair to be happy and healthy so you can enjoy your time with him, so do your homework before you bring him home. For more information on the history, personality and looks of the British Shorthair, or to find breeders, visit the following websites:
- Cat Fanciers Association
- Cats Center Stage
- Fanciers Breeder Referral List
- The International Cat Association
A reputable cat breeder will abide by a code of ethics that prohibits sales to pet stores and wholesalers and outlines the breeder’s responsibilities to their cats and to buyers. Choose a breeder who has performed the health certifications necessary to screen out genetic health problems to the extent that is possible, as well as one who raises kittens in the home. Kittens who are isolated can become fearful and skittish and may be difficult to socialize later in life.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include kittens always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any kitten, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable British Shorthair breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your feline friend from a breeder, a pet store, or a breed rescue or adoption agency, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware.” Disreputable breeders and unhealthy catteries can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100 percent guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick kitten, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy kittens.
Put at least as much effort into researching your kitten as you would into choosing a new car or an expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Be patient. Depending on what you are looking for, you may have to wait 6 months or more for the right kitten to be available. Many breeders don’t release kittens to new homes until they are between 12 and 16 weeks of age.
Before you buy a kitten, consider whether an adult British Shorthair might be a better choice for your lifestyle. Kittens are loads of fun, but they’re also a lot of work and can be destructive until they reach adulthood. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health. If you are interested in acquiring an adult cat instead of a kitten, ask breeders about purchasing a retired show or breeding cat or if they know of an adult cat who needs a new home.
Adopting a Cat from a British Shorthair Rescue or a Shelter
The British Shorthair is an uncommon breed. It is unlikely that you will find one in a shelter or through a rescue group, but it doesn’t hurt to look. Sometimes pedigreed cats end up at the shelter after losing their home to an owner’s death, divorce, or change in economic situation. Check the listings on Petfinder, Adopt-a-Pet.com or Fanciers Breeder Referral List, and ask breeders if they know of a British Shorthair who is in need of a new home.
Wherever you acquire your British Shorthair, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter, or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with “pet lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the cat from both understand your rights and recourses.
Kitten or adult, take your British Shorthair to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
British Shorthair Cat Breed FAQs
Are British Shorthair cats hypoallergenic?
No, British Shorthairs are not hypoallergenic cats. They have a dense coat and do shed in the spring and fall. No cat is truly hypoallergenic.
Are British Shorthair cats friendly?
While they are not considered overly affectionate or lap cats, British Shorthairs are friendly. They enjoy the company of their pet parents and get along well with other cats and cat-friendly dogs.
How big does a British Shorthair get?
British Shorthair cats are considered medium-to-large cats. They tend to weigh between 7-17 pounds, and males are typically more hefty than females. They usually have a length of 22-25 inches and a height of 12-14 inches. British Shorthairs don’t reach their full size until about 3 years of age.