British Shorthair

British shorthair cats are one of the oldest recognized cat breeds, first thought to have been brought to Britain by the Romans. Prized for their soft, plush coats and rounded bodies, British shorthairs could almost be mistaken for living teddy bears.
By Doug Jimerson
August 24, 2020
British Shorthair
Coat Length
Pattern
Other Traits
Temperament
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British Shorthair

height
  • 12 to 14 inches
weight
  • 7 to 17 pounds
life span
  • 15 to 20 years
good with
  • children
  • seniors
  • dogs
  • cats
  • families
temperament
  • sociable
  • affectionate
intelligence
  • high
shedding amount
  • occasional
playfulness
  • medium
activity level
  • calm
vocalness
  • when necessary
coat length
  • short
colors
  • white
  • black / ebony
  • red / orange
  • blue / gray
  • cream / beige / tan
  • chocolate / brown / sable
  • cinnamon
  • fawn
  • lilac
patterns
  • solid
  • bi-color
  • tabby
  • calico / tri-color
  • color point
other traits
  • easy to train
  • easy to groom
  • friendly toward humans
  • friendly toward other pets
  • friendly toward strangers
  • tolerates being alone
  • high prey drive
  • good for first-time pet owners
  • strong loyalty tendencies

One of the most popular cat breeds in the world, the British shorthair is appropriately named. Not only do British shorthairs have a thick, plush short coat, they also have a friendly yet no-nonsense—that is, rather British—sensibility about life. British shorthairs make ideal family pets and enjoy being with their owners, but may turn up their noses at being held or cuddled too much. This beautiful breed comes in a wide variety of colors and patterns, but the traditional British shorthair is wrapped in blue fur. British shorthairs are a medium to large-sized breed with few health problems.

Appearance

Besides being treasured for their easy-going attitude about life, British shorthairs are beloved for their thick, dense coats that come in almost any color or pattern. Blue-gray cats, often called British blues, are probably the most popular color choice of British shorthair fanciers. British shorthairs are easy to recognize because of their thick legs, broad chests, chubby cheeks, and rounded heads. British shorthairs with blue coats also have bold orange-amber eyes, but individuals with other coat colors can have green, copper, amber, or blue eyes. 

These gorgeous cats only require a quick brushing once a week to keep their coat free of loose hair and dirt. British shorthairs are a medium to large cat with big males potentially tipping the scales at 17 pounds. 

Temperament

British shorthairs are just about perfect when it comes to temperament: They’re active without being boisterous, they’re affectionate without being cloying, and they’re smart, but don’t feel the need to show off by figuring out how to open your refrigerator. British shorthairs are also easy-going and will treat everyone in the family (including other pets) like a good friend, especially if socialized when kittens. This happy breed takes life as it comes and loves a good romp as much as a night stretched out in front of the television. British shorthairs love attention, but they do value personal space, so may turn up their noses at being physically held or hugged too much. Cat behaviorist Marilyn Krieger, a certified cat behavior consultant in San Francisco (aka The Cat Coach and author of "Naughty No More: Change Unwanted Behaviors Through Positive Reinforcement") gives top marks to this cat breed. “They are sweet, laid back, and are loyal companions,” she says. 

Living Needsu0026nbsp;

Like most cats, British shorthairs aren’t too fussy about where they live as long as they have loving owners who interact with them. What’s nice is that British shorthairs have a medium energy level which means they’re always up for a game of laser tag, but you won’t have to worry about them getting into trouble while you are at work. Because British shorthairs are a larger breed, make sure to buy at least two oversized litter pans to comfortably accommodate your pet when he's fully grown. (A good rule of thumb when choosing a litter box is that it should be as wide as your adult cat is from its nose to the base of its tail and about half as long as your cat.)

Care

British shorthairs don’t need to be fussed over to keep them looking good. Their short, soft, dense coat only requires weekly brushing to remove dead hair and skin cells. Like other breeds, they need regular nail and dental care as well as regular trips to the veterinarian. And, check their ears regularly for wax build-up or possible ear mites

Health

British shorthairs are a large, healthy breed that can live up to 20 years. However, they do suffer from some health problems. They can be prone to a condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which is a thickening of the muscular walls of the cat’s heart; this causes difficulty breathing, lethargy, and loss of appetite in older animals. And, similar to other breeds, British shorthairs can develop urinary tract and kidney issues. To help prevent health problems from developing, start by getting your kitten from a reputable breeder who uses healthy adults and always take your cat to your vet once a year for a check-up. Also, always spay or neuter your pet and keep their vaccinations up to date.

In addition to regular health check-ups, exercise should play an important role in your British shorthair’s life. Because they are a medium energy breed, they can gain too much weight in their later years unless you develop strategies that keep them moving when they are young. Interactive toys, fishing wands, balls, lasers, and climbing structures will all help keep your British shorthair fit and trim both physically and mentally. 

History

An ancient breed, British shorthairs are believed to be the direct ancestors of the original cats the Romans brought with them when they invaded England in 55 BC. They were used for vermin control and quickly spread throughout the country as street and farm cats. But, in the late 1800s, a determined cat breeder named Harrison Weir began developing the British shorthair by crossing different individuals. In fact, the British shorthair was on display at an early cat show held at London’s Crystal Palace in 1871. Later, after World War One, the British shorthair we know today was finessed by adding Persian, Russian blue, French Chartreux, and domestic shorthair cats into the mix. Eventually, in the 1970s, the British shorthair was given formal recognition around the globe.

Fun Facts

  • British shorthairs have a special place in literature, too. Probably the most famous British shorthair is the Cheshire Cat in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. No one really knows exactly where Lewis Carroll got his inspiration for the Cheshire Cat’s smiling countenance, but some believe it was from an illustration on a label of Cheshire Cheese (others believe he was inspired by a church sculpture), but whatever it was, the Cheshire Cat looks a lot like a contented British shorthair. 
  • Today, British shorthairs continue to make appearances in advertising, including for brands like Prada and Whiskas. These loving felines are also adored by celebrities such as Naomi Campbell, Stefano Gabbana, and singer Sam Smith. British shorthairs also star on social media with over 3 million posts about this amazing feline.