British Shorthair Breed Profile

British shorthair at a glance

  • Lifespan: 12-14 years
  • Energy: Medium
  • Temperament: Good-natured, quiet, independent, amiable
  • Weight: Males 6-9 kg (13.2 – 19.8 lbs), females 4-6 kg (8.8 – 13.2 lbs)
  • Colours: Blue, black, red, fawn, lilac, chocolate, cinnamon in solid and bicolour
  • Grooming: Requires weekly grooming
  • Other names: British Blue
  • Cost: $900-1,500

About

The British shorthair is the pedigreed version of the traditional British domestic cat. They have a distinctively chunky body, dense coat and a broad face.

History

The Romans are credited with the spread of cats from Egypt to Greece and throughout the Roman Empire. However, domestic cats reached Britain before the Romans, which we still cannot explain. What we do know is that cats formed a symbiotic relationship with man; their role was to keep rodent populations in check.

There are two theories as to the origins of the British shorthair:

  1. Some say Harrison Weir himself created the breed, while others believe a group of cat lovers selectively bred the best examples of working cats. These cats were exhibited at the first cat show, organised by Harrison Weir at Crystal Palace in 1871.
  2. Initially, shorthaired cats dominated the early cat shows, but by 1896 the longhaired breeds were favoured, and shorthairs had declined in numbers. In an attempt to rescue the declining short-haired cats, the Short-haired Cat Society was formed in 1901 and this club catered for, amongst other breeds the British shorthair.

During World War I, many breeds of the cat were almost decimated, including the British shorthair. After the war, breeders attempted to re-establish the breed. As numbers were low, British shorthairs were sometimes outcrossed to Persian cats. The GCCF objected to the use of Persian cats and the offspring were not permitted to be shown or registered as British shorthairs. The offspring were mated back to British shorthairs, and after three generations they were allowed to be registered as British shorthairs.

In the 1930s, Kit Wilson became involved with the breed. After World War II very few British shorthairs survived. Breeders turned to unregistered domestics, Russian Blue’s and Chartreux to help restore the breed. The offspring of these matings didn’t match the British shorthair type, so once again, Persians were used to try and re-create the look of the British type.

Appearance

The British shorthair is a medium to large cat with a sturdy and muscular that is described as cobby. The legs are heavy-boned, short with round paws and the tail is short to medium in length.

His head is massive and rounded with a broad skull and full jowls. There should be a gentle curve from the nose to the round forehead. Ears are small and set wide apart and the eyes are large and round and can be found in several colours depending on the coat colour.

British shorthairs have a short, dense and plush coat. The most well-known colour is blue (grey), but all colours and patterns are accepted. 

Temperament

Amiable, friendly and laid back describe the British shorthair. As kittens, they are playful, but adult British shorthairs tend to be less active than other breeds. They are a reasonably independent breed of cat and are happy to amuse themselves (often by snoozing). 

Words used to describe the British shorthair include calm, affable, intelligent, quiet, independent.

Health

The British shorthair is an overall healthy breed. However, there can be a higher incidence of the following inherited diseases. 

  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
  • Polycystic kidney disease
  • Autoimmune lymphoproliferative syndrome (ALPS)

When interviewing cat breeders, always ask what genetic testing they perform on their breeding stock and ask for certification. 

Special requirements

British shorthairs are a very low maintenance breed. A weekly brush will remove any loose hairs from the coat.

Dental care is essential for all cats, either daily brushing with a pet toothbrush and toothpaste or by giving your cat raw chicken necks or chunks of steak 2-3 times a week.

An annual veterinary checkup will help to keep your cat healthy and happy.

Suitable for

Due to their easygoing, laid back and independent nature, British shorthairs make ideal pets. They get along with children and other pets.

Related breeds

British Longhair

Frequently asked questions

How do you know if your cat is a British shorthair? 

The only way to know if your cat is a British shorthair is to purchase your cat from a registered cat breeder who will provide you with a pedigree. All registered breeders must be registered with one of the recognised cat associations such as the Cat Fanciers Association and they will have a prefix, which is the registered name of their cattery. 

If you have a cat whose background is unknown, a DNA test will be able to shed some light on the cat’s ancestry. 

Are British shorthair cats cuddly? 

The British shorthair isn’t as cuddly or affectionate as other cat breeds but they are not unfriendly. Many would rather sit next to you and not on you. 

Is the British shorthair talkative? 

The British shorthair is not a talkative breed.

Julia Wilson is a cat expert with over 20 years of experience writing about a wide range of cat topics, with a special interest in cat health, welfare and preventative care. Julia lives in Sydney with her family, four cats and two dogs. She enjoys photography, gardening and running in her spare time. Full author bio Contact Julia