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

One of the oldest recognised cat breeds, the British Shorthair was created by selectively breeding domestic ‘working’ cats to conform to a set standard. The British Shorthair is known for its distinctive cobby body, round face and dense coat.

British Shorthairs were previously known as British Blues, however, with the introduction of new coat colours and patterns, the name was changed. The blue (grey) British Shorthair is still the most recognised coat colour.

History

Colourpoint British Shorthair

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

British Shorthair colours

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. The eyes are blue at birth, but change colour from around 4 weeks, common eye colours include yellow, gold, brown, green and blue (in pointed or white cats).

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

It takes up to three years for the British Shorthair to reach its full size.

Temperament

The British shorthair is friendly, laid back and amiable. As kittens, they are playful, but adults tend to be less active than other breeds. British Shorthairs are an independent breed, happy to amuse themselves, which makes them the perfect indoor cat.

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. 

Care

The British Shorthair is an easy to care for breed, but there are still some basics to ensure the cat remains in good health.

  • Coat: A weekly brush will remove any loose hairs from the coat.
  • Teeth: 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.
  • Health: An annual veterinary checkup will help to keep your cat healthy and happy.
  • Claws: Indoor cats should have their claws trimmed every 3-4 weeks. This is easy to do at home if nail trims begin during kittenhood so that the cat is used to having his or her feet and claws handled.
  • Spay and neuter: Most breeders will desex (spay or neuter) kittens before they go to their new home around 12-16 weeks. If the cat has not already been neutered, it is recommended you do so before six months.
  • Litter trays: Due to their size, British Shorthairs will require a larger litter tray than average-sized cats. As a rule, the litter tray should be 1.5 times longer than the cat. Large storage containers with high sides make an ideal litter tray.
  • Microchipping: A microchip is a small chip the size of a grain of rice inserted under the skin between the shoulder blades. If the cat goes missing, a veterinarian or animal shelter can scan the cat with a hand-held device to locate the microchip number and reunite the cat with his or her family. Most cats are microchipped at the same time as they are desexed. 

Related breeds

British Longhair

Grey 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.

Are British Shorthairs affectionate?

The British Shorthair is affectionate but its independent nature makes it less needy than other breeds.

How much food should a British Shorthair kitten eat?

The following chart is an easy guide to feeding kittens. Meals should be split into four portions.

Calorie requirements for growing kittens

Do British Shorthairs have eye problems?

Eye problems can be a problem for brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds such as the Persian and Exotic, but while the British Shorthair has a shorter nose than some other breeds, it is not brachycephalic and is not prone to eye problems.

What households are the British Shorthair suitable for?

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

How much does a British Shorthair cost?

A pet quality British Shorthair costs between $900 and $1500. Show quality British Shorthairs usually cost more than pet quality.

What size litter box for a British Shorthair?

An adult British Shorthair is larger than most cats and will require a larger litter tray. As a rule, the litter box should be 1.5 times as long as the cat. Storage containers make an ideal litter tray as they come in a range of sizes and their high sides can reduce tracking of litter through the house.

Are British Shorthairs lazy?

British Shorthairs aren’t lazy, but they are less active than a lot of other breeds.

Are British Shorthairs intelligent?

Yes, they are, this makes them easy to train to walk on a harness or play a game of fetch.

What is the best food for British Shorthair kittens?

The best food for a British Shorthair is premium kitten food.

Are British Shorthairs hypoallergenic?

The British Shorthair isn’t hypoallergenic.

Author

  • Julia Wilson is the founder of Cat-World, and has researched and written over 1,000 articles about cats. She 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. Full author bio