Last updated: February 18, 2017
Not to be confused with the non-purebred domestic shorthair, the American Shorthair is a breed that can trace its roots back to the United States first immigrants from Europe. As a pet, it makes an excellent all around choice for most situations.
The breed standard for the American Shorthair uses the word “medium” repeatedly throughout its text. Everything about the American Shorthair should be moderate in appearance. There should be a moderate amount of bone, and the tail length, body length, feet, legs, and ears are all described using the word medium. This cat descends from working cats that made their living ridding ships, barns, and other buildings of vermin. He should look like a cat with a job.
The chest is broad and full in mature adults, particularly males. They are muscular and athletic in appearance rather than slight and delicate but should not be as heavy boned as breeds like the British Shorthair.
The head is squarish with broad cheeks and medium sized ears. The eyes are on the larger side and rounded but not truly round. This means that the top lid is shaped like the top of an almond and the lower lid is round.
In overall size, this is a medium-large breed with males weighing up to 15 lbs. and females up to 12 lbs. as adults. They are slow to mature though and can take 3-4 years to reach full adult size.
There are over eighty different colours and patterns possible in the breed. In essence a good American Shorthair cannot be a bad colour. The most popular are the tabbies with silver being a very popular tabby colour. The short, dense coat sheds moderately and needs little grooming although a weekly brushing will cut down on shedding. It feels full and dense to the hand but actually provides good protection from the elements for the animal. Again, this is a trait that reminds you of his origins as a working cat that needed to earn his keep.
When European settlers began to move to the United States they brought along with them cats from their native lands. The cats worked onboard the ships to keep them vermin free and would later fill a similar function in the new world on the farms and in the homes and businesses of the settlers and pilgrims.
Over time, the cats from various parts of the world interbred and evolved into the ideal working cat for the new country. Cat fanciers began to work to ensure that the new breed bred true to type and was not lost in the shuffle of an ever-growing population. Up until the 1960s the breed was known as the Domestic Shorthair. This name created confusion between the breed and the various mixed breed cats. To help define the separation between the purebred and the mixed breeds which due to the wide variety of acceptable colours and pattern which occasionally resembled the purebred cat, the name was changed to the American Shorthair.
For those wondering about the differences between the purebred and mixed breed, the proof comes out in the offspring. All the offspring of American Shorthairs that are bred to other cats of the same breed will look and behave like American Shorthairs. When you breed two mixed breed cats together there are no guarantees that any of the offspring will appear or act like an American Shorthair.
One of the best things about a cat that was bred for a function rather than just a phenotypic appearance is that unhealthy specimens and those with health issues that interfered with work or shortened the lifespan of the cat were eliminated from the gene pool. This leaves you with an exceptionally hardy and healthy breed of cat. A well cared for American Shorthair can live 15-20 years.
Because how much they ate was dependent on expending the energy to catch the rodent, the early American Shorthairs never had obesity as a health concern. Unfortunately, in today’s world treats and food are plentiful and little work is required to obtain them. If care is not taken, the American Shorthair is prone to obesity. This is the number one health issue among all pets seen by veterinarians in the United States and can have many serious health consequences. Obese cats are much more likely to develop diabetes which requires careful medical management and possibly insulin injections on a daily basis. Overweight animals are also more likely to react poorly to anaesthetic, develop arthritis, and renal, cardiac and respiratory problems. All of these are not only costly to treat but can significantly reduce your cat’s quality of life and lifespan.
Keep a close eye on the weight of the American Shorthair and do not hesitate to cut back on the amount fed if they are gaining excessive amounts of weight. You can also feed a low calorie food if weight gain is a problem. The American Shorthair should not be free fed but rather offered food on a regularly scheduled basis at mealtimes in measured quantities. Treats are fine but should be limited to an occasional basis. Choose healthy, low fat treats rather than the high sugar ones that tend to be most popular on the grocery shelves. Read the labels of treats before purchasing. Choosing toys that require your cat to move about and be active can also increase weight loss and prevent muscle from becoming fat. Consult your veterinarian for more ways to keep your cat in good shape and at a correct weight.
This is a true all around cat. They can amuse themselves and are quite happy to be left alone while you go to work all day. They are just as happy to play with the children and other pets if that is the option of the day. The American Shorthair is highly adaptable to most living situations and enjoys interacting with his family but is just as content to be on his own.
They are very tolerant of children and other pets, including dogs. They will watch the people and animals outside the window and then move into high gear and catch a few insects mid-flight. The activity level is moderate.
When you are home, this is a social cat that enjoys spending time with you on your lap or nearby. They are often good with guests and do not mind children at all.
They’re easygoing nature and low maintenance grooming requirements make them an ideal choice for an active family where someone is not always home but that like to interact with the cat when they are there.