Last updated: February 18, 2017
The American Wirehair is very similar to the American Shorthair in personality and general appearance with a unique twist; it’s unusual wirehair coat. This even-tempered cat makes an excellent choice for a family pet.
This is a medium-large cat with males weighing up to 15 lbs. and females up to 12 lbs. They usually are athletic in appearance; slighter and with less bone that a British Shorthair and thicker than an Abyssinian or Siamese. They are moderately sized cats in terms of bone and features with broad, full chests. The head is also somewhat broad-cheeked with medium large, walnut-shaped eyes, meaning that they are almond on the top and round on the bottom. This gives the cat a sweet and gentle expression that is matched by his temperament.
They come in a variety of colours and patterns with tabby being the most popular. There is no unacceptable colour or coat pattern. It is the texture of the coat that makes it truly unique. The individual hairs are coarse in texture and crimped, bent or hooked. Even the whiskers may be crimped in some individuals. The degree of crimping can vary between individuals and ranges from only slightly bent and spiky hairs on parts of the body to fully crimped but ideally, the entire coat is crimped. The wirehair is apparent from birth. Kittens born with a less than ideal coat may develop some more wiriness as they grow but will never have a truly well-crimped coat. The coat is dense and feels soft but springs back into place easily. It does shed seasonally but should not be brushed except when shedding heavily. Even then care must be taken not to break the hairs, so comb carefully.
Although some have suggested that the American Wirehair is hypoallergenic, this is not true and no reputable breeder will claim that the breed is hypoallergenic. People are not actually allergic to the hair on the cat but rather the dander that they shed. Dander is the dead skin cells that are shed by the cat and no cat it truly hypoallergenic although some people may react more strongly to one type of cat over another.
The American Wirehair is the result of a genetic mutation that occurred in a litter of kittens that was born in New York in the 1960s. The litter was born at Council Rock Farm. A local cat fancier, Joan O’Shea, recognized how unusual the kitten’s coat was and obtained the cat. She named him Council Rock Adam of Hi-Fi. Subsequent breedings of Adam to other cats resulted in more wirehaired kittens and established it as a dominant gene. Genetic tests identified the crimped coat as being different from that of the Devon Rex and Cornish Rex and a new breed was established so that the unusual properties of the coat could be preserved.
The phenotype of the wirehair cat was closest to the American Shorthair and this was the breed used to establish and expand the breed. Today the two are identical in all aspects, including personality, except the coat. Outcrossings to American Shorthairs to preserve genetic diversity and health are considered perfectly acceptable by most cat fanciers.
Like the American Shorthair, this is a relatively healthy and long-lived cat. Where some issues do arise is with the skin and coat. The coat can have a tendency to be a bit oily. Regular bathing can help reduce the oiliness of it. The skin is more sensitive than that of the American Shorthair and can develop sensitivities and allergies. Using a soothing shampoo designed for cats with sensitive skin when bathing can help reduce outside influences on the skin and irritations. If at all possible remove any allergens from the cat’s environment. In severe cases, your veterinarian may prescribe antihistamines or steroids to reduce inflammation and get the situation under control.
Like the American Shorthair, the American Wirehair is a very adaptable and easy going cat. They are well suited to life in apartments as well as houses and will adapt to most households fairly easily. The American Wirehair enjoys time on his own as well as time playing with the family, so he is ideally suited to a home where people work during the day. They are extremely even tempered which makes them a good choice for families.
These cats enjoy playing and interacting with children and tend to even seek them out which is not always a common choice for a cat. They are naturally patient although care should be taken that their patience with children is not taken advantage of by exuberant youngsters. Young children and pets should always be supervised to prevent any abuse on either part, no matter how affectionately it was meant.
The American Wirehair also adapts well to other pets including fellow felines and dogs. They tend to remain somewhat active and enjoy playing with two and four footers well into their senior years. Interactive toys will provide hours of enjoyment for cat and human alike. Avoid laser toys as they can frustrate cats since there is nothing to truly catch. It’s all chase and no trophy. If you wish to use a laser toy with your American Wirehair consider tossing a toy mouse into the laser’s path after a bit of chasing so that your cat feels the satisfaction of having caught his prey which he can then carry proudly around the house.
When both of you are tired of games, the American Wirehair will gladly curl up in your lap for some couch time while you watch television. Although not as popular or well known as the American Shorthair, this is truly an all-around cat and an excellent choice as a pet. Because of the rarity of the breed, you may need to go on a waiting list for a kitten. This is not necessarily a bad thing and will give you lots of time to prepare your home for the new arrival.