Last updated: February 18, 2017
With its teddy-bear looks and laid back personality, the British Shorthair is a popular breed that currently ranks as the fifth most popular breed in America. In fact, there is much to like about this breed; from the range of colors available to its intelligence and easy trainability.
British shorthairs are known for being teddy bear cats; with a round body and face. They are powerfully built, with a broad chest and a deep body.
A large head is one of the defining characteristics of the breed. Set on a short neck, rounded ears are set far apart which adds to the impression of width. The British Shorthairs large eyes are round in shape, which is in keeping with the teddy bear theme.
The body is compact, with short to medium sized legs keeping the body fairly low to the ground. The coat of the British shorthair is very dense and lies close to the body. Again it adds to the impression of a stocky cat as the denseness reduces the amount of movement. Although the coat is not long, due to its thickness it will need daily brushing. They shed hair easily, especially when living in centrally heated housing. This can knot if it is neglected. It will not take a long time, but it is important to allow 5 to 10 minutes each day to giving them a quick groom.
Part of the British shorthairs appeal is the fact that the breed comes in a wide range of colors. Blue is one of the most popular, but other solid colors include white, black, red and cream. Each color should have the appropriate eye color as mentioned in the breed standard. Shaded colors include smokes, silvers, chinchillas, cameos and various tabbies.
The British Shorthair was the first official cat breed to be shown alongside standard longhaired and shorthaired cat classes. Native to Great Britain, these cats originate from the street cats that roamed the UK having been brought over by the Romans nearly 2,000 years ago. These ‘European shorthairs’ came here to help control the resident rodent population and to be much loved pets.
Their resilience to life’s hardships caught the eye of a well-known cat fancier, Harrison Weir. He admired these cats and their strength of character. This viewpoint was also shared by a cat show judge Mr. Jung. They ensured that through careful breeding, the British Shorthair became a recognized breed.
They were first shown at the Crystal Palace cat show in London. Becoming popular with members of the cat fancy, at the turn of the century, they were overshadowed by the arrival of longhaired exotics. During the second world war, the British Shorthair reduced in numbers; as did many breeds at that time. However, after this breeders began again and used select outcrosses to widen the gene pool. By using the Persian, plus others, the breed began to take its current shape.
The British Shorthair didn’t take off in America until the 1960’s. It was accepted by all the major cat fancy associations in the 70’s and 80’s and today the breed is the fifth most popular breed in the states.
Overall, the British Shorthair is generally a fairly healthy breed of cat. There are, however, a couple of things to be aware of in addition to normal health concerns.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) has been seen in the British Shorthair. This is where certain walls of the heart become thickened which can make it more difficult for the heart to pump blood around the body. This results in the heart working overtime to make up for it.
As HCM appears more prevalent in some breeds than others, it is believed it may be a genetic condition although no test has been discovered for it yet. Instead, breeders should remain vigilant and not breed from affected cats.
The British Shorthair is a chunky cat, yet it is important not to let them get fat. Most shorthairs love their food and will overeat if allowed. However, an overweight cat is at risk health wise. In a similar way to people, carrying excess weight places extra strain on the joints which can leave them prone to arthritis. Excess weight also places important organs such as the heart under more strain too. An overweight cat is also more at risk from health related diseases such as diabetes. Ultimately, an overweight cat will have a shorter life.
To keep your Shorthair at the correct weight, the first thing to do is to establish whether or not they are overweight. At their annual veterinary check-up, your veterinarian can assess this for you. In-between these, however, make sure you can still feel your cat’s ribs easily with slight pressure. Ensure your cat doesn’t have rolls of fat. A tell-tale sign is the stomach area. If it hangs down and swings from side to side when your cat walks then they are overweight!
If your cat does need to lose weight or to keep them nice and trim, the main thing to do is to make sure they are eating the correct amount of food for their size. As different food brands can vary in the amount that needs to be fed, be guided by the manufacturers recommendations. Also, ensure any treats you feed make up no more than 5% of the daily diet. Finally, use toys and play with your Shorthair. This will encourage them to burn off a few calories; especially if they are an indoor cat and prone to being less active.
British Shorthairs make great family pets. Although they love attention, they are not overly demanding and are happy to be left while their owners are at work.
They enjoy playtime, but are fairly laid back characters that like to relax! They are affectionate to their family and rarely aloof to strangers. They will follow you around the house to see what you are up to, but are not noisy and do not demand attention as such. Indeed, the British Shorthair is a quiet breed and will not meow excessively. When they do, it is often so quiet you can barely hear it!
Perhaps it is due to the fact that their ancestors had to survive on the streets, or maybe it is just by chance, but the British Shorthair is an intelligent breed. They learn quickly and rarely forget when they do, be that a good thing or bad thing!
Your new kitten should already be litter trained when you bring them home. This is easy to maintain, just begin by keeping them in a small space so that they can learn where the tray is positioned. Once they have the hang of this they can have access to more of the house.
When training your British Shorthair to come when called, start slowly. Position yourself just a few steps away from them with a tasty treat that they can see. When they start to come towards the treat, call their name. Do this several times until they start to associate their name with the treat and then you can build up the distance.
You can also train your British Shorthair to perform other behaviors. As they love their food, use this to your advantage! You can train them to sit, lie down, go to a mark; whatever your imagination can think of! Again just start slow, use rewards and never punish your Shorthair for doing the wrong thing; just reward them when they do it right.
Buying and Caring cost analysis
Any pet is a commitment, both with time and with costs. The British Shorthair is no different and it is wise to be aware of these costs before you take the plunge.
The items any new owner needs to be aware of are initial, one-off costs and annual expenditure. The first cost will be the price of your kitten. Always take your time when choosing a breeder. A good breeder will raise their kittens indoors as members of the family, which means they will be well handled and used to the sights and sounds of normal life. They will only breed from healthy cats that are a good example of the breed, in addition to being very concerned about where their kittens end up. Do not be alarmed if you feel like you are at an interview, most breeders will want to make sure you are prepared to take on a new kitten!
Expect to pay between $550 and $1100 for a pedigree kitten. Ensure it is registered with an appropriate governing body such as the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) or The International Cat Association (TICA). Registration ensures you are buying a pedigree kitten, although it is no indication of quality. Kittens that are show quality will be at the top end of the price range (or even more), as will kittens that can be bred from and have the offspring registered (some breeders place restrictions on this).
You will be able to take your kitten home at the age of 12-13 weeks. This is after they have had their initial vaccinations. If you are planning on letting your British Shorthair outside, it is worth checking with your veterinarian to make sure they do not need any additional vaccinations as this can vary depending on the area you live in.
In their first year, it is advisable to get them neutered if you are not planning on breeding from them. Males that haven’t been fixed will spray urine everywhere to mark their territories, in addition to searching far and wide to find a female. This can get them into fights with other males, leading to vets bills. An un-neutered female will also look for a male to mate with when she is in season and is also at risk from infection every time she is in heat. This can lead to a life-threatening condition called pyometra which needs immediate veterinary attention. Also, if she does find a mate, you can be left with a litter of unwanted kittens. Allow between $50 to $150 for this. Females are more expensive to get neutered than males as it is a more complicated procedure.
After this, the costs are generally routine expenditure that is the same from year to year. Your British Shorthair will need regular worming and flea treatment to control these parasites. Worms can build up internally causing health problems. If your cat goes outside, it is best to de-worm them every three months. If they are an indoor cat it can be reduced to every six months as they are less at risk. Flea treatment should be applied to the back of the neck monthly, as it is a spot-on liquid applied directly to the skin. Budget about $150 per year for these two treatments.
The next thing to consider is feeding your British Shorthair. This can be hard to budget for, as there are many brands of cat food on the market of varying qualities. Cats do best on a high-quality diet if you can afford it, as they have a higher meat content. This is an advantage as cats are designed to live on meat, whereas cheaper foods can contain fillers such as carbohydrates. In addition to being hard to digest, carbs have little nutritional value for your pet. As a very rough guide, allow $300 per year for food.
A final expense to bear in mind is pet insurance. While we all hope that our British Shorthairs remain healthy, pet insurance can help provide peace of mind in case any unexpected vet bills arise. While veterinary medicine has advanced hugely in the last few years, this has come at a cost. Pet insurance can help to cover some of this expense should the need arise. Always shop around when choosing insurance, as providers can vary their level of cover and the amount of excess that needs to be paid. Best to allow around $200 per year for insurance.