British Shorthair Ear Anatomy and Physiology

Jane MillerBritish Shorthair1 Comment

British Shorthair Ear Anatomy and Physiology - SweetieKitty

Last updated: June 26, 2017

British Shorthair cats are just gorgeous. To me, they look just like teddy bears in feline form. They have soft, plush hair, round bodies, round paws, round ears and the cutest little round faces. Truly there isn’t a cat on the planet who can rival it in sheer cuddliness! This cat is the stuff of legend: the Cheshire cat in “Alice in Wonderland” was a British Shorthair, and likewise the clever cat in “Puss in Boots.” In fact, it’s the cat you probably grew up with! So – want to know more about the world’s roundest cat? Read on!


British Shorthairs are one of the oldest cat breeds in the world. The Romans, having imported these cats from Egypt, probably brought the first of them over with them when they invaded Britain and they quickly became established. The breed was decimated after the second world war but recovered and was recognised officially in 1980. Not only are they a firm favorite in their native Britain, they are popular all over the world.  


British Shorthairs were the original barn cats, because, apart from Norwegian Forest Cats, out of all the breeds of cats they are the best hunters, so they were ideal for devouring the mice that decimated the grain crops. They have a very sedate, quiet personality. They are cobby (thick-set), robust and have the distinction of having the thickest coat of any cat, with more hairs per square inch than any other moggy! They are powerful and well-muscled, and are big, slow-growing and may not reach their full size until they are three years old. When you consider that most cats mature at around a year old, that’s pretty elderly! Fully grown males are nine to seventeen pounds, and females seven to fifteen pounds. If they have a flaw it is that they are liable to become obese, so care must be taken when feeding them and they must have the appropriate amount of exercise. (Luckily, they don’t like to be picked up – thank goodness!)

They are not great chatterboxes (unlike some breeds I could mention – who said “Siamese?”) and will only talk when they have something worthwhile to say – like – “where’s my tuna?” Your average British chap is a bit backwards in coming forward sometimes. He doesn’t have an effervescent personality and it may take him a while to become comfortable with you, but when you’re his friend you’re his friend for life! He won’t discriminate either; he will love all the family with equal devotion, especially the children, and this is something you can’t say about every cat (especially not mine!) He adapts well to change and can tolerate its own company pretty well. He will not go running up the curtains or jumping on the roof either since high jinks just aren’t his style.

British Shorthair Ear Anatomy and Physiology - Kitten on Sofa - SweetieKittyEars

Ear Anatomy and Language

British Shorthairs have ears that are wide at the bottom, narrow and rounded at the top. Like all cats, they have ears like little radar dishes. No less than THIRTY-TWO muscles control his ears, and each ear can move independently of the other. (Wish I could do that!) This is called directional hearing. This means that your average bog-standard moggy with no special abilities at all can move its body THIS way and point its ears THAT way! Cats say an awful lot of things with their ears. Ears flat against the head while the cat is hissing or growling means “watch out – I’m on the warpath!” It can also mean he’s just foolin’around or trying to hear a noise behind him. The skin forming a pocket on the lower back of the cat’s ear is called “Henry’s pocket” and nobody seems to know quite why it’s there! Like purring, it’s a complete mystery!

Ear Issues

Ears seem to be a bit of a problem area for your British shorthair. Seems those pesky ear mites just love them! If you see something that looks like reddish-brown coffee grounds then you’ll know you have a problem with them. Ditto if your Brit is shaking his head a lot or has a brownish-black discharge coming out. Ear mites are so miniscule they may only be viewed with the aid of a microscope, but the infestation can cause some very serious problems for your poor kitty. He may scratch and paw at the irritation so much that he causes bleeding sores, and this can be an open invitation for all sorts of nasty infections to waltz in and cause more problems! If this gets bad enough, not only will it become painful and very irritating for your cat, it can even result in deafness, and an operation may be needed to remedy the situation. Infections may result from bacterial or yeast infections or some sort of foreign material lodged in the ear. There are other reasons too – allergies, wax, tumors, genetic problems or a defective immune system. You should clean your cat’s ears regularly, of course, but if you do get an infestation or an infection it’s always best to ask your local neighborhood superhero vet!

British Shorthair Ear Anatomy and Physiology - Thoughtful Cat - SweetieKittyEar Issue Prevention

To prevent all this, your cat’s ears should be inspected, and, if necessary cleaned once a week. If you start when he’s a kitten, it will be much easier. Don’t clean a grumpy cat! Trust me – you will regret it! Wait till he’s happy and relaxed. Give your buddy treats while you’re cleaning his ears to make him associate the experience with something pleasant. If your cat squirms a lot then get someone to help you hold him. Cats are free spirits – they don’t like to be held back!

Hold the tip of the ear in a pincer fashion and bend it so you can see inside the ear. Your cat may make a bid for freedom, so hold the scruff of his neck with the rest of your fingers. Check the ear for discharge. Light brown wax is fine, but redness or black, yellow or green pus are a cause for concern. If you find anything like this, clean it with a medicated product specially made for the job. If it’s really chock-a-block with gungy stuff use some ear drops and rub the base of the ears together for a few seconds, then wipe the ear with a soft cotton wool swab. If necessary, do this again. If there is pain and the cat is shaking his head and/or staggering and having other problems with his balance, take him to the vet, who will recommend the proper medication.

The last word…

Well, all I can say is: I WANT ONE! I think this may be one of the most beautiful cats I’ve ever seen, but it doesn’t matter if you have a purebred cat or a shelter cat, all they need is love!

Jane Miller

Hi! I’m a certified cat lover and an unapologetic writer! That’s why I created SweetieKitty! Born in Connecticut, one sunny day of April, during the most interesting decade of past century! Nowadays I live in South Carolina, with my three tomcats! I’d love to read your comments on my article!

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