American Shorthair

Janelle Leeson
By Janelle Leeson. Reviewed by Barri J. Morrison, DVM on Aug. 20, 2023
silver tabby american shorthair lying on a wooden floor

In This Article

General Care

American Shorthairs are generally easygoing in personality and get along well with children, dogs, and other pets. This makes them a popular choice for new and experienced pet parents alike. However, it’s their knack for hunting mice that earned them a spot on early ships to the Americas and eventually a place in our homes as beloved pets. 

American Shorthair cats are medium-sized, muscular cats with sweet expressions that suit their gentle temperament. They typically weigh 6–15 pounds, with males on the heavier end of the spectrum.

Caring for an American Shorthair

While American Shorthairs are an easygoing bunch, they still require daily play and exercise. They’re natural mousers and enjoy climbing cat trees or pouncing on their favorite toy.

At the end of a busy day, it’s not unlike an American Shorthair to cuddle up with their humans for a nap. These cats are low-maintenance and friendly, making them suitable for both experienced and first-time pet parents.

American Shorthair Health Issues

The American Shorthair is a generally healthy cat with an impressive lifespan of 15–20 years. India, an all-black American Shorthair who served as the “first cat” of the White House during George W. Bush’s presidency, lived to the great age of 18.

However, the breed is known for a few serious medical conditions, which is why considering purchasing pet insurance for your American Shorthair kitten might be worthwhile. Depending on the plan you choose, pet insurance can help cover the costs of unexpected emergencies, as well as routine care. 

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)

HCM is the most common type of heart disease in cats, and American Shorthairs may be at higher risk of developing the disease than some other breeds.

HCM can go undiagnosed in its early stages, so genetic testing and routine cardiac exams are the best ways to detect the condition early. As the disease progresses, cats may experience difficulty breathing, lethargy, and potentially heart failure.

When working with a reputable American Shorthair breeder, verify that their cats have been screened for HCM. If your cat is a rescue or adopted, at-home DNA kits may also detect HCM in cats before symptoms appear. 

Dental Disease

Dental disease is common in cats but can be prevented with at-home routine dental care and by scheduling regular veterinary checkups and dental cleanings. Signs of oral disease in cats include:

  • Bad breath

  • Red, inflamed gums

  • Tartar buildup or discoloration to the teeth

  • Pawing at the mouth

  • Dropping food

  • Drooling

  • Lack of appetite

According to the College of Veterinary Medicine at Purdue University, dry cat food and treats approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) may help prevent dental disease by scraping plaque off the teeth. For instance, Greenies dental treats, which are VOHC-approved, are loved by most cats. 

What To Feed an American Shorthair

American Shorthairs don’t require a special diet outside of a quality commercial diet that meets the nutritional recommendations set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).

Because cats of varying ages have different nutrient requirements, be sure the food you choose is formulated for their life stage. American Shorthair kittens require food formulated for “growth” or “all life stages,” while adult and senior cats need “adult maintenance” foods. 

If you’re unsure about which food is best for your American Shorthair cat or kitten, your veterinarian is the best resource to turn to.

How To Feed an American Shorthair 

It’s recommended to feed cats two to three smaller meals rather than a single large meal each day. This more closely replicates their natural feeding schedule of hunting and eating small prey throughout the day.

Cats should be encouraged to play with their food, especially natural-born hunters like American Shorthairs. “Food puzzles are great for cat enrichment,” says Joey Lusvardi, certified cat behavior consultant and owner of Class Act Cats. “They provide mental stimulation during mealtime and are closer to how they’d eat in nature.”

How Much Should You Feed an American Shorthair?

Following the feeding directions on a pet food label is a good place to start when determining how much your cat should eat.

However, the number of calories your American Shorthair should eat each day depends on their age, lifestyle, and ideal body weight. Your veterinarian can help you determine the right amount of food for your individual cat. 

Nutritional Tips for American Shorthairs 

Young cats in good health may not require additional supplements beyond those included in a complete and balanced diet. However, as your American Shorthair matures, you may want to talk to your vet about switching them to senior cat food.

Senior cat food typically includes joint-healthy supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil. Older cats are prone to age-related diseases, so it’s important to consult with your vet before making any changes to your cat’s diet.

Behavior and Training Tips for American Shorthairs

American Shorthair Personality and Temperament 

American Shorthairs are playful, laid-back, and social cats. They make great family pets and are even ideal for first-time pet parents. However, it’s important to socialize them early on to ensure they grow up to be confident, friendly kitties.

Socialization is the process of gradually introducing your cat to a variety of different people, animals, and experiences in a positive and predictable way, Lusvardi explains. Well-socialized American Shorthairs will be more likely to enjoy being around people and other pets. They’ll also be more adaptable to new situations and environments, including visiting their vet for routine wellness exams

American Shorthair Behavior

American Shorthairs love the company of their pet parents. But they can also be content spending time alone—as long as they have plenty of interactive toys or a secure window perch to watch birds.

American Shorthair Training

American Shorthair cats are intelligent and love a challenge, making them well-suited for reward-based training. They’re also athletic, so they may enjoy training activities that incorporate jumping to marker spots or walking on a harness and leash.

Fun Activities for American Shorthairs

  • Watching and chirping at birds

  • Pouncing on toys

  • Fetching toy mice

  • Climbing cat trees

  • Exploring new spaces 

  • Socializing with humans and other pets

  • Solving feeder puzzles

American Shorthair Grooming Guide

The silver or gray American Shorthair with black markings is one of the most popular colors of the breed. However, American Shorthair cats can come in upwards of 60 different coat colors and combinations! Each coat color is just as low-maintenance to care for as the next. 

Skin Care

American Shorthairs typically don't need special skin care. However, light-colored cats, such as white American Shorthairs, are especially at risk of sunburn. If your light-furred cat enjoys sunbathing (and most cats do!), consider protecting their skin by installing UV-protective film on the windows where your cat likes to bask. 

Coat Care

American Shorthair cats don’t tend to shed much. However, a weekly at-home grooming session will help keep your cat’s fur mat-free, collect any loose hair, and provide one-on-one bonding time.

Eye Care

As long as you routinely check your kitty for any abnormal eye discharge that might warrant a trip to the veterinarian, your American Shorthair cat shouldn’t require special eye care. 

Ear Care 

American Shorthair cats aren’t prone to ear infections, but it’s still important to check your cat’s ears for any dark specks that look like coffee grounds (mites) or a foul smell from the ears. If you notice anything unusual, schedule a checkup with your veterinarian.

Considerations for Pet Parents

If you are looking for a low-maintenance, friendly, and affectionate cat breed, the American Shorthair may be a good choice for you. “Some breeds have a reputation for being more friendly than others,” Lusvardi says, and the American Shorthair is certainly one.

However, choosing a breed for their key traits isn’t always a guarantee. Introducing a cat to your family means dedicating time to proper socialization, play, and enrichment,  Lusvardi says. 

That said, American Shorthair cats are known to be one of the most adaptable breeds of cats, making them great companions for people of all ages and lifestyles. They are typically low-maintenance, requiring weekly at-home grooming and ample play. American Shorthairs can be left alone for the day when provided with toys and environmental enrichment, such as cat trees and perches.

American Shorthair FAQs

What’s the difference between an American Shorthair cat vs. a domestic shorthair cat?

American domestic shorthair cats are mixed-breed cats, while American Shorthair cats are a natural American cat breed.

Mixed-breed cats come from all backgrounds and are often the result of unintentional mating. Natural cat breeds, on the other hand, originated in a specific geographic region and adapted naturally to their environment. As a result, the personality and physical characteristics of American Shorthair cats tend to be more predictable than those of random-breed cats, such as the domestic shorthair.

How are American Shorthair and British Shorthair cats different?

American Shorthair and British Shorthair cats are both popular short-haired breeds with a knack for catching mice and a history as working cats. However, there are some key differences between the two breeds.

American Shorthairs are slightly smaller and have a slimmer face than British Shorthairs, who are often called “teddy bears” due to their round face and stocky body. Additionally, American Shorthairs are slightly more outgoing and playful than British Shorthairs, who are more reserved and prefer to keep all four paws on the ground.

Are American Shorthair cats low-maintenance?

While no cat is completely “hands-off” when it comes to care, American Shorthair cats are generally one of the lowest-maintenance breeds. They are adaptable and affectionate, making them a good choice for people of all ages and lifestyles. However, all cats require daily play, routine grooming, and proper nutrition to thrive. American Shorthair cats are no exception.

Are American Shorthair cats the same as tabby cats?

Tabby is a cat coat pattern, rather than a breed. Cats with a tabby pattern have swirled, dark markings on their sides, expressive markings around their eyes and face, and the hallmark “M” on their forehead. American Shorthair cats come in over 60 coat color variations and patterns, including tabby.

Do American Shorthair cats like to be held?

American Shorthairs are generally affectionate cats who may not mind being picked up and held. However, each cat is an individual with their own preferences shaped by their life experiences. When picking up a cat, it’s important to pay attention to their body language and respect their personal space.

Featured Image: Adobe/klapixs

Janelle Leeson


Janelle Leeson

Freelance Writer

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