American Shorthair

PetMD Editorial
By PetMD Editorial on Jul. 16, 2008

Physical Characteristics

The American Shorthair is a muscular cat with a sweet disposition. Medium to large in size, it is a working cat in every regard, exhibiting both balance and endurance. The most striking color for the American Shorthair's coat is sterling silver coat with black markings. This is one of the most popular colors, but there are upwards of 60 colors available for the Shorthair.

Personality and Temperament 

This breed has made a name for itself with its quiet voice and adjustable nature. Unlike many cats, it does not cry for attention and is neither too demonstrative nor too reserved. The American Shorthair cat is ideal for a person who wants a cat to sit calmly on the lap, and not pounce or skitter too much around the house. It also easily trained, devoted to the family, and can get along with children, dogs, and other pets in the house.


The American Shorthair does not require much extensive maintenance. It is one of the healthiest cats around, needing little more than a well-balanced diet, vaccinations, and yearly check-ups. Occasional grooming is an option, but not a requirement. And although it is very energetic, the Shorthair prefers deliberate movement rather than hurried scampering, only needing exercise in the form of light play.


Keeping in mind that the Shorthair is descended from farm-working cats, and add to that the care that has been given to strengthening the gene pool by attentive breeders, it is easy to understand why it is considered one of the healthiest cat breeds. The average lifespan for an American Shorthair is between 15 and 20 years.

History and Background

The history of the American Shorthair goes back well over 300 years, beginning with its journey across the Atlantic Ocean from Britain to its subsequent arrival in what would become the United States of America. The American Shorthair is a true-blooded, sure-footed cat, and has earned a reputation for being a hard worker.

The Shorthair's roots began in England. As a common house cat in Britain, the Shorthair was well regarded for its work skills, specifically for residential rodent control. For this reason, the Shorthair was commonly brought along on trips to sea. And so it was, that from 1621 to 1639, as dissidents prepared for their treacherous journey from Britain, they included their loyal feline companions, both to keep their food storage safe from rodents, and to eliminate the disease-carrying rats.

It is important to remember that by the 1620s, the people of Europe -- including Britain -- had become accustomed to frequent outbreaks of the Black Plague. When the first Mayflower crossed over to the new world in 1621, it had only been 18 years since the pandemic had killed 18,000 of London's residents.

In the early decades of the Plague, cats were frequently blamed for the spread of the disease, and were destroyed in the process. Without cats, the rat population exploded and led to the Plague's increased transmission. But by the 1600s, humans had made the appropriate connection between the Plague and the rodents, a possible carrier of the disease. The British Shorthair regained its well-regarded position, and remains today a common fixture of the British home.

Their descendants -- what were to become the American Shorthairs -- evolved to adapt to the conditions of the new world, maintaining their status as dependable and efficient farm workers.

A number of factors have shaped the American Shorthair's form and personality, the most important being environmental elements and outcrossings, both naturally and through human design. Environmental adaptability was essential for survival, and nature selected those that could survive harsh winters and blistering summers, work long hours on the farm without getting ruffled, and settle down peacefully at the end of the day as a member of the home. The Shorthair matured and improved to be the strong, robust, easy-going cats we find today.

In 1906, the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) included the American Shorthair in its first registry, among five other cats. Breeders take pains to maintain the distinction between their carefully bred American Shorthairs and the average street cat, since the outward physical similarities suggested a relation.

In 1965, the American Shorthair received its highest accolade when one of its members, a silver coated male tabby named Shawnee Trademark, was declared Best Cat of the Year (COTY) by the CFA. Since then, two other American Shorthairs have been awarded a COTY: Hedgewood's Greatest American Hero (Mr. H. to his friends) in 1984, and Sol-Mer Sharif in 1996.

The American Shorthair has come a long way, from its humble beginnings to the upper echelon of cat societies. All well deserved for this endearing and loyal cat.

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