American Wirehair

By PetMD Editorial on Jul. 16, 2008

Physical Characteristics

The American Wirehair is medium to large in size, with a well- rounded body and large, bright eyes that are round and slant upward on the outer corners. It is found in a variety of colors and has a similar standard -- an abstract aesthetic ideal for the animal type -- as the American Shorthair.

The mutation that causes the hair to be wiry is naturally occurring, but must be encouraged since it is an incomplete dominant gene. (Meaning, that even when breeding two cats with wiry hair, not all kittens will be born with the same hair.) This gene characteristic is in fact, a mutation and not a defect.

The American Wirehair's coat is clearly the most important characteristic of this breed. It is tight, coarse, resilient and springy, but often soft to the touch. By some comparisons, the hair of a Wirehair is like lamb's wool.

The individual hairs are hooked at the ends, and throughout are crimped or kinky, sometimes forming tight ringlets. The look of the hair can be spiky or curly, and it is important that the hair in the ears and the whiskers follow this form as well.

Because this breed is specifically bred to have short, dense hair, long-haired coats are discouraged. But, for the cat fancier who does not plan to have this cat for show or breeding, a long haired Wirehair can be an excellent option. It is quite a sight to see a cat with a pouf of heavily wired, kinky hair.

Personality and Temperament

The American Wirehair is an overall people-oriented cat. It bonds with all of the members of the family, and is known to be sensitive to people’s moods and will stay close, even following family members around the house or lying close by.

Owners report that the Wirehair is an easy cat to live with and care for, with its gentle and affectionate ways, and small, unobtrusive voice and demeanor. It is both humorous and playful, reveling in attention. The Wirehair is also the perfect cat for those who have other pets, including dogs, or those who have visitors over often.


The Wirehair does not have any inherent genetic problems. Through careful breeding, a strong and vigorous hybrid has come to the fore, making the Wirehair resistant to disease, and one of the healthiest and easiest to care for domestic cats. There are however, grooming details that must be kept. Because the hair inside the ears are coarse and curly, the ears may have wax buildup, although regularly cleaning should prevent any clogging problems in the ear canals.

Some Wirehairs may also have oily skin. But rather than brushing them, many breeders suggest gently bathing the cat with a mild shampoo. This avoids any damaging of the hair. When drying the hair, it is best to use a gentle towel or air drying; it is particularly important that the hair not be brushed or combed while it is wet. Always ask your cat's breeder the best method to take care of your Wirehair, as not all are alike, and some hair traits can be carried from the parents.

Some breeders have reported that their Wirehairs have had hair and skin problems related to stress or weather changes, and that the hardest coats are most delicate and prone to breakage.

History and Background

The first recognized American Wirehair was born in Verona, NY in a barn on the Council Rock Farm. It was the Spring of 1966, and Nathan Mosher, the master of the farm, knew he had a unique cat. So when cat breeder Joan O’Shea paid a visit to see the cat a friend had phoned her about -- a cat similar to the Rex's she bred -- Mosher did not to give the cay away.

O'Shea was intrigued at the cat's red and white coat with springy, coiled hair all over, including its whiskers. It was unlike any cat she had never seen. After impressing upon Mosher the importance of allowing this distinct new breed to be mated properly and a $50 fee, O'Shea left with her prize, the aptly named Council Rock Farm Adam of Hi-Fi.

The kitten was indeed one of a kind. The litter of kittens Adam had been born into had been attacked and killed by a weasel. Being the lone survivor, O'Shea was left with quite a predicament: How to mate Adam?

Her dilemma was solved when an amorous queen cat wandered by one day. Reportedly, the cat belonged to neighbors, who had gone on holiday, leaving the cat in the care of their son, who then negligently allowed the calico cat to leave the house. Two months later, O'Shea got a call from her neighbors, who had found themselves with a small litter of kittens, some of which bore an uncanny resemblance to O'Shea's tom cat.

Two of the kittens had the apparent wirehair gene that Adam had been born with, and O'Shea bought these two from her neighbors. This was the beginning of a new family line. Wanting to get it right, O'Shea enlisted the help of fellow Rex breeders, Bill and Madeline Beck, who took Amy and began a breeding program.

Amy then bore a good number of wirehaired kittens, and thus cemented the Wirehair as the third American made breed of its time (The American Shorthair and the Maine Coon cat were the other two all-American cats at that time). In fact, it was the standard for the American Shorthair that played a large part in shaping the standard for the Wirehair. The Ash was, and still is, the only acceptable outcross breed for the Wirehair.

In 1967 the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) granted registration rights for the American Wirehair as a separate breed, and in 1978 the CFA accepted the Wirehair for championship competition. Although a Wirehair has not yet been awarded the CFA's Best Cat, they have consistently been able to garner winning positions in the top 25 best cats. The Wirehair came closest in 2002 and '03, when Brillocatz Curley Sue won 3rd place Best Kitten, and in 2006 through 2007 with Cameroncats Christina of Kaw at 2nd place Best Cat.

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