Oriental Shorthair

PetMD Editorial
By PetMD Editorial
Published: November 24, 2008

The Oriental Shorthair is actually a Siamese hybrid first developed in England in the 20th century. It is similar in body type to the Siamese, but comes in many more color and pattern varieties. And though it is not as communicative as the Siamese, the Oriental is still a fun companion to have around the house.

Physical Characteristics

The Oriental is long, slender and flexible with large ears and piercing almond-shaped eyes. It is a member of the Siamese family; however, unlike the Siamese, the Oriental Shorthair comes in over 300 colors and patterns. Some popular styles include ebony, pure white, chestnut, and blue, while some popular patterns include solid, bi-color, and tabby.

Personality and Temperament

This is a temperamental cat that needs to be the center of attraction. If ignored, it will become extremely sensitive and cranky, but lavish an Oriental with love and the cat will return it in full measure. Besides adding color to your life, this cat keeps you entertained by showing enthusiasm in all that it does.

The Oriental is also an inquisitive creature, joining you in all your daily activities. It may be more soft spoken than the Siamese, but this cat loves to chat and is never too tired to strike up a "conversation."


The Oriental generally has good health, but there are couple of serious conditions which plagues this breed, including protrusion of the cranial sternum and endocardial fibroelastosis.

History and Background

Siam, which is now known as Thailand, is thought to have been the birthplace of many cat breeds, including the Siamese cat. Siam royalty especially treasured blue-eyed, color-pointed cats, furnishing them with a life of luxury in their palaces. The exact year of the Siamese cat's appearance in England is not known, but by the late 19th century, many Siamese cats were entered in local cat shows.

British breeders displayed a keen interest in the Siamese body type, but sought a breed with a wider range of colors. These breeders would eventually develop the Oriental in the 1950s and '60s by crossing the Siamese with British Shorthairs and Russian Blues. American breeders soon achieved their own version of the Oriental by crossing the Siamese with American Shorthairs and Abyssinians.

Initially, the Oriental cat breeders faced strong opposition from Siamese breeders who did not like the idea of another hybrid entering an already flooded market, but the Oriental would make rapid progress in popularity.

In 1972, the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) accepted the Oriental Shorthair for registration, and granted full Championship status in 1977. It has since become one of the most popular short-haired cats. In 1985, The International Cat Association gave Championship status to the long-haired version of the Oriental, and in 1988, the Longhair Oriental was accepted for registration by the CFA. Today, the CFA refers to both the Oriental Shorthair and Longhair breeds as the Oriental division.

Help us make PetMD better

Was this article helpful?

Get Instant Vet Help Via Chat or Video. Connect with a Vet. Chewy Health

Subscribe to PetMD's Newsletter

Get practical pet health tips, articles, and insights from our veterinary community delivered weekly to your inbox.