Now one of the top 10 most popular cat breeds, the American Shorthair did not receive full recognition until the 1960s.
The modern American Shorthair is a descendant of cats that arrived in North America more than 400 years ago on the ships of European settlers. The settlers continued to keep cats in their homes and barns to kill the mice and rats that would otherwise decimate their food stores.
From Working Cat to Show Champion
Late in the 1800s, North Americans developed an interest in breeding cats and participating in cat shows. Exotic cats were brought from Asia and Europe and often cross-bred with existing short-haired cats. Lovers of the American Shorthair were concerned about the dilution of the breed, so they began a breeding program to preserve the American Shorthair’s traits. The popularity of the breed was evident in the fact that in 1896, an American Shorthair was offered for $2,500, an enormous sum of money for that era.
The American Shorthair, previously known as the Domestic Shorthair, began competing in cat shows starting in the early 1900s. Although the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) recognized the Domestic Shorthair among its first five official pedigreed breeds, it did not capture much attention from breeders and judges initially, as they preferred more exotic types, and Domestic Shorthairs were only allowed to compete in the household pet category. It wasn’t until the 1960s when a silver tabby won the Kitten of the Year award from the CFA and another was named Cat of the Year that the breed began to achieve widespread recognition.
In 1966, the name of the breed was changed from Domestic Shorthair to American Shorthair to reflect its pedigree and its American origins. Today, the American Shorthair consistently rates as one of the top 10 most popular cats in the CFA rankings, and every year, over 100 American Shorthairs are named Grand Champions, Grand Premiers, or Distinguished Merit cats.
American Shorthair Appearance
The American Shorthair is an average-sized cat, with males weighing 11-15 pounds and females 8-12 pounds when fully grown. Unlike most breeds that mature in their first year, the American shorthair does not reach its full size until 3-4 years of age.
The American Shorthair is a round-faced, stocky, muscular cat with a short, thick, soft coat. The breed is available in more than 80 patterns and colours, including tabby, solid black or white, calico, tortoiseshell, and bi-colour.
There are many non-pedigreed cats that look like American Shorthairs. However, as a pedigreed cat, the American Shorthair will consistently produce kittens that have the same coat quality, physical characteristics, and temperament, whereas random-bred cats do not.
American Shorthair Personality
While there are certainly exceptions, American Shorthair cats tend to be outgoing and willing to accept other pets (including dogs) and children, making them good family cats. Most dislike being alone, so those who are out at work a lot and wish to adopt an American Shorthair should adopt a second cat to keep it company.
American Shorthairs tend to be playful and affectionate, with a tendency to follow owners from one room to the next and to sit on or near them. The American Shorthair is a relatively quiet breed, with a soft, low meow that is usually only used to ask for food or express excitement over the preparation of food.
American Shorthair Health
The American Shorthair is known for robust health and good longevity, with many living 15-20 years barring accident or illness, and some even longer. The breed is free from most of the genetic conditions that commonly afflict purebreds, though they are somewhat more prone to developing hypertrophic cardiomyopathy than random-bred cats.
American Shorthairs are also prone to obesity if owners are not careful about the type of food chosen and portions served. Choosing high-quality cat foods for which the first ingredient listed is meat rather than corn or other carbohydrate filler can help prevent this problem.
Grooming an American Shorthair
The American Shorthair is a low-maintenance cat that requires little in the way of grooming. A weekly combing should suffice to reduce the likelihood of hairballs.
Adopting an American Shorthair
The cost of purebred American Shorthair kittens varies depending on bloodlines, awards, markings, and other factors. Cost can range from $300-$1,300 or more. For those who wish to save money and provide a home for an American Shorthair in need, there is a list of American Shorthair rescue organizations from which cats can be adopted.
- Davis, Karen Leigh. (1999). American Shorthair Cats. New York: Barron’s Educational Series, Inc.
- Mattern, Joanne. (2007). The American Shorthair Cat. Edge Books.
- Pet Adoption Guide. (n.d.). “American Shorthair Cat Breed Profile.” Pet-Adoption-Guide.com.
- Zelda, Bob, Cat Fanciers’ Association. (13 June 2008). “Breed Profile: American Shorthair.” CFA.org.