The American Wirehair breed, which arose due to a spontaneous mutation in a litter of barn kittens, is notable for its unusual coat of wiry, kinked fur.
The distinguishing features of the American Wirehair are the breed’s crimped, springy fur and curly whiskers. The coat is typically coarse, hard, and wiry; if it is too soft or long, it may straighten as the cat ages, or form ringlets or waves. All layers of the short, dense coat (guard, awn, and down) are made up of kinked fur.
The American Wirehair has a strong, solid body and a round head with large, wide-spaced eyes and slightly rounded ear tips, creating a sweet teddy bear appearance. Adult males typically weight between 8 and 11 pounds, and females are smaller at 6 to 9 pounds.
The American Wirehair may be any colour or pattern except for those associated with the Siamese, such as point patterns and chocolate or lavender shades.
American Wirehair Cat History
The American Wirehair arose due to a natural mutation in 1966 in New York. The parents of the first litter of wirehaired barn kittens, Fluffy and Bootsie, were ordinary domestic shorthairs.
The breed nearly died out before it began when a weasel killed all but one of the kittens and Fluffy and Bootsie failed to produce any more kittens with kinked fur. Joan O’Shea, a breeder of German Rexes and Havana Browns, took an interest in the surviving red and white male kitten and purchased him from the farm’s owner. She named him Council Rock Farm Adam of Hi-Fi and provided him with a mate named Tip-Toe, a random-bred calico owned by a neighbour. Half of Tip-Toe’s kittens were born with crimped, wiry hair. This indicated to O’Shea that the gene was dominant, which meant that wirehaired kittens could be produced even if only one parent was wirehaired.
One of Adam of Hi-Fi’s wirehaired kittens, Aby, died young, but his other wirehaired daughter, Amy, survived and thrived. Adam also sired several more litters before dying of cystitis at age four. All American Wirehairs are descents of Adam of Hi-Fi.
Breeders Bill and Madeline Beck, who purchased Amy from O’Shea, also played a significant role in establishing the breed. They were later joined by a small number of additional American Wirehair breeders.
Most major cat associations have now accepted the American Wirehair. However, wirehaired cats are still extremely rare, so they are often interbred with purebred American Shorthairs to maintain a large enough gene pool for healthy offspring. As a result, American Wirehairs have many facial and body features in common with the American Shorthair.
Spontaneous mutations such as those that cause curly coated cats (Devon Rex, Cornish Rex, Oregon Rex, German Rex, etc.) often occur in many different locations. Although there is no solid evidence that the wirehair mutation has occurred elsewhere, anecdotal reports suggest that wirehaired cats may have existed around derelict London bomb sites shortly after WWII ended. A couple of them may even have been exhibited under the National Cat Club’s pet category in the UK. However, it is unknown whether these cats resulted from an entirely different spontaneous mutation or were brought to the U.S. and somehow contributed to the American Wirehair’s appearance there.
American Wirehair Breed Personality
American Wirehairs tend to be quiet, sweet, and loving. They strike a good balance in all things, being affectionate but not needy and playful but not hyperactive. Loyal and sociable, they love to spend time with their owners and often follow them from room to room. Although very affectionate, they usually dislike being picked up.
Anecdotal reports from owners indicate that these intelligent cats are particularly sensitive to the feelings of their owners. They work hard to comfort their human companions in times of adversity, crawling onto their laps and purring vociferously in a show of support and solidarity.
American Wirehairs are known for their amusing, clown-like antics. Agile and athletic, they also entertain with daring leaps and bounds.
American Wirehairs are relatively laid back and adaptable like their American Shorthair cousins, so they are more likely to accept other pets and children than cats of most breeds. This ability to get along with kids and cat-friendly dogs makes them great family pets.
American Wirehair Health and Grooming
Having arisen from hardy barn cat stock and interbred with the robust American Shorthair, the American Wirehair is not prone to most of the nasty genetic diseases that plague certain purebreds. However, due to interbreeding with American Shorthairs, the breed may have a slightly higher prevalence of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) than is found in random-bred cats.
Overall, the American Wirehair is an easy cat with no serious grooming requirements. As with any cat, a little gentle brushing during the shedding seasons (spring and fall) can help to remove dead hairs (though this breed sheds far less than most others). Otherwise, brushing is not recommended. Some experts recommend regular bathing, whereas others assert that no special washing is required.
Adopt an American Wirehair Kitten or Cat
Because this breed is extremely rare, prices tend to be quite high. There are few breeders, so those who want American Wirehair kittens usually have to get their names on a waiting list. American Wirehair breeders can be found on the Fanciers Breed Referral List.
For those who wish to provide loving homes to adult American Wirehairs in need, contact information for American Wirehair rescues can be found at PurebredCats.org. Adoptable American Wirehairs may also be found via Petfinder’s American Wirehair profile page.
For more cat breed articles, visit the main Cat Breeds page. For a full list of cat articles, see the main Cats page.
- American Cat Fanciers Association, “The American Wirehair,” ACFACat.com, n.d.
- American Wirehair Breed Council, “American Wirehair Breed Profile,” The Cat Fanciers’ Association, CFA.org, 2003.
- Fanciers Breed Referral List, “American Wirehair,” Breedlist.com, 2011.
- Helgren, J.A., “Choosing an American Wirehair,” PetPlace.com, 2011.
- IAMS Guide to Cat Breeds, “American Wirehair,” IAMS.com, 2011.
- Petfinder, “American Wirehair Cat,” Petfinder.com, 2011.
- The International Cat Association, “American Wirehair,” TICA.org, n.d.