Coolest Fact: Besides this breed’s overall gentleness and classy look, the British Shorthair’s round face and eyes have achieved global fame as Happy Cat, the first LOL-cat meme.
Breed type: Established.
Date and place(s) of origin: The 1870s, England.
Popularity: According to the Cat Fanciers Association, the British Shorthair was the third most popular show cat in 2016.
Not surprisingly, the Brit is #1 in the UK, according to the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy.
Appearance and Personality: British Shorthairs are more massive and curvy than the American Shorthair. While not as big as a Maine Coon, a mature male British Shorthair can weigh up to 17 pounds without being obese.
Blue (actually gray) is the best known appearance – perhaps because of Happy Cat – but these big round felines come in all colors and patterns.
British Shorthairs aren’t very chatty, but they are easygoing and loving companions once they get to know you. They also get along well with other pets and with children.
Routine Care: Unlike its American cousin, the British Shorthair is not an athlete. It is instead the embodiment of the old saw, “Slow and steady wins the race.”
Weight control is important throughout this cat’s long life. Too, it takes about five years for a British Shorthair to reach full maturity, so kitten food and related care will be needed longer than with some other breeds.
The Brit’s coat is plush and dense. It doesn’t need much care other than light grooming during the shedding season.
History: Everybody knows that the British Shorthair pedigree developed out of native short-haired cats, but where did those cats come from?
Tradition has it that they arrived in Britain, along with the Roman legions, some two thousand years ago. However, archaeologists have found evidence that cats lived here over three thousand years ago, during the Iron Age.
Centuries passed and everybody appreciated the cat’s mousing ability, but it wasn’t taken seriiously as a breed until some time in the 1800s.
When cat lovers united to hold the first cat show ever in 1871, British Shorthairs were well represented. A 14-year-old blue Brit won the Best in Show award that year, and the breed continued to very popular.
It even served as the model for the Cheshire cat illustration in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.
The first British Shorthairs were exported to the US in 1900, where they were called “domestic shorthairs.” As a breed, British Shorthairs were not eligible for championships there until 1980.
The two world wars of the 20th century set the breed back quite a bit. Breeders were unable to keep their catteries going during wartime because of the restrictions and hazards. They had to let the cats go.
As a result, the British Shorthair interbred with street cats and began to lose its show qualities.
After each of the two armistices, cat breeders restored the breed using shorthair moggies as well as registered shorthair breeds, but this didn’t give the sturdy, round build that is a British Shorthair trademark.
Persian cats were brought in to provide heavier bones and more muscle, but then the breeders had to lose the long-haired feline look to get back the Brit’s short, dense coat.
They succeeded, and today the beautiful British Shorthair is well-known and loved throughout the world.
Featured image: Dilute calico British Shorthair, by Squeaky Knees. CC BY 2.0.
British Shorthair smelling flowers, by uschi2807 at Pixabay. Public domain.
The Cat Fanciers Association (CFA): British Shorthair. http://cfa.org/Breeds/BreedsAB/BritishShorthair.aspx Last accessed October 2, 2017.
The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF). British Shorthair. https://www.gccfcats.org/Cat-Breeds/British-Shorthair Last accessed October 2, 2017.
Jacobs, D. L. 1995 The British Shorthair. Cat Fanciers Almanac. http://cfa.org/Breeds/BreedsAB/BritishShorthair/BritishShorthairArticle(1995).aspx Last accessed October 2, 2017.
Macdonald, D. W.; Yamaguchi, N.; Kitchener, A. c.; Daniels, M.; Kilshaw, K.; and Driscoll, C. 2010. Reversing cryptic extinction: the history, present, and future of the Scottish wildcat, in Biology and Conservation of Wild Felids, ed. D. W. Macdonald and A. J. Loveridge, 471-491. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Menotti-Raymond, M.; David, V.; Pflueger, S.; Lindblad-Toh, K.; and others. 2008. Patterns of molecular genetic variation among cat breeds. Genomics. 91:1-11.
Sinbine, B. 2002. The British Shorthair. Cat Fanciers Almanac. http://cfa.org/Breeds/BreedsAB/BritishShorthair/BritishShorthairArticle(2002).aspx Last accessed October 2, 2017.