My boyfriend has one of the sweetest, most well-mannered, and goofiest cats I have ever met. It is a British Shorthair tomcat, and his name is Bernard, but we call him Borko. Apart from being really nice, affectionate, playful, and intelligent, Borko is an absolutely gorgeous cat (check out the photos).
If you are looking for a new cat and you would like to get yourself a good boy (or a girl) similar to Borko, you should definitely get a British Shorthair. In this article, I will tell you everything you need to know about this breed. By the end of it, I’m sure you will fall in love with British Shorthairs, just like I did!
British Shorthair Cat Characteristics
|Fur color||Any possible color except chocolate, lavender, and Himalayan pattern.|
|Fur pattern||Any possible pattern, including solid, bicolor, calico, tabby, shaded, etc.|
|Eye color & shape||Large, round eyes that can be of any color, depending on the coat.|
|Weight||Males 7-17 lbs|
Females 5-15 lbs
|Expected lifespan||15-20 years|
|Temperament||Affectionate, easygoing, non-demanding, loyal, devoted, intelligent, quiet, and even-tempered.|
|Kids and other pets||Reserved at first, but friendly later on.|
|Sociable and cuddly||They can be somewhat shy among strangers, but they enjoy affection and attention.|
Requirements & Traits
|Feeding||Similar to other cat breeds; meat-based foods rich in protein. Kittens should eat more frequently than adults.|
|Grooming||Fur brushing once a week, nail trimming every two weeks, and regular dental hygiene.|
|Shedding||Low to moderate|
History and Origins
If you have read my post about American Shorthair cats, you will recognize many similarities between those cats and British Shorthairs. Just like American Shorthairs, British Shorthairs had humble beginnings as working animals, catching mice and rats on local farms.
Arrival To Europe
British Shorthair cat is actually one of the most ancient breeds in the world. They date back to the 1st century AD when they were brought to Europe by Roman soldiers. The first such cats interbred with local European wild and domesticated cats.
Additionally, some of those cats were taken to the British Isles, where they also interbred with local wild cats and lived isolated from cat populations in the continent. As a result, their descendants developed into strong, large, and robust cats that were perfectly adapted to the British climate.
For centuries, British Shorthairs lived simple lives as farm cats, hunting mice, rats, birds, and other pesky critters. They weren’t considered anything special, and they were often overlooked as pets. People who kept cats as pets and not as working animals were usually interested in more exotic breeds, such as Persian and Siamese cats.
The Rise in Popularity
However, that changed in the 19th century, with the first attempts at selective breeding of British Shorthairs. These efforts were mainly focused on developing a distinct blue-gray variant called “British Blue” and “English type,” as opposed to Russian Blue cats that had similar coloring but more delicate bodies.
Harrison Weir, a UK artist and “The father of the cat fancy,” was among the first people that tried to standardize the British Shorthair breed, along with a group of other breeders. Weir also organized the first cat show ever in London in 1871. Newly recognized British Shorthair cats participated in this show and attracted much interest and popularity.
British Shorthair cats didn’t enjoy their newfound popularity for long. At the beginning of the 20th century, they were overshadowed again by Persian cats and other long-haired and exotic breeds. Their numbers started to dwindle, and by the end of WW1, British Shorthairs were critically rare.
To save the breed from going extinct, breeders would occasionally outcross British Shorthairs with Persian cats. Sometimes, the result of these pairings were long-haired kittens, and they became a basis for British Longhair cats. Additionally, outcrossing of British Shorthairs with Russian Blues was also common, and their offspring were often called “Blue Shorthair.”
The Governing Council of Cat Fancy tried to maintain the breed standard by accepting only the third-generation British Shorthair/Persian outcrosses. This helped maintain the purity of bloodlines, but it also significantly narrowed the gene pool.
As a result, Persians and Russian Blues had to be reintroduced into the British Shorthair’s gene pool. Some breeders even introduced another ancient breed as a potential outcross, and that breed was a French Chartreux cat.
After the Storm
By the late 1970s, the British Shorthair breed was established and officially recognized by various cat associations, including the CFA (Cat Fancier’s Association) and TICA (Th International Cat Association). Since then, this breed’s popularity has only grown.
Nowadays, British Shorthairs are the most popular pedigreed breed in Britain. These cats finally got the recognition and praise that they deserved for many centuries.
British Shorthair Cat Personality
There are so many great things about British Shorthair’s personality, but for me, one thing, in particular, comes to mind. British Shorthair cats are even-tempered and easy-going, and they make whole cat ownership so easy.
Let me explain it further. British Shorthairs are playful and curious cats, but they aren’t hyperactive or out of control. They will equally enjoy running around the house and just chilling in their favorite corner. This is great for people that don’t have time or energy to deal with an overly agitated cat.
Additionally, British Shorthairs are sweet, gentle, loving, and affectionate, but in a subtle way. They don’t like to be carried around, and instead of sitting in your lap, they would rather sit somewhere near you.
Borko is just like that; he never bothers anyone; he just likes to be close and observe. On the other hand, my Mishka would crawl under my skin if that was possible, and I forgot the feeling of having a personal space since I got her.
British Shorthairs are also quiet cats, and you will rarely hear them meow. However, their eyes are so expressive and smart-looking, which makes British Shorthairs great communicators. Indeed, these casts are very intelligent and curious, almost like children.
Speaking of children and other pets, British Shorthairs might be wary and shy at first, but over time, they become more trusting and playful. However, it is important to socialize these cats from an early age. This way, they will be more open to playing with other cats/pets and children.
British Shorthairs are one of the rare breeds that can be left alone. Many other breeds become depressed or destructive when left alone for more than an hour or two. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should leave your British Shorthair to be alone all the time. However, if your work or other daily errands require you to leave your home for several hours a day, your British Shorthair will be able to stay alone without wreaking havoc on your home.
British Shorthair Cat Appearance
At first glance, British Shorthairs look almost basic. However, once you look at one more carefully, you will see how beautiful they are. For me, personally, they look like premium versions of regular domestic cats. You don’t believe me? Let’s take a closer look at some of their most distinct features:
As their name suggests, British Shorthair cats have short furs. However, since these cats had to adapt to the harsh British weather, their furs are surprisingly thick and firm to the touch. So, even though their furs are short, British Shorthairs are well-protected against winter and the elements.
There are also long-haired specimens of this breed, and they are called British Longhairs. However, British Longhairs are the same breed as British Shorthair, and they are just another variation. The only difference between these two variations is their fur length; everything else is the same. So, if you happen to get a British Longhair instead, (almost) everything I write about British Shorthairs applies to Longhairs as well.
When it comes to fur color, almost every color and pattern combination is allowed. That includes solid black, cinnamon, fawn, blue, red, lilac, cream, etc. Tabby British Shorthairs can be classic tabbies, spotted tabbies, and mackerel tabbies. There are also bi-color, calico, and shaded British Shorthairs.
The only color/pattern combos that are not allowed are chocolate, lavender, and Himalayan pattern.
British Shorthairs have large, round, and expressive eyes that give them a somewhat cartoonish appearance. These eyes are widely spaced out and can be green, gold, copper, yellow, amber, etc. Another interesting thing about British Shorthair’s eyes is that they look bright, shiny, curious, and playful.
This breed belongs to the group of medium to large cat breeds. Males are larger than females, with average body length ranging from 22 to 25 inches. On average, male British Shorthairs weigh between 7 and 17 pounds.
On the other hand, female British Shorthairs have bodies that are between 20 and 22 inches long, and they weigh somewhere between 5 and 15 pounds.
Other Body Characteristics
British Shorthairs have firm, powerful, and muscular bodies. Their chests are broad, and their legs are relatively short but well-boned, muscular, and strong. The paws are round and firm, with five toes on the front paws and four toes on the back paws. The tail is medium-long when compared to the rest of the body. It is wider at its base, and it slowly tapers and ends with a rounded tip.
Most cat breeds have wedge-shaped heads, but that’s not the case with British Shorthairs. Their heads are round and massive, with large and rounded whisker pads. The muzzle is well-developed and distinctive, and the chin is also well-developed and firm.
The ears are medium-sized, widely spaced apart, wide at their base, and rounded at the tips. The neck is short and thick.
Daily Life With A British Shorthair Cat
If you want a pedigreed cat that will not be too demanding, you will be happy to know that British Shorthairs fit the bill perfectly! Of course, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to fulfill some basic requirements.
When determining your cat’s dietary needs, it is always important to consider several factors, such as the cat’s age, gender, size, metabolism, and activity levels. Also, some breeds naturally need more or less food than other breeds, and you need to take that into the consideration too.
British Shorthairs are moderately active cats that need enough food to maintain their strong bodies. However, overfeeding can quickly lead to obesity, and you want to avoid that. That’s why you should consult your vet to determine the optimal feeding frequency and portion size for your British Shorthair.
In general, kittens and young British Shorthairs that are still growing need to eat more often than adult ones, 3-4 times a day. Mature British Shorthairs should eat 2-3 times a day. You can also divide their daily food intake into several smaller portions.
Just like other cat breeds, British Shorthairs are obligate carnivores, which means they should only eat meat-based foods. Try to feed your British Shorthair with high-quality commercial cat foods. Wet cat food will keep your British Shorthair hydrated, while dry cat food will help with dental hygiene.
You can also give your British Shorthair raw meat, but only if you are certain that it is fresh and free of parasites and other pathogens. Additionally, you can give cooked meat to your British Shorthair, but don’t season it. Spices and seasonings such as salt can damage your cat’s kidneys and cause other health issues.
You can occasionally treat your British Shorthair with cat snacks, but don’t overdo it. Finally, make sure that your cat has access to fresh water all the time. Cats don’t drink water as much as some other pets, but they still need to drink it to stay healthy.
With their short, plushy furs, British Shorthairs are quite low-maintenance. Brushing their furs once or twice a week will be enough to remove loose hairs, distribute the oils, and prevent matting and knots.
British Longhairs, on the other hand, might be a bit more demanding, but brushing their furs every 2-3 days will be enough to keep them well-groomed. Both Shorthairs and Longhairs need to have their nails trimmed every two weeks. Dental hygiene is also important, so regular teeth brushing is another thing to keep in mind.
If you get your British Shorthair while it is still a kitten, you can use it as an opportunity to teach it to put up with nail trimming and teeth brushing. Adult cats are much harder to handle during grooming sessions if they haven’t been trained as kittens.
Alternatively, you can take your British Shorthair cat to the pet groomer for nail trimming. You can also find some teeth-cleaning snacks that will improve your cat’s dental hygiene.
I already said that British Shorthair cats are playful and curious animals. This means you will need to provide them with exercise and activity to keep them healthy and happy. Still, when compared to some other breeds, British Shorthairs are quite moderate, which means you won’t have to spend half of your day running with your cat.
Buy your British Shorthair some toys, a scratching tree, and a climbing tree. Take 10-20 minutes of your day to play actively with your cat. This will be enough activity to keep your Brtish Shorthair fit and entertained. Since they are intelligent cats, try to stimulate their brains too. Try to find some interactive or puzzle-like toys that will test your British Shorthair’s problem-solving skills.
If you wonder whether you should let your British Shorthair cats outside, it depends on the situation. They are stocky and strong cats that have been working animals for many centuries, so being outside is natural for them. Still, you should supervise your British Shorthair while it plays outside because you never know what can happen.
Alternatively, you can leash-train your British Shorthair and take it outside for a walk. This will be a great exercise for both of you.
Most Common British Shorthair Cat Health Issues
Since they are a natural breed with a wide gene pool, British Shorthairs are quite healthy. They usually live long lives without many health difficulties. However, just like every other breed, British Shorthairs can become sick, and here are some of the most common health conditions that affect them:
This is a common genetic condition that affects a cat’s heart muscles. Those muscles become thickened, and as such, they become less effective in pumping blood. Because of the reduced efficiency, the heart needs to put more effort than normal to pump blood into the body, and as a result, it becomes weaker over time. In more severe cases, this can lead to heart failure and death.
If your British Shorthair cat is showing any of these symptoms: Irregular heartbeat, breathing difficulties, loss of appetite, weight loss, lethargy, swollen abdomen, or rapid heartbeat, it could be suffering from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
It is important that you take your cat to the vet as soon as you notice any of these symptoms. The vet will be able to determine whether your cat has this condition and how severe it is. They will also prescribe appropriate therapy, usually beta-clockers and similar medications.
Polycystic Kidney Disease
This condition is characterized by multiple cysts growing on a cat’s kidneys. These cysts decrease the kidney’s efficiency and can ultimately lead to kidney failure.
The most common symptoms of polycystic kidney disease are frequent and difficult urination, increased thirst, loss of appetite, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and dehydration. If you notice any of these symptoms, take your cat to the vet.
The vet will be able to slow down the disease and manage the symptoms. They will also recommend you dietary changes that will further increase your cat’s kidney function.
Indoor cats are generally at more risk of obesity than their outdoor peers. This is because they are usually less active, plus they have more food available. British Shorthairs are naturally stocky and rounded cats, so it can be hard to determine whether they are obese or just naturally rounded.
Obesity can cause many other health issues and conditions, such as liver disease, joint issues, breathing difficulties, diabetes, cardiovascular issues, and the list goes on. If you notice your cat rapidly gaining weight, you should consult your vet.
At the appointment, the vet will be able to determine if your cat is obese and which steps you should undertake to help your cat lose weight in a healthy way. They will probably suggest dietary changes and increased activity.
British Shorthairs have moderately short faces, especially those that have some Persian genes. As such, they are more prone to respiratory issues than breeds that have longer faces and longer/wider airways.
These respiratory issues can include various infections, allergic reactions, asthma, and bronchitis. The most common symptoms of respiratory issues are a runny or stuffed nose, sneezing, coughing, mouth breathing, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, lethargy, fever, etc.
As usual, if you notice any of these symptoms, take your cat to the vet. There, your cat will get a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
British Shorthairs are heavy cats that often don’t have enough activity, and as a result, that can put some extra strain on their joints. In turn, this can lead to arthritis, which is a condition that can significantly reduce your cat’s life quality.
Arthritis causes pain and inflammation in joints and makes every move extremely painful. The affected cat loses the motivation to move and gains more weight. This puts even more strain on the joints, and it soon becomes a vicious cycle of pain and immobility.
If your cat is limping, stiff, or inactive, or if it has difficulties jumping, running, or climbing, it might have arthritis. Take it to the vet as soon as you notice any of these symptoms. Possible treatments include medications, weight management, or making changes to the cat’s environment that will make its life and movement easier.
British Shorthair Cat Name Suggestions
One of the most interesting parts of getting a cat is certainly naming it. We all want to find a name that will suit our cat perfectly, but what if we can’t think of such a name? For some cats, the name comes naturally, while for others, you need to think and think and think until you find the name. If the latter is your case, take a look at some of my top picks for British Shorthair names:
- Borko (I had to)
Buying or Adopting A British Shorthair Cat
British shorthairs are relatively uncommon in the US, so I am not sure if you will be able to find one in the adoption shelter. However, if you do, the adoption fee is typically between $75 and $150.
Since finding a British Shorthair in a shelter is highly unlikely, you will probably have to buy it straight from a breeder. Make sure that you purchase your cats from reputable breeders only. A breeder should be able to provide you with all the necessary health certificates and other information regarding the cat that you are buying.
Once you find such a breeder and decide to buy from them, the cat will cost you anywhere between $800 and $2500, depending on the cat’s traits, age, gender, bloodline, and the breeder’s reputation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, as you can see from the sections about their personalities and living needs, British Shorthairs are undemanding, sweet, and intelligent cats and great pets.
That’s just the way they are; some cat breeds like to be picked up, while others don’t.
British Shorthairs are gentle, calm, and quiet cats.
When they were working farm animals, British Shorthairs spent much of their days hunting for prey, so they had to sleep whenever and as much as possible to preserve some energy.
That depends on the cat and whether it gets dirty or not. You can bathe your British Shorthair every 3-6 months or when it gets dirty.
British Shorthair Cat Fun Facts
- British Shorthairs are often featured in popular TV shows and movies, such as “Mr. Bean,” “Sabrina the Teenage Witch,” “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone,” “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland,” etc.
- Their round head and chubby cheeks are actually a result of a genetic mutation called “Hypertrophied Masseter Muscle.”
- British Shorthairs are the official cat of the United Kingdom, and they were even used as symbols of British strength, patriotism, and resistance during WW2.
British Shorthair Alternatives
Since British Shorthairs are relatively rare in the US, you probably wonder if there is a similar breed that’s easier to find. American Shorthair, a cat breed commonly found in the US, is the perfect alternative to British Shorthairs.
Alternatively, you can choose Exotic Shorthairs, Burmese, Persian, Chartreux, or Russian Blue cats instead. All these breeds have some physical or personality traits that make them similar to British Shorthairs.
British Shorthair cats are beautiful animals with lovely personalities. These distant cousins of American Shorthairs had to go through so much struggle to survive until today. Their perseverance finally paid off, as they are the most popular cats in the UK. Hopefully, they will achieve similar popularity in the US.
If you want a gorgeous cat that will be well-mannered, intelligent, gentle, playful, and independent, consider getting a British Shorthair cat. I am sure you won’t regret it!
Featured Image Credit: Zeljka Stanic