The American Shorthair cat is one of the more famous cat breeds in the world, as well as one of the more active participants in the mixing and inception of many other cat breeds.
A cat with a very sturdy build, the American Shorthair is not particularly athletic, but is a strong and powerful animal that still retains an intense hunting drive. It is one of the larger cat breeds out there, weighting between 7 and 15 pounds, with the males being considerably larger than the females.
Descendant from European breeds that have been brought to America with the first settlers as rat-hunting cats on the ships, the American Shorthair has over eighty recognizable coat colors and patterns, making it a very diverse breed.
As a pet, the American Shorthair is an intelligent and curious animal, and is neither overly active, nor too docile.
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American Shorthair Cat Breed Information
Everything Future and Current Owners Must Know
General American Shorthair Cat Breed Questions
Here are some of the most common questions about the American Shorthair cat breed that most future and current cat owners may be curious about.
1. With over 80 different coat colors and patterns, how is the American Shorthair considered a singular breed?
There are a lot more intricate differences between cat breeds, apart from their coats. The American Shorthair is most strongly characterized by its body – a round head, short ears, medium-length muzzle, a sturdy and strong body that averages on the higher end of the size-scale, as well as, obviously – the short hair.
The clear origins that the breed has also characterize it pretty definitively.
While it is true that breed standards often time don’t recognize cats with coats outside of what is accepted for the breed, 80 isn’t an incomprehensibly large number. There are a number of colors and coat patters that are not accepted as a part of the American Shorthair breed – chocolate, sable, lavender, lilac, or the point-restricted pattern of the Siamese family does not count as American Shorthairs, because they are a sign of crossbreeding.
2. Does the fact that the American Shorthair has a strong hunting drive make it a bad choice for an apartment cat?
Not really. In fact, as with most domesticated cat breeds, it is recommended to keep your American Shorthair as a strictly indoors pet. While it is true that they have retained their hunting instincts from their time as ship and shipyard cats, they really aren’t suited for life on a modern city’s street.
Cars, dogs, bigger birds, as well as people looking for cats – all these present too great of a danger for your furry friend.
An indoors-kept American Shorthair cat will often stay on the window, observing pigeons and other birds, yes, but its hunting drive can easily be satisfied by playing some chase, fetch and toy-on-a-string games.
3. With a hunting drive and a big, muscular body, the American Shorthair doesn’t sound like a lap cat.
It isn’t. While, like most domesticated cats, the American Shorthair will enjoy some lap time when it feels like it, it is not your traditional lap cat breed. Most of the time, the American Shorthair will be perfectly satisfied to sit near you and by your side – more of a partner, than a toy.
The American Shorthair will also remain placid when carried, but prefers to stand on its own four feet and just walk beside you. IT will enjoy sleeping with you on the bed, but usually by your feet.
Simply put, the American Shorthair is a friendly cat that loves your attention and company, but is also an independent thinker that prefers to keep at least a little personal space.
History of American Shorthair Cat Breed
With the general questions about the American Shorthair cat breed out of the way, some pet owners are often curious about the history of this breed of cat. Here’s what to know.
1. If the ancestors of American Shorthairs came from Europe on the settlers’ ships, what European breeds did they originate from?
Was there a singular European original breed, or were they just random cats?
Mostly random. When the settlers (be it those on the Mayflower, the Spanish settlers of Florida, or even the Vikings to Newfoundland), took cats on their ships, they didn’t take them with the idea of having some purebred show-level pets with them.
They took them with the idea of having big, strong, fast, and capable rat-hunters on board, regardless of their color, coat or breed. The general name for those original cats was “European Shorthair cats”, but in all honesty, most of them were basic street cats that were chosen for their size, strength and hunting instincts.
Once the cats stepped on solid ground in the New World, they found plenty of new “job opportunities” – shipyard cats, farm cats, and so on. As the settlers slowly colonized the east coast and started moving westwards, their shorthair friends moved with them, gradually mixing with local cat breeds along the way.
For 3 whole centuries – from the early 17th century to the early 20th century – these cats didn’t have an official breed name or recognition and were simply referred to as “Domestic shorthair cats”. They were just good old working-class cats that simply did a great job for us.
Still, they were a significant enough part of people’s lives that in 1895 shorthairs were recorded as participants in the first American cat show. About a decade later, in 1906, American Shorthairs were finally recognized as an official breed by the Cats Fanciers Association (CFA).
They were given this name to reinforce the fact that this is a strictly American breed that comes from random-bred non-pedigreed domestic short-haired cats in North America.
2. If the cats’ origins were so randomized, how did people recognized them as a single breed?
Not all shorthair cats were accepted as official American Shorthair cats. Professional breeders at the start of the 20th century took a close look at all shorthair variations in the U.S. and formulated an official set of characteristics for the breed.
Those cat that fit these criteria were dubbed American Shorthairs and the rest were not. So while the breed’s origins come from a strongly randomized background, the breed itself is perfectly standardized.
Nevertheless, both American Shorthairs and the random-bred non-pedigreed domestic short-haired cats that aren’t recognized as a part of this breed, are to this day referred to as “Working cats”, in recognition of the great work they’ve done for their country.
Personality of American Shorthair Cat Breed
Here are a few things that pet owners need to know about the personality of American Shorthair cat breeds, because they certainly differ from many other domesticated cats.
1. What are the more pronounced aspects of the American Shorthair’s character? What can I expect if I take an American Shorthair as a pet?
The American Shorthair is an exceptionally well-rounded cat in terms of its personality. It is an intelligent and curious cat that loves to play games and explore new things. Yet, it is also not overly active like other breeds (the Abyssinian as a prime example).
It is neither a docile, comatose-like cat, nor a hurricane of fur, so it is an all in all great pet for a lot of people.
In terms of friendliness, the American Shorthair is a highly social cat. The long centuries of living on farms and streets, but at the same time – alongside people, have made the American Shorthair into a cat that loves the attention of its owner, and also isn’t too scared of strangers.
Obviously, it’s still a cat, so it won’t be at an ease around strangers, as a dog would, but it’s not the type of cat to immediate run behind the couch whenever someone rings the doorbell.
2. What should I do if I want my cat to become the best possible pet?
There are a lot of things that need to be paid attention to when it comes to raising your cat. With cats’ behavior being different from both dogs’ and ours, proper communication with your cat can often times be counter-intuitive for a new cat owner.
Still, there are 3 main areas that sum up the care you need to give your cat in order for it to become a great pet:
1. Parents. As with all other animals, a cat’s character is a manner of both nature and nurture. If you want to make sure that your future American Shorthair friend will grow into a nice, good cat, taking a look at its lineage is strongly advised. Mainly, look for the kitty’s mother, but if possible – the father and any older siblings as well. Their personality and behavior will give you a strong clue about what cat the little kitty will become. Also, if you are given a choice between multiple kitties from the same litter, make sure that you pick neither the biggest, nor smallest of them all. A medium-sized kitty, one that’s been neither bullied in the litter, nor a bully, is most likely to become into a nice, well-behaved cat.
2. Training. Being a very intelligent and playful breed, the American Shorthair loves to play games and learn new tricks. It’s not too prone to destructive behavior when left alone and it’s a generally obedient breed, but it still requires some training, but in terms of fun and games, as well as about learning some of the house rules.
When training your American Shorthair, just like with other cats, the most important thing to remember is to never hit, punish or even yell at it. Such negative reinforcement is not only painful for the animal, but is also completely futile – it will only break the bond between the two of you and teach your cat not to trust you. Instead, focus on positive reinforcement in the form of treats, petting, and gentle language, and your American Shorthair will quickly turn into a great pet and a friend.
3. Socializing. Out of all cat breeds, American Shorthairs are one of the most comfortable around outsiders. Thanks to centuries living and working alongside us, they’ve just learned to trust us. Still, even a “people’s cat” like the American Shorthair needs quite a bit of purposeful socialization if it is to grow up into a nice and friendly animal. Make sure that you have guests and visitors at home relatively often while the cat is growing up and it will learn that outsiders are not something scary. Limit your cat of such social interactions and it will quickly became an animal that hides under the bed every time someone knocks on the door.
Health of American Shorthair Cat Breed
One of the most important parts to cover is the health of American Shorthair cat breed.
1. If the American Shorthair is not such an overbred breed, does that mean that they are relatively healthy?
What can I expect from an American Shorthair in terms of possible health concern?
American Shorthairs are one of most healthy cat breeds out there. Both pedigreed pure-bred cats, and mixed-breed cats or unrecognized “Domestic shorthairs”, don’t have as much genetic health issues as other cat breeds.
Still, they are living breathing animals, and as such – they can get sick. Most of the possible health problems an American Shorthair can encounter, are issues that are typical for almost all cat breeds.
If one condition had to be picked above all others, it would probably be Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – a heart disease that has been observed in the breed, but is neither unique to it, nor is known to be genetic.
2. How do I make sure that my American Shorthair cat grows up with as little health problems as possible?
Even one of the healthiest cat breeds out there still requires quite a bit of care if you want it to grow up into a healthy animal. Before getting your cat consult with organizations such as the Pet Professional Guild and the Abyssinian Cat Association on how to find a decent pet breeder.
A trustworthy professional cat breeder will offer you health clearances for the cat’s parents, which will ensure that most of the possible genetic conditions and problems will be avoided. Never buy or accept a cat from a breeder who refuses to give you such clearances.
The next important thing is to find a great veterinarian near you – someone who you’d trust with your cat’s life and, if possible, who works 24/7.
Care of American Shorthair Cat Breed
Caring for American Shorthair cat breed is similar to your regular cat care of other domesticated cats, but there are a few things that pet owners should know.
1. What needs does the American Shorthair have, that I should keep in mind? How should I best take care of my cat?
As with other cat breeds, there are a few basic things to remember:
- As a shorthair breed, the American Shorthair can largely maintain its coat by itself and doesn’t shed too much. Still weekly combing is advised in order to help remove dead hair from the cat’s coat. This will not only ease the cat, but reduce the hairballs it throws up. Plus, with the proper training and positive reinforcement, it can be turned into a mutually pleasant activity. The amount of shedding depends on the climate and the season.
- To prevent periodontal disease, daily brushing of the cat’s teeth is strongly recommended. If daily brushing is too demanding, make sure to do it at least once per week. It may not be the cat’s most favorite activity, but it will be of great help to its health.
- Trim the cat’s nails twice per month.
- If you notice any wet discharge from the corner of the cat’s eyes, wipe it off with clean, damp cloths. Remember to use separate cloths for both eyes – otherwise you might transfer a possible infection from one eye to the other.
- Check the cat’s ears regularly. If you notice any dirt or if they are generally dry, wipe them with a wet cloth or cotton ball. Be careful not to damage the interior of the ear.
- Keep your American Shorthair’s litterbox spotlessly clean. Cleaning the litterbox twice per day is a must. Shorthairs may not have such great problems with dirty litterboxes as long-haired breeds have, but it is still essential.
- Keep your American Shorthair as an indoors cat only. It may have a history as a street cat, but it is not suited for a street life any more.
- American Shorthairs don’t have too demanding diet needs, so just make sure you feed them with a high-quality cat food and everything should be all right. Alternate dry and wet food with an accent on the dry food – it’s important for their teeth.
- Unlike most cats, American Shorthairs have a tendency to become overweight. Regulate their meals to exact portions at exact times of the day (morning and evening, preferably). Do not free-feed them.
Children and Other Pets for American Shorthair Cat Breeds
Finally, how does the American Shorthair cat breed deal with other pets, animals and in particular children? For any family with kids or dogs wanting to adopt this breed, note the below.
1. How suitable is a cat “that’s retained its hunting instincts” for a household with small children?
The American Shorthair is quite a perfect pet for homes with kids and toddlers. It is an intelligent and social breed that likes to play with its family members. American Shorthairs love and seek people’s attention, love to play games and learn new tricks.
It is also a very patient and gentle breed, so you can rest assured that it won’t hurt your children, as long as you have taught them to not hurt the cat as well.
Simply make sure that your kids don’t torture the cat – don’t pull its hair and its limbs, don’t carry it in a wrong manner, don’t throw it and drop it, don’t beat it, etc. – and the American Shorthair will love them unconditionally.
2. How about other pets? How does an American Shorthair get along with other cats or dogs?
As with kids, American Shorthairs will love the company of other cats or cat-friendly dogs (meaning – dogs that are not overly active and not too invasive).
In fact, despite its history as a hunter, the American Shorthair can even get along with birds, as long as it’s introduced to them at an early age.
Whatever combination of pets we’re talking about, just make sure to introduce them in a slow manner, in a controlled environment, and with a lot of patience. Once they get to know each other, everything else should go well.
Conclusion on American Shorthair Cat Breed Profile
Simply put, the American Shorthair is one of the most well-rounded cat breeds out there. Friendly, loving and gentle, calm, and yet playful, social and faithful to its family, as well as very healthy – the American Shorthair is one of the most popular cat breeds in the world for a reason.
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