Breed Introduction: American Shorthair
The American Shorthair is a breed of domestic cat believed to be descended from European cats brought to North America by early settlers to protect valuable cargo from mice and rats. The adaptable and good-natured American Shorthair retains his hunting ability, but these days he is more likely to be a family companion, a job at which he excels. He has a middle-of-the-road temperament, being calm but not comatose. The American Shorthair is moderately active and enjoys a good playtime as much as the next cat, but he is not overly demanding of attention or activity.
They aren’t listed on the manifest, but cats were undoubtedly among the passengers and crew that disembarked from the Mayflower when it arrived at Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620. Their ratting abilities made cats valued members of ships’ crews, and they may well have made their way to the New World even earlier, on ships that carried settlers to the Jamestown colony in Virginia, Spanish explorers to Florida and Vikings to Newfoundland. Some of the descendants of those seafaring cats, known prosaically as shorthairs, or domestic shorthairs, became what we know today as American Shorthairs.
By 1895, shorthairs were exhibited at the first cat show in the United States. The Cat Fanciers Association recognized them as a breed in 1906. To differentiate them from random bred cats, also known as domestic shorthairs, the pedigreed felines were given the name American Shorthair in 1966.
The American Shorthair weighs 7 to 12 pounds.
American Shorthairs are generally healthy, but be sure to ask a breeder about the incidence of health problems in her lines, and what testing has been done for any that are genetic in nature. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a type of heart disease, has been seen in the breed, but it is not yet known to be genetic.
The American Shorthair’s coat is easily cared for by grooming these cats often. Comb or brush it a couple of times a week to remove dead hair and distribute skin oils. The thickness of the cat’s coat and the amount it sheds vary based on climate and time of year.
American Shorthairs like their meals, so they can easily become overweight. To prevent them from obesity, measure their food instead of free-feeding them.
The laidback but playful American Shorthair is a perfect choice for families with children and cat-friendly dogs. He can learn tricks and loves the attention he receives from children who treat him politely and with respect. He will get along fine with dogs if they don’t give him any trouble. He is a skilled hunter, but may learn to leave pet birds or other small animals alone, if he is introduced to them at an early age.