Gray American Shorthair looking directly into camera

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Known for their even and charming temperament, American Shorthairs have become one of the most beloved cat breeds in the United States. But what sets them apart from other felines, and how do you properly care for them? In this blog post, we'll delve into the fascinating world of American Shorthairs, exploring their history, unique traits, and health and grooming requirements. Read on to discover everything you need to know about American Shorthairs.

History & Origin Of American Shorthair Cats

While American Shorthairs today are more commonly kept as beloved house pets, these felines have a storied past as working cats. In fact, they played an essential role in shaping American history from the very beginning.

The early 1600s saw the ancestors of American Shorthair cats journey to the new world alongside British settlers who sought economic prosperity and religious freedom. Far from being passive passengers, they contributed to the success of these cross-Atlantic voyages by protecting the finite food supply and preventing the spread of disease as expert mousers.1

As the settlers established themselves and flourished in their new surroundings, the cats that accompanied them found work as barn cats. During this period, due to the emphasis placed on their vermin-exterminating abilities, American Shorthair cats were bred for their health, agility, and endurance rather than their looks, making them the adaptable, low-maintenance cats we know and love today.2

Throughout the years, American Shorthair cats were frequently called upon to help with pest control. For instance, in 1749, a group of these felines were sent to Pennsylvania to eradicate a severe rat infestation. Similarly, at the height of the San Francisco Gold Rush, workers would pay up to $50 for an American Shorthair with proven hunting abilities to accompany them in the mines.2

It wasn’t until the cat show craze spread from Great Britain that people finally began to take interest in and prioritize the appearance of American Shorthairs. In 1906, the American Shorthair cat finally received recognition as its own pedigreed breed from the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA). By then, the breed had already gained a substantial following, leading to the establishment of the Short-Haired Cat Society of America in the same year.2

The American Shorthair cat received recognition as its own pedigreed breed from the Cat Fanciers’ Association in 1906.

Physical Attributes Of The American Shorthair

Even though it is classified as a medium-sized breed, with adult males typically weighing between 11 to 15 pounds and adult females weighing between 8 to 12 pounds, the American Shorthair boasts a robust physique due to its working origin.3 With defined muscles, American Shorthair cats are built for agility and endurance despite their tendency to spend the majority of the day sleeping and lounging around.

American Shorthairs are also known for their relatively large heads and full cheeks that give them a certain sweet and endearing look. On their round and somewhat oblong faces, you’ll notice a pair of large, half-almond eyes that slant slightly upward. Their curious and intriguing gaze is bound to capture your attention.3

While Bengals, Siamese cats, and Bombays are recognized for their distinctive coat colors and patterns, American Shorthairs come in a wide range of appearances. The CFA alone recognizes a remarkable 73 different color classes for American Shorthairs, ranging from classic tabby and tortoiseshell to rarer shades like dilute calico, chinchilla silver, and cream-shaded camo.3

The tabby pattern is one of the most common coat patterns in cats, and it is particularly prevalent in American Shorthairs. Tabby American Shorthairs are adorned with stripes, spots, and splotches all over their body, creating a beautifully eye-catching look. On their foreheads, you can also find a distinctive "M” shape indicative of the pattern.3

American Shorthair height, weight, and lifespan information

Behavioral Characteristics Of The American Shorthair

American Shorthair cats are often adored for their affectionate nature and even temperament.

Whether you are snuggled up with a good book on the couch or tidying up around the house, you can always expect your American Shorthair to be your loyal shadow. Even if they aren’t in a cuddly mood, they are always down to lend you their watchful gaze.

It’s not just their owners they get along with either—American Shorthairs are known for their ability to make friends wherever they go. Not only are they sociable with other cats, but they are also well behaved around children.

While American Shorthair cats enjoy company, they can also be independent when necessary. When you’re away from home, no matter if you’re running errands or attending to work, these adaptable felines are content to entertain themselves. From batting around a toy mouse, to perching on their favorite spot on the cat tree, they can always find a creative way to keep themselves occupied.

Although the American Shorthair breed is generally known for these behavioral characteristics, it's important to keep in mind that every cat has their own distinct personality. Therefore, it's essential to take the time to get to know your cat and understand their individual preferences and needs. By doing so, you can build a strong bond with your furry companion and provide them with the best care possible.

Common American Shorthair Health Issues

Thanks to their working cat ancestry, American Shorthairs tend to be quite healthy and resilient. In contrast to Scottish Folds and other cats prone to specific genetic disorders, American Shorthairs do not have any unique health issues associated with their breed. Nevertheless, like all cats, they are susceptible to a variety of common health problems. Some of these issues include:

  • Periodontal disease: Also known as gum disease in cats, periodontal disease affects 50 to 90 percent of cats older than four years of age.4 Starting with plaque buildup near the gum line, this painful disease can ultimately lead to the destruction of tooth support and even permanent tooth loss. Luckily, while common, periodontal disease is largely preventable. With regular oral care and routine dental checkups, your American Shorthair cat can have a healthy set of pearly whites.
  • Feline lower urinary tract diseases (FLUTD): FLUTD refers to a range of conditions that affect a cat's bladder and urethra. Typically caused by urinary stones, urethral obstruction, and idiopathic cystitis, it results in painful urination, frequent urination, blood in the urine, and more unwanted symptoms. While any cat can develop FLUTD, it is most commonly seen in middle-aged, overweight cats.5
  • Diabetes: Diabetes is the most commonly diagnosed endocrine disorder in cats, affecting 0.2 to 1 percent of felines throughout their lifetime. It develops due to a disturbance in the body's insulin production, which causes an accumulation of glucose in the bloodstream. If left untreated or mismanaged, diabetes can result in severe complications, including nerve damage, kidney disease, and even death.6
  • Cardiomyopathy: Cardiomyopathy is a prevalent heart condition in cats, accounting for almost two-thirds of all heart-related diagnoses. It arises from a structural defect in the tissue that encloses one or more chambers of the heart and may eventually trigger congestive heart failure.7

Caring For American Shorthair Cats

While American Shorthair cats are fairly low maintenance, they still require proper attention and care to ensure their overall health and well-being. This includes providing a nutritious diet, regular grooming, ample enrichment activities, and proper veterinary care.

  • Diet: It's crucial to provide your American Shorthair with a diet that closely mirrors their natural dietary preferences as obligate carnivores. This means that their diet should consist of high levels of protein, moderate levels of fat, and minimal amounts of carbohydrates. When buying cat food from a store, it's important to choose a product that carries an Association of American Feed Control Officials approved label. Alternatively, if you plan to prepare homemade cat food, it's crucial to consult with a veterinarian to ensure that the food provides all the essential nutrients that your cat needs.
  • Grooming: Due to their short hair, American Shorthair cats require minimal grooming. However, regular brushing (once or twice a week) is still necessary to maintain a healthy and lustrous coat. It's also crucial not to overlook paw care and oral care in your grooming routine. Regularly trimming your cat's nails can help prevent broken or ingrown nails, while brushing their teeth can reduce the risk of periodontal disease.
  • Enrichment: Enrichment plays a vital role in a cat's overall well-being, providing them with opportunities to hone their natural instincts and prevent boredom. By engaging in activities that simulate their natural behaviors in the wild, cats can improve their physical and mental health, reduce stress, and increase their quality of life. From cat wands that stimulate their prey drive to tall cat trees that allow them to perch and survey their territory, there are many ways to satisfy your American Shorthair.
  • Veterinary care: The importance of routine veterinary care cannot be overstated. Going to the vet every year or twice a year allows for early detection and treatment of any potential health issues before they become more serious and costly. To cover the gaps between vet visits, a veterinary telemedicine subscription can help you stay on top of your cat’s health. With Dutch telemedicine, get prompt answers to your questions even when your regular vet is out of the office and medicine delivered straight to your door.8

Young Asian girl playing with her American Shorthair cat on floor

Final Notes

American Shorthair cats are a popular and beloved cat breed that make wonderful pets for a variety of households. With their friendly personalities, easygoing nature, and low-maintenance grooming requirements, they are a great choice for first-time cat owners and experienced cat lovers alike.

If you have more questions about American Shorthairs or other breeds like Maine Coons, reach out to a Dutch vet. We strive to provide reliable, compassionate, and high-quality online veterinary care for a variety of conditions, including cat anxiety, cat arthritis, and more. Try Dutch today.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Dutch?

Dutch is an online veterinary pet telehealth service, created by pet parents and board-certified veterinary specialists. We use a science-backed approach to provide pets relief for their everyday physical and behavioral health issues. Dutch connects you with licensed veterinarians over video chat and messaging to help you get care for your dog or cat quickly wherever you are — without the stress or expense of a vet visit. We also partner with pharmacies who can deliver prescription medication (in applicable states only) and over-the-counter treatments directly to your door. Dutch isn’t a veterinary practice or pharmacy, but a company that helps facilitate these services for pet parents to make veterinary care more accessible to all.

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During your video call, one of our licensed veterinarians will talk to you about the symptoms your pet is experiencing, ask you questions, review your pet’s medical history if you’ve provided it, and answer any questions you have. The vet will ask to see your pet and their environment. And they may ask you to perform some simple checks on them if needed.

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In addition to the base membership plan, our veterinarians may also recommend additional medication (Rx and/or OTC) that you will have the option of adding to your plan at an additional cost.