Vital Stats:Life Span: 15 to 20 years
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.
Cats were valued on land as well as at sea. Farmers, shopkeepers and householders all needed a good cat to protect their stores of food from mice, rats and other vermin. The shorthairs were solid, hardy working stock, well suited to the tough conditions that prevailed on the untamed continent. Such good hunters were they that a publication from 1634 credits them with saving a New England colony’s crops from squirrels and chipmunks. From their coastal arrival points, they went west with settlers, and thrived.
By 1895, shorthairs had made enough of a mark that they 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 randombred cats, also known as domestic shorthairs, the pedigreed felines were given the name American Shorthair in 1966. The cats are recognized by all registries.
The American Shorthair weighs 7 to 12 pounds.
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’s not overly demanding of attention or activity. As befits a working class cat who has made good, he is smart and enjoys playing with puzzle toys and interactive toys. He has a sociable nature and isn’t the type to hide under the bed when visitors arrive. This is a placid cat but one that doesn’t especially like being carried around. Let him stand on his own four feet. He may or may not be a lap cat, but he will always appreciate having a spot next to you on the sofa or at the end of the bed.
Both pedigreed cats and mixed-breed cats have varying incidences of health problems that may be genetic in nature. 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 combing or brushing 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.
Brush the teeth to prevent periodontal disease. Daily dental hygiene is best, but weekly brushing is better than nothing. Trim the nails every couple of weeks. Wipe the corners of the eyes with a soft, damp cloth to remove any discharge. Use a separate area of the cloth for each eye so you don’t run the risk of spreading any infection. Check the ears weekly. If they look dirty, wipe them out with a cotton ball or soft damp cloth moistened with a 50-50 mixture of cider vinegar and warm water. Avoid using cotton swabs, which can damage the interior of the ear.
American Shorthairs like their meals, so they can easily become overweight. To prevent obesity, measure their food instead of free-feeding them.
Keep the litter box spotlessly clean. Cats are very particular about bathroom hygiene, and a dirty box may cause them to start using other places in the house instead.
It’s a good idea to keep an American Shorthair as an indoor-only cat to protect him from diseases spread by other cats, attacks by dogs or coyotes, and the other dangers that face cats who go outdoors, such as being hit by a car. Keeping him indoors also protects local birds and wildlife from this talented hunter. American Shorthairs who go outdoors also run the risk of being stolen by someone who would like to have such a beautiful cat without paying for it.
Coat Color And Grooming
The American Shorthair has the body of a working cat: stocky, muscular and strong. His build gives him the agility and endurance he needs as a first-rate stalker, and heavily muscled legs make him capable of pouncing, jumping and climbing to get his furred or feathered prey. This is a medium-size to large cat, slightly longer than he is tall.
A large head with a full-cheeked face gives the American Shorthair a sweet, open expression. He has medium-size ears that are slightly rounded at the tips and large, wide eyes.
A short, thick coat comes in a large assortment of colors and patterns: solid, tabby, calico, tortoiseshell, bicolor, particolor and more. The silver classic tabby pattern is probably the most popular of them all.
Children And Other Pets
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. When in doubt, however, separation is best. Always introduce any pets, even other cats, slowly and in a controlled setting.