Get to Know the American Shorthair: One of America’s Original Cats


A lot of people confuse the American Shorthair with the domestic shorthair cat. The term “domestic shorthair” is used to describe any cat that is not a purebred, while the American Shorthair breed is the feline version of the Mayflower Society.


When Europeans sailed to North America, they brought cats with them. These cats weren’t pampered pets; they were strong and intelligent working animals who were expected to earn their keep by hunting mice aboard ships and in households.

In the early days of the cat fancy, these cats were shown under the name “domestic shorthair,” but as people began importing cats from other parts of the world, people who loved the uniquely American cat began to see random-bred cats taking on more exotic characteristics as they cross-bred with leaner Oriental cats. These individuals wanted to see the American shorthair cat maintain the characteristics that made the animal such a boon companion in the early days of settlement, so they began breeding selectively to keep the body shape, color patterns and personality intact.

In the early 1960s, the breed was renamed the American Shorthair. It is recognized by the Cat Fanciers’ Association and the International Cat Association as a championship breed.


The American Shorthair is muscular and of average size. American Shorthairs generally weigh between 10 and 15 pounds, with males being larger and heavier. The features are not exaggerated — not too round, not too pointy and rangy — and they should look like they can do the job they were originally bred to do. They are known for their gentle, open expressions.

Health and longevity

American Shorthairs typically live between 15 and 20 years. They are not known to have a huge risk of genetic inclination to health problems, although they do tend to have a slightly higher-than-average risk of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. It’s easy for them to become overweight if they’re not exercised regularly.

What it’s like to live with an American Shorthair

Your American Shorthair will adapt quickly to her new environment. Extroverted and gently playful, she is great with children and dogs, and is not easily startled by change. She has a soft voice and a loving disposition, and really makes an ideal companion for everyone from first-time cat parents to busy families to seniors living alone.

American Shorthairs have a keen hunting instinct, inherited from their working ancestors, which they usually exercise by chasing anything that flies or scampers. If you also have hamsters or pet rats, you may want to ensure that their cages are very secure. They also love hunting insects.

American Shorthair trivia bits

  • The American Shorthair was recognized by the Cat Fanciers’ Association as a championship breed in 1906.
  • The American Shorthair is the eighth most popular breed in the U.S.
  • American Shorthairs don’t fully mature until the age of three or four, and that’s when breeders say their show-ring features are at their best.
  • The American Shorthair comes in more than 80 colors and coat patterns, but pointed colors and dilute colors like chocolate, lavender, lilac and sable are disqualifications from championship status.

Do you have an American Shorthair? Share your comments on the breed, and your photos of your American Shorthair kitty.

Read more on cat breeds:

About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.

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