Who’s That Cat? The American Shorthair — Born in the USA


Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the July/August 2016 issue of Catster print magazine. Click here to subscribe to Catster magazine.

If you love stories about the Pilgrims or settlers crossing the prairies to make new lives for themselves, you’ll love the American Shorthair. His pawprints are found throughout the American story — from the landing of the Mayflower to the present day.

Don’t confuse the American Shorthair with a domestic shorthair (which is a short-haired mixed breed). The American Shorthair’s characteristics include a broad head topped with short ears, a muscular body perfect for mousing, and a fur palette of more than 80 colors and patterns. What really makes him special, though, is his easygoing, sweet disposition — one that makes him a welcome companion for singles, families, empty nesters, and seniors alike.

Photo by Fiona Green

Living with an American Shorthair

This affectionate cat enjoys being a part of the family, but he doesn’t excessively demand attention. Toys or his own “work” — stalking bugs, lizards, or other critters — will keep him occupied. Don’t get an American Shorthair if you won’t welcome “gifts” of prey.

Photo by Gina Cioli / Lumina Media

The American Shorthair’s amiable attitude extends to other pets. He gets along with other cats and dogs, and in a rural setting he might even make friends with horses.

The American Shorthair can adapt to many types of homes and families. He’s intelligent and takes well to training.

Perhaps a genetic memory of crossing oceans and prairies is what makes this cat a good traveler. He can be found riding shotgun in cars, RVs, and commercial trucks.

Things you should know

“Moderate” is the watchword for this cat breed. The American Shorthair is not too small and not too big. At 11 to 15 pounds for males and six to 12 pounds for females, this cat’s size is just right for many people. As with any cat, don’t let your American Shorthair become overweight.

American Shorthairs don’t reach their full size and development until they are three to four years old. With good care, they can live an awesome 15 to 20 years.


When it comes to grooming, the American Shorthair is low maintenance. Brushing once or twice a week will keep his coat beautiful and healthy. He does shed, and regular brushing will help remove excess fur before it ends up on your carpet, clothing, and furniture.

The American Shorthair is generally healthy, but it’s a good idea to ask breeders if the cats in their lines have tested free of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the most common form of heart disease in cats.


They might not have been listed on the manifest, but ancestors of the American Shorthair came on the Mayflower and other ships bringing emigrants to the New World. Their ratting abilities, friendly nature, and attractive looks made them popular throughout the colonies. As the country grew and people spread out, their cats went with them.


Cat shows and selective breeding became popular in the late 19th century. Breeders began to develop the American cats to have a specific look and personality. What was then known as the Domestic Shorthair became one of the first five breeds registered by the newly founded Cat Fanciers’ Association in 1906.

In 1966, the Domestic Shorthair was renamed the American Shorthair as a way of emphasizing his heritage and distinguishing him from shorthaired cats without a pedigree.

Fun facts

The American Shorthair has the powerful build of a working cat in a compact body. He has excellent hunting instincts honed through generations as a pest-control expert in homes, on farms, and in shops and businesses.


This breed wears a short, thick coat of many colors. Neutrals include glistening white, cream, and coal black. Other solid colors are blue and red. The various tabby, tortoiseshell, bicolor, calico, shaded, smoke, and van patterns are also represented. One pattern you won’t find is pointed; American Shorthairs may not be crossed with other breeds.

Depending on his coat color, the American Shorthair’s eyes may be gold, green, blue, or hazel. Odd-eyed white cats have one blue eye and one gold eye.

Did you know?

Photo by Tetsu Yamazaki

You’ve probably seen silver tabby American Shorthairs on television commercials and in movies. That striking color and pattern is a favorite in the breed, closely followed by brown tabby.

About the author: Kim Campbell Thornton is an award-winning writer in Southern California. Her subjects include pet care, health and behavior, and wildlife and marine life conservation.

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