British Shorthair: A Blend of History, Fame, and Dignity

studio image of a british-shorthair cat lying down
Jeremy Vaughn
Written by Jeremy Vaughn

All cats are majestic and dignified, but a select few among them are even more so. These blue blood felines seem to carry with them a certain aura, and we’re always grateful if we’re lucky enough to be graced with their presence. If these noble and pedigreed cats appeal to you, you don’t want to miss out on the British Shorthair.

Not only is the British Shorthair famous for being one of the oldest cat breeds in the world, but the breed is also known for setting many unprecedented records. From being the most popular pedigreed cat in Britain to being the first breed exhibited in cat shows, this cat has spared no moment to earn space not just in history but also the spotlight. Can you recognize the British Shorthair in Puss in Boots? What about the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland? The British Shorthair is undoubtedly the superstar of the cat world.

Close-up image of a lady cat breeds british shorthair, blue color

Whether you are planning to adopt a British Shorthair or trying to get better acquainted with yours, the information below is tailor-made just for you. Don’t hesitate to learn more about British Shorthair personality and care features; you need to know everything about them if you were to properly cater to their royal needs in the most devoted of ways.

Breed Characteristics

  • Adaptability: Above Average
  • Grooming: Average; moderate to high shedding
  • Health: Very Good; be careful of obesity
  • All Around Friendliness: Average; a bit aloof
  • Exercise Needs: Above Average
Cat breed groupSemi Long-Haired, Natural Breed
SizeMedium to Large
WeightMales: 12 - 20 pounds

Females: 8 - 14 pounds
Lifespan12 - 20 years

The British Shorthair is a medium to large cat. They have rounded whisker pads and an upturned mouth which gives them a smiling teddy bear face. The males tend to be larger than the females. Their maturity isn’t attained until they are about three years of age.

They have a short, dense, and waterproof coat which is available most commonly in a medium to deep grey color. This has given the cat the nickname British Blue. However, the cat can actually also come in other patterns and colors. There is also a longhaired variety of the British Shorthair whose characteristics are all rather similar to this one save for the hair length.

British Shorthair Cat lying on the sofa

The British Shorthair has a well-muscled and compact body with a strong, thick neck and a broad chest. Set on their large, round head is a pair of big round eyes with color that can vary from blue to green, orange, and copper. Their ears are small, widely spaced, and rounded at the tips.

Their entire body is supported by thick, short to medium-length legs which have round paws. Their looks are completed by a short and thick round-tipped tail.

Main Highlights

  • The British Shorthair is the cat featured in Puss in Boots and Alice in Wonderland.
  • The British Shorthair has a medium to large body, with males weighing between 12 and 20 pound and females between 8 and 14 pounds.
  • The British Shorthair originated in Rome; they were introduced into Britain by Roman invaders.
  • The cat is believed to have been around since the 1st century.
  • The British Shorthair was originally kept as a mouser but was later accepted as man’s best friend.
  • The breed was the first official show cat.
  • The breed was almost eradicated during both the 1st and the 2nd World Wars.
  • The breed was saved by crossing them with the Persian, the Russian, and the Chartreux.
  • The cat is smart, easy going, and laid back.
  • The British Shorthair is not a typical lap cat. They don’t like to be carried around and appreciate some alone time.
  • They get along with all, including children and other pets.
  • The British Shorthair is a cat with few health problems except for the possible Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and Haemophilia B for which there is a test that can be used to detect them early.
  • The British Shorthair, like all other cats, needs to be fed dry and wet foods that contain at least 30% meat. They will also need to be provided with plenty of clean drinking water.
  • The cat comes in different colors and patterns, with medium to deep grey being the most common.
  • The cat should be kept indoors and supplied with a cat-friendly environment to thrive well.

Breed History

The British Shorthair is presumed to be one of the few recognizable most ancient cats in the world. This breed is thought to have been around since the first century AD. Several theories surround their history. One of them revolves around an interbreeding between Egyptian cats brought into Great Britain by Roman invaders with the local European wild cat population. Another theory tells a story about the Romans bringing their own cats into England to guard their homes and land against rodents.

Although their presence in Britain was to a large extent incidental, the cats endeared themselves to the locals through their sturdiness, endurance, excellent predatory skills, and generally likeable nature. Gradually, they found their way into the comfort and warmth of peoples’ homes.

In the late 18th century, cat fancier Harrison Weir went on a quest to make his admiration for the Shorthair count. His idea was to convince other fans like himself to showcase the best of the British Shorthair in an attempt to improve the breed through carefully-selected pairings.

British Shorthair Cat lying on the sofa

His efforts bore fruit when the first ever cat show was held on July 13th 1871 at the Crystal Palace of London—making the British Shorthair the first official show cats. The particular exhibition plus other subsequent ones gained lots of popularity but this dwindled with time as other new, and more fashionable breeds stole the spotlight.

During the 1st World War, the population of this cat breed was greatly diminished. Post-war breeders appealed to the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy to allow them to cross the remaining cats with other breeds to salvage the numbers, but their efforts proved futile.

British Shorthair Cat lying on the ground

With no other choice but to interbreed what few remaining cats there were carefully, it took about three generations of breeding to attain a population that was eligible for registration as a pedigree again. The cycle reoccurred with the 2nd World War, but there was even less surviving British Shorthairs to work with. This time around, the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy did not have a choice but to allow breeders to cross the Shorthairs with carefully chosen breeds such as the Persian, the Russian Blue, and the Chartreux.

The now restored British Shorthair has that smiley teddy bear look, stocky body, plush coat, and a mild temperament. These cats have since then remained a common family companion in Britain. It was not until 1970 that the breed gained enough population size in America to be registered at the American Cat Fanciers Association.


Although the cats are not as huge as the Maine Coons, they are relatively large compared to other breeds. Males weigh about 12 to 20 pounds while the females weigh about 8 to 14 pounds. Their full size and weight aren’t attained until the cat is around the age of three years old.

Personality and Character

This cat is smart, affectionate, and pretty laid back. They often bond closely with their human family. Although they don’t like to be picked up and they may steer clear of your lap, they love lying next to their human companion or at least hanging around them.

While the British Shorthair might be hesitant around strangers at first, they easily warm up to them once some familiarity has been established. Being a quick learner helps them adapt well to new situations.

British_shorthair_kitten sitting with her head up

Females tend to have a sober look while males look more easy going. They both expect respect and proper treatment from their human companions. They do not demand attention but reciprocate any that is showered upon them.

Training a British Shorthair is easy since they are smart. You can teach them tricks or how to walk on a leash, although they don’t mind being kept as strictly indoors-only cats. These cats are also okay with some alone time and would be a great choice for a family that spends some time away from home. Although these cats are not very energetic and are generally non-destructive, their clumsy nature might lead to a few minor breaks here and there.

Health and Potential Problems

The British Shorthair is one of the few cats with almost no health issues. Apart from possible Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the only other possible disease is Haemophilia B. Both of these can be easily identified using a DNA test.

Close-up image of a British-shorthair cat

Before getting a kitten from a breeder, it would be a good idea to get all the necessary information concerning the cat first, e.g., inoculation, spaying and neutering, possible health issues, deworming, etc.

Care Features

Although these cats are not demanding, they require care and affection so that the bond between the two of you will strengthen. In addition to this, protection from any possible dangers—like being hit by moving vehicles, attacked by other animals, mistreatment, and diseases spread by other cats—is paramount. Keeping your cat indoors and training everyone in the household on pet etiquette will take care of this.

Proper and regular grooming will not only keep your cat healthy but will also make them more presentable and fun to be around. Also, ensure that your cat has access to a clean and regularly refreshed litter box. Some privacy with toilet business also goes a long way, so if you keep multiple cats, we recommend that you also provide multiple litter boxes.

Mother and kitten British_Shorthair_cats lying on the floor

Being a low energy cat, your cat is prone to obesity. A little play time every day and a nap afterward will keep your cat fit and rested. When your cat is home alone, feline toys can help kill their boredom.

Making your house cat-friendly will ensure that your cat lives a fulfilled life. This can be done by providing play and observation areas, cat trees, scratching poles, and cat furniture besides other basic needs such as water and food.

Feeding Schedule

Kittens have small tummies and therefore cannot hold a lot of food. Since they are active and growing, they should be allowed to eat as much as they want. Milk might upset their stomach, and so it is not recommended that you give yours milk—especially if it is cow’s milk.

Most kitten food contains the same ingredients as adult cat food but in smaller quantities. Adult cats require 2 to 3 meals a day to keep them well nourished. All meals should have at least 30% meat content since cats are carnivorous. Avoid regularly feeding your cat foods that contain less than this.

close-up of a man holding a British Shorthair cat

While you can feed your cat on either dry or wet food, it is good to note that dry food can cause diabetes and urinary or kidney problems in some cats. Its low moisture content isn’t easily compensated by cats that don’t usually drink a lot of water in the wild. Wet food might be a better option, or you can mix dry food and wet food up.

Raw food can also be a great option, if your cat doesn’t suffer from sensitive stomach issues, that is. You can prepare your own or buy ready-made ones. When changing your cat’s food, the introduction should not be done abruptly. Mix in a little bit of the new food at a time with the old food and increase the amount gradually. This is done to prevent stomach upsets and to test if your cat likes the new variety.

British Shorthair kitten sitting on the sofa

Giving your cat high-quality food keeps them healthy, helps with digestion, and minimises their chances of getting sick. Careful observation of your cat’s weight and condition would also help you figure out whether to increase or reduce your cat’s food portion.

Always ensure that a bowl of fresh water is available. The bowl should ideally be ceramic or stainless steel since plastic can bear harmful bacteria. Some cats are also allergic to plastic, and it could cause rashes to grow on the part of their chin that comes into contact with the lip of the bowl. An even better option would be a water fountain.

Coat, Color, and Grooming

The most common coat color of the British Shorthair is the medium to deep grey which may appear blue at times. The cat also comes in different patterns and colors such as cream, black and white, tortoiseshell, calico, and bi-color—although the cat fancier-approved official color is their trademark shade of blue-grey.

Massaging your cat’s body with wet hands would be a great idea way to start your grooming session. When brushing your cat’s coat, two to three times a week will work just fine. You may need to do it more often during spring when it is the shedding season. Be sure to use a brush that is recommended for cats. You can start with a wide-toothed hairbrush and then use a narrow one. Brush it in a way that will not hurt your cat.

British Shorthair lying on the floor

Your cat will need a bath at least once or twice a month using warm water and a mild shampoo. This might be a tough task due to their dense coat, but it can be done. Be careful with their eyes, nose, and ears. Do not expose your cat to direct sunlight after a bath. Use a towel or a hair drier to dry the cat’s coat. Completely drying the coat might take up to 20 minutes. During winter, the cat will require less bathing.

Use wet cotton to clean the corners of their eyes gently and inside the ears. Brush their teeth using a feline-recommended toothbrush and toothpaste to keep away dental diseases. Clip their nails at a safe distance from the quick. You can ensure this by pressing on the paw with your thumb to expose the whole nail. The dead part is usually yellowish in color.

Children and Other Pets Compatibility

The British Shorthair gets along with older kids who know how to treat them with respect. When kids understand that they don’t like to be carried around or held, the two of them are sure to get a strong friendship going. Children should also understand how to read the cat’s mood. When the cat needs some alone time, respect their wishes.

british-shorthair-cat_lying on a soft blanket

The cat is friendly to other pets as well, but they may not be able to tolerate the constantly buzzing presence of youthful cats and energetic dogs. As the British Shorthair doesn’t have a lot of energy, they get along best with other pets that are just as sleepy as they are.

Wrap Up

The British Shorthair in one of the oldest cat breeds. This cat has won a spot not just in history but also in the media. This breed is believed to have been around since the 1st century. It was also the first cat to be exhibited at a cat show.

Apart from surviving two world wars, the breed has gone from being a mere mouser to a household pet adored by many due to their affectionate, easy going, and dignified nature. Their compatibility with children and other pets is commendable. This, is in addition to their few health issues and their high tolerance for being left alone at home, makes them a great pet for any family.

British_shorthair_cat lying on the grass and leafs

Interested in adopting an independent and undemanding cat that’s easy to take care of like the British Shorthair? Or perhaps you’d like a more active and sociable cat? We highly welcome your feedback. If you have any comments, concerns, or compliments, feel free to share them with us in the section below.

About the author
Jeremy Vaughn
Jeremy Vaughn

Jeremy Vaughn is a member of Canadian Professional Pet Stylists, who lives in Winnipeg. Creating new looks for cats and other pets is his passion. Jeremy shares his house with the wife and wonderful Siamese cat.