Once known as the Domestic shorthair, this cat had been kept more for its function than for its form. Its journey began together with the Europeans who set their foot in North American. These early settlers have brought the domestic shorthair along with them on their ships. As an excellent hunter and keen mouser, it has helped to protect and keep the ships free from rodents. Adapting well to the climate and the environment of North America, the Domestic Shorthairs continued to be used as working cats for the early settlers to rid their barns and homes of rodents.
Nature has caused it to grow a little larger with coats that are thicker and hardier in order to survive in the new land. The Domestic Shorthairs though used and prized for their hunting skills, their intelligence and varied coat colours and patterns were soon noticed as well.
In 1960, the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) has decided to officially recognize the Domestic Shorthairs. With the importation of more shorthair breeds, dedicated breeders began to carry out selective breeding to develop a specific cat type. Breeds such as the Burmese Cat, Persian Cat, British and European shorthairs have been imported for the breeding program. The Domestic Shorthair was then renamed as the American Shorthair Cat and was only officially recognized as a new breed in 1966.
One the main reasons for such purpose-bred breed was to don it distinctively as an American Cat, thus, different from the other shorthair cat breeds. The differentiation was also intended to be made between other random bred cats along the streets and barnyards today.
With the establishment of the pedigreed American Shorthair comes a consistent production of kittens that possess similar physical traits and temperaments. This does not happen with any non-pedigreed random shorthair breeds even though they might resemble the American Shorthair, thus, demonstrating the innate difference between them and the American Shorthair. Years of selective breeding and collection of data for the different generations has ensured that the specific qualities of the American Shorthair be reproduced in each litter of kittens.
Physical appearance and attributes
The American Shorthair is a medium to large cat that weighs an average of 11 – 15 pounds for male and 6 -12 pounds for the female. Its well-developed shoulders, chest and hindquarters give it a muscular and solid frame that spells power, endurance and agility.
A robust and sturdy breed, the American Shorthair has a well-balanced body with medium boning. It has a large head that is slightly longer than it is wide, complemented with a squared muzzle and a strong jaw and chin; giving it an open and sweet expression. Its heavily muscled legs are medium in length and substantially supported by firm, rounded paws with heavy pads. Such a built is made for a first-rate hunter, giving the American Shorthair the capability of skilled jumping, pouncing and climbing to get his targeted prey.
On its head is a pair of medium-sized ears with rounded tips. It is set at twice the distance between the eyes. The American Shorthair’s looks would not be complete without a pair of large eyes formed by two different curves. The upper lid takes the form of half an almond and is completed with a fully rounded curve for its lower lid. They are tilted at an angle with the outer corners being set slightly higher than the inner corners. Eye color should be appropriate to the coat color.
Most coats have eyes that radiate in brilliant gold or copper. However, white-coated cats have been found with luminous blue or odd-eye colours. Whilst tabbies are seen with green and hazel eyes, green to blue-green eyes can be apparent in tipped coats. The American Shorthair has a coat that has been designed to protect. Hence, it is dense, thick and hard to the touch. The coat is short and lies close to the body, giving it a glossy appearance. It also has a dense undercoat that will protect it from superficial skin injuries, cold and moisture. The American Shorthair’s coat can come in a plethora of colors and an assortment of patterns. It can be solid (i.e., white, blue, black, red), bicolor, parti-color, shaded, smoke and tabby (i.e., classic, patched, tortoiseshell, mackerel). However, one of the most popular is the silver classic tabby. This coat has striking black markings lining the clear silver-based coat with different elaborate designs. The brown tabby is another popular breed with a rich brown-based coat designed with black tabby markings. It usually takes around three to four years for the American Shorthair to mature and that is also when the features of this breed will be at their best.
Personality and temperament
Having a placid disposition, the American Shorthair is a calm and easy-going cat. This makes it a non-demanding companion that does not seek for personal attention. It retains its independence without losing its affectionate and sociable nature. It may not enjoy being carried around but would love a spot close by you. Thus, it is an ideal pet for owners who have to spend time out earning for its food and for those who love coming back to a loving, devoted and loyal pet.
There are moments where this breed can also be seen relishing in solitude by the window sill observing the on-going activities of the outside world. This does not make it a passive or comatose cat, moderately active, its need for play continues into its adult life. It enjoys amusing itself with a ball of paper as much as any boisterous activities with its chosen persons. The mind of intelligence usually seeks enjoyment in puzzle toys and interactive toys.
The American Shorthair’s hunting instincts have remained and it can be found displaying its skills with insects that have ventured into the house. If it is allowed outside, the owner can expect it to proudly bring back unexpected furred or feathered ‘gifts’. The very same hunting instinct brings it to high places such as cat trees or top of shelves and drained sink or tub where it can carry out investigative search. However, it can also be trained to stay off such elements.
Given time and patience, the American Shorthair, with its accepting temperament, can adapt well to any situations and to other cats or cat-friendly dogs
Care and health issues
The American Shorthair is generally a healthy breed with an average life span that of 12 – 20 years. However, some lines were found to be contracted with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM), a type of heart disease. Older cats are at a higher risk of getting this disease with males being at a higher disposition.
Feline hip dysplasia has also been found in this breed. Thus, it is advisable that a health guarantee is obtained from the cat breeder. Note any incidences of health problem that are in the breed’s line and any genetic testing were carried out. An annual check-up with booster vaccinations will help in maintaining the health of this breed.
Best practices of grooming should also be carried out. This includes dental hygiene, eye and ear care. The coat of the American Shorthair is easily cared for with weekly combing or brushing to remove any dead hairs. This can also help to distribute body skin oils evenly. A bath is seldom necessary.
The American Shorthair can become overweight easily due to its love for its meals. Thus, to prevent this, consider measuring its food over free-feeding it. Like other cats, the American Shorthair is particular about bathroom hygiene. To avoid it using other places in the house, do keep its litter box spotlessly clean.
The ideal home
Being an active breed with great hunting instincts, total indoor and apartment living is usually not ideal for them. The American Shorthair would need access to a large and secured garden to satisfy their hunting impulses. A kitty enclosure would also be ideal. Consider filling these spaces with cat gym sets, toys, non-toxic plants and cat scratchers for an adventure zone to where it can go.
The American Shorthair is one of the breeds that make a wonderful companion to both young and old. With a low level of personal attention, this breed makes the cut for an easy-going pet.