The British shorthair cat breed is a home-grown favourite, and of course it stands to reason that there are likely to be a lot of them in the UK compared to most other breeds! However, if you asked someone with a passing knowledge of cats to name some pedigree breeds, they are likely to name a few such as the Bengal, Siamese and Persian, but get a little stuck after that! Because the British shorthair’s distinctive features and breed traits are subtle and easy to miss by people who are not interested in cats. They do not have flat faces, rarely have colour points, and do not have long hair or other features that make cats out as “something a little different” to the layman-many people may see a cat of the breed regularly, and not even know it.
So, is the British shorthair the most popular pedigree cat breed in the UK? We’ve attempted to find out.
At the time of writing (March 2017) there were a total of 6,620 adverts for British shorthair cats for sale posted on Pets4Homes over the last 12 months, compared to 4,560 Bengals (the next most popular breed) and 4,242 Ragdolls, in third place.
Many people who don’t know much about cats or the British Shorthair breed, wrongly think that the name “British Shorthair” is the name given for a domestic mixed breed cat or moggy. The Pets4Homes advert approval team say this is a common mistake that advertisers of mixed breed cats make when placing an advert to rehome their mixed breed cats. Of course, there are far more mixed breed cats in the UK than any of the pedigree cats breeds.
The British shorthair cat breed has been recognised as such in the UK since the 19th century, and the first cats of the breed are thought to have come into being as the result of natural breeding between cats brought over to the UK during the Roman invasion, and small-breed wild and domestic cats that were at the time living in the UK.
Despite their long history and strong following, the effects of World War 2 on the breed’s numbers saw them almost dying out entirely, to the point that concerted efforts had to be made to raise the numbers of the breed to a viable and self-sustaining population.
This meant that despite their long history and established gene pools prior to WW2, other breeds had to be added to the gene pool in order to keep them from dying out entirely, which took the form of a range of breeds including the Persian, Burmese and Russian blue.
The breed as a whole has since stabilised since then, and gone from strength to strength since, and the British shorthair is now once more firmly secured as a popular UK breed.
So, what makes them so popular? Let’s look again.
As is usually the case when a cat breed or type enjoys an enduring popularity, there is no one individual trait that causes this, but rather a diverse combination.
First and foremost, it would be foolish to overlook the popularity that can come from being a home-grown British breed, particularly when you take into account national sentiment in the aftermath of WW2, when British people were recovering from the war’s effects, and feeling particularly patriotic.
Secondly, the appearance of the British shorthair is noble and distinctive, and makes them easy to identify compared to most other breeds. They are reasonably large and well-padded with an almost square face, giving them a kind and friendly look, which has led to them being referred to on occasion as the “teddy bear cats.” Additionally, the children’s TV show “Bagpuss” during the 1970’s and 1980’s didn’t hurt there at all, as if you had to pick a breed that looked like Bagpuss, the British shorthair would be it.
They are also very affectionate, loving cats that can hold their own when out and about and are not afraid to get into the odd rumble, but that also tend to be able to live happily with other cats, and will not be the type to start a fight for no reason!
Their fur too often comes as a surprise to people who have not met the breed before-it is surprisingly thick, and very soft, plush and luxurious, which makes them a pleasure to stroke.
They tend to be fairly independent and are not as demanding as breeds like the Siamese, but they are also very affectionate and personable, and love to curl up in front of the fire with their favourite person.
The British shorthair is generally a very placid cat that is not likely to scratch or bite in play, and they also tend to be tolerant with younger children-they will stalk off and hide if annoyed, rather than getting aggressive! However, it is of course important to make sure that children respect them and do not run them ragged just because the cat will tolerate it.