The British Shorthair was one of the first cat breeds to be actively bred and given a show standard. It is a no nonsense, short haired, cobby cat, that looks to many people exactly as a cat should look. In fact it could be called a pedigree version of the ordinary British domestic cat, and that is basically what it is. As such, it has always been extremely popular, particularly in the UK, but also in the rest of Europe and in the USA. But maybe you don't know as much about the British Shorthair as you think. Here are some interesting facts concerning the breed.
The ancestors of the British Shorthair were generations of working cats, from urban mousers and street cats to rural farm cats. When they actually came to Britain is unknown, but it may even have been during Roman times. At any rate, when deliberate breeding began, this was the natural starting stock. Harrison Weir, the founder of the Cat Fancy and organiser of the first cat show at Crystal Palace, South London, bred British Shorthairs, and it was the most popular breed at those early shows.
Before being developed as show cats, the original British cats were actually bred as hunting cats! Most families back in the 1800s and earlier had a cat, and it found its own food and even helped provide food for its owners. Today this may be hard to believe as most British Shorthairs like nothing better than to lie around the house, but don't be fooled – they are quite capable of hunting if they choose to.
After its promising early show start, the British Shorthair nearly died out! During the early 20th century other more exotic cats began to appear, in particular the long haired Persians and later the dramatic looking Siamese. Two World Wars had a devastating effect on cat breeding, and by the 1950s the British Shorthair had almost disappeared. But dedicated breeders in Britain and abroad kept it going, and by the 1970s it was back again. It was even becoming known across the Atlantic, and in 1980 the CFA recognised it as an official breed in the USA.
Harrison Weir's early British Shorthairs were all blue, and for a long while this was the colour that people associated with the breed. Indeed, the British Blue is still one of the most popular colours. But today there are around 30 colours – just about all solid colours, tabbies of many varieties, and colourpoints. They also have a variety of different eye colours, although all have the large round eyes associated with the breed. So whatever colour cat you want, you should be able to get a British Shorthair to suit.
The British Shorthair is a cobby, chunky, muscular cat, and that is part of its attraction. But these cats also have a tendency to put on weight, and can easily become overweight or even obese. So owners need to take care, feeding them healthy food and providing lots of opportunities for these cats to exercise, in order for them to remain fit and healthy.
Apart from their tendency to put on weight, this is generally a healthy, long lived breed. It does not seem to suffer from any breed specific conditions, and its short coat is easy to care for. But of course, all cats can get sick, so regular veterinary checks are as necessary for this breed as for any other.
The British Shorthair is an excellent cat for families with children. It is a calm, laid back cat, and is affectionate towards people of all ages. It is unlikely to be too clingy or to get upset or nervous. It is also unlikely to complain too much at a little rough handling, although obviously children should be taught to play gently with the family cat.
As mentioned above, on the whole this is a very healthy breed. These cats often live into their late teens, and even early twenties. This is probably due to the large gene pool from which the British Shorthair was developed in the past. At any rate, it does mean that if you get a British Shorthair, there is a good chance that your beloved cat will remain with you for a long time.
It has been rumoured that the Cheshire cat in 'Alice in Wonderland' was inspired by a British Shorthair cat. Many historians think that the pictures of Lewis Carroll's Cheshire Cat are in fact of a tabby British Shorthair. The breed is also rumoured to have inspired 'Puss in Boots'.
One final odd fact – in 2011 a British Shorthair cat was declared to have the world's loudest purr! Smokey's happy rumblings were measured as 67.7 decibels, about the volume of the average lawn mower. Smokey died in 2014, but his record held until it was beaten in 2015 by a cat with a 67.8 decibel purr.
If you want to get a British Shorthair kitten you should have plenty of choice. There are a large number of breeders, and as this is an easy cat to care for, most of them should be quite happy to let you have one of their kittens. Many will want you to keep the kitten as an indoor cat due to the risks of traffic accidents and theft, but every breeder is different in their requirements. So do some research, maybe visit a cat show and look at some examples of the breed, and then...good luck.