What To Know About an American Shorthair


In this Article

  • Characteristics of an American Shorthair
  • Caring for an American Shorthair
  • Health Problems to Watch for With an American Shorthair
  • Special Considerations for an American Shorthair
  • History of American Shorthairs

The American Shorthair is a type of purebred cat. They’re a sturdy American breed that has been in this country since it was founded. 

The breed is identical to the American Wirehair in most ways except for their coats. 

They’re a consistently popular cat breed thanks to their curious but affectionate natures. 

Characteristics of an American Shorthair

American Shorthair size. American Shorthairs are a medium-sized breed. The typical American Shorthair male is larger than the female. 

Healthy males weigh anywhere from 11 to 15 pounds. Healthy females weigh anywhere from six to 12 pounds. The best weight for your pet depends on their overall body structure.

Your cat should continue to grow until they’re 3 or 4 years old. Make sure to talk to your veterinarian if you’re concerned that your cat is underweight or overweight.  

Body shape. American Shorthairs are a well-balanced, natural breed. Their bodies are rectangular in shape, with broad chests and firm musculature.

These cats have broad, rounded heads with square-shaped muzzles, topped by medium-sized ears. Their ears are set far apart and rounded at the tips. 

Other American Shorthair characteristics include rounded, moderately-sized feet and tails that taper to slightly rounded tips. They carry them level to their backs. 

Lifespan. The typical American Shorthair lifespan is impressive for their size. These cats tend to live for at least 15 years. They’re known for being a breed with a good lifespan. Be prepared to care for your pet for a long time before you choose to bring one home. 

Coat. As the name suggests, American Shorthairs have short, even coats. Their fur should be dense and lie close to their bodies. They appear shiny and lustrous when properly groomed. Their coats have a rough texture. 

American Shorthairs can come in a broad range of colors. They come in most colors that are observed in cats. The most common coat colors, though, are tabby coats and tabby with white markings. 

Eyes. American Shorthairs have rounded eyes that range from medium to large in size. They’re set far apart from each other at a slight angle. This cat’s eyes come in a range of colors. The exact color will relate to their coat color. An example color combination is green and brown.   

Personality. The American Shorthair personality is easy-going and friendly. Like most cats, they’re curious about their surroundings. 

These cats are highly people-oriented and enjoy spending lots of time with their families. They’ll eagerly engage in any number of activities with you, like folding the laundry and making the bed. 

Caring for an American Shorthair

Grooming. The American Shorthair is easy to groom. You don’t need to brush them, but they do shed. This peaks in the spring when they shed their winter coats. You can help them out by running a comb through their hair every so often. This can keep them from swallowing too much of their own fur. 

These cats are good about keeping themselves clean. They shouldn’t need a bath, but they’ll sometimes get into something particularly dirty, and you’ll have to help get them clean. You’ll usually know just by looking when your cat has gotten into something that’s so bad they can’t lick themselves clean. 

Keep their nails trimmed and occasionally check their ears for debris or signs of infection. Brush their teeth with a veterinarian-approved toothpaste to prevent feline dental disease. 

Feeding. Your American Shorthair will benefit from a portion of wet food once a day. Otherwise, you can give them a bowl of dry kibble during the day. They should do well on high-quality, dry kibble. Find a brand that your pet enjoys. The exact amount will vary from cat to cat. 

Some cats have a tendency to become obese when dry food is left out all of the time. Consult your veterinarian for the feeding schedule that’s most appropriate for your pet. 

Make sure to give them treats in moderation, or they could start to interfere with your cat’s normal diet. 

You also need to make sure that clean water is available for your cat at all times. The fresher the water, the better. 

To increase the amount that your cat drinks and prevent dehydration, experts recommend keeping their water at least three feet away from their food. Cats’ noses are sensitive to the smell of food, so proximity could limit how much they drink. You can also try using a filtered fountain in place of a bowl.

Exercise and mental stimulation. American Shorthairs like to be active. They can even be trained to play fetch. 

You should make sure that you provide plenty of toys for your pet — both ones that involve you and ones that they can play with on their own. They’ll be happy as long as they get a little activity each day. The rest of the time, they’ll be thrilled to curl up in your lap. 

They need a good amount of mental stimulation as well, or they’ll grow bored. Try to provide toys that make them think. 

Veterinary visits, medications, and immunizations. Your veterinarian is the best person to determine all of the vaccinations that your pet needs. In general, all cats need to get a core set. 

This includes vaccinations for:

  • Feline distemper
  • Feline herpes virus
  • Calicivirus
  • Rabies

You should also discuss non-core vaccinations with your veterinarian to see if they’re right for your pet. For cats, this includes a vaccine for feline leukemia virus (FIV). 

All cats are susceptible to flea infestations. Oral and skin-based applications are available from your veterinarian or other distributors. You should follow the directions included with these very specifically. Use them at any time of year that your cat needs them. 

Heartworms are less common in cats than in dogs. Unfortunately, there also isn’t a treatment for heartworms in cats, and this means that your best bet is prevention. Have your veterinarian check your cat for signs of heartworms on an annual basis and give your cat a preventative that your veterinarian recommends. 

Health Problems to Watch for With an American Shorthair

American Shorthairs are a healthy breed. In fact, the breed doesn’t have any unique health issues, but there are still many common illnesses and health conditions that any cat could be born with or develop throughout their lifetime. 

Some American Shorthair health issues to keep an eye out for include: 

  • Feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). This is the most common form of heart disease seen in cats. It’s believed to be an inherited condition. As it progresses, it can result in heart failure, paralysis of the hind legs, and even sudden death.
  • Feline lower urinary tract diseases (FLUTD). One of a handful of urinary conditions is the likely cause if your cat is urinating around your house instead of in their litter box. It’s important to get your cat to the vet as soon as you notice this symptom because it could be a sign of a serious or even fatal condition. One example is a bladder stone, which could migrate and block your cat’s urethra. 

There are many other problems that could crop up in your cat, though none of these problems are particularly likely to occur in a purebred. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that purebreds also tend to have a different blood type than less carefully bred cats. Make sure your veterinarian knows your cat’s blood type before attempting any transfusions, even in an emergency situation. 

Special Considerations for an American Shorthair

There are a few things to keep in mind before choosing to adopt an American Shorthair cat. They’re curious and smart enough to get into things that you don’t expect. Be prepared for an adjustment period while you learn your cat’s particular tricks. 

Luckily, they’re adaptable creatures that’ll be content in a wide array of households. They’re great with children, older people, and other pets. They aren’t difficult to train, and early socialization will help them adjust — even to households with dogs. 

You should also always have a tall scratching pole available to help satisfy your cat’s natural instinct to sharpen their claws. Otherwise, they’ll go for your furniture or walls, instead. 

Although some randomly-bred cats can closely resemble the American Shorthair, it’s important to note that these are purebred cats. This means that their genes have been refined over the years through selective breeding programs. 

American Shorthairs will consistently reproduce the breed’s distinct traits from one litter to the next. A randomly-bred cat that resembles an American Shorthair will likely have kittens that come in a wide array of shapes and colors. 

History of American Shorthairs

The American Shorthair history is as old as the original American colonies. The ancestors of the official American Shorthair breed have been around since the first English settlers arrived. There’s even evidence that these cats sailed on the Mayflower to keep the boat’s rat population in check. 

They were bred to be working cats that could help protect the ship’s stores, and they didn’t stop working once they were back on dry land. They continued to thrive with the pioneers who explored the country. 

As more types of Shorthaired cats arrived in the country, breeders began to incorporate the traits that they liked into the American Shorthair. They refined the cats’ traits over time to create the modern breed. 

American Shorthairs were represented in the earliest cat exhibitions. At this time, they were called domestic Shorthairs. They were actually one of the first five cat breeds recognized by the Cat Fancier’s Association. 

They were so popular at the beginning of cat exhibitions that one brown tabby sold for $2,500 dollars in 1896 at the second annual cat show in Madison Square Garden. They’re still a fan-favorite today — they were the seventh most popular cat breed in 2012.    

Show Sources

Photo Credits:

1. Kilito Chan / Getty Images


American Heartworm Society: “Heartworm in Cats.” 

The Cat Fanciers Association: “The American Shorthair.” 

Cornell Feline Health Center: “Feline Vaccines: Benefits and Risks,” “Fleas.”

Europetnet: “American Shorthair.” 

Harlingen Veterinary Clinic: American Shorthair.”

The International Cat Association: “American Shorthair Breed Group (AS/AW),” “American Shorthair at a Glance.”

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