The American Shorthair is a true working cat breed. The overall effect is that of a strong-built, well-balanced, symmetrical cat with power, endurance, and agility in its conformation.
The phrase “happy medium” comes to mind when describing the American Shorthair. These all-American cats are medium in size, build, type, and temperament; they are neither too big nor too small, cuddly nor distant, couch potatoes nor hyperactive. The American Shorthair is ideal for those who want a cat that will sit in their lap but not in their face.
The United States Shorthairs are known for their adaptable temperaments and quiet voices; they are sociable, easy to train, and get along well with other animals and children. They dislike being picked up; due to their barn cat heritage, ASHs have strong hunting instincts and enjoy catching and killing catnip mice—and real ones, too, if given access to the great outdoors, which breeders discourage. Because of their history as working cats, American Shorthairs make excellent companions in terms of health, strength, and vitality.
American Shorthairs enjoy romping with their favorite humans, but they can also entertain themselves with a ball of paper. They are known to be active and playful well into old age. They value their independence, just as the Pilgrims did when they left England in search of freedom. Your indoor ASH will place gifts on your pillow, usually well-killed catnip mice, and patiently await the well-deserved petting and praise.
Nobody knows when domestic cats first appeared in America. Cats, on the other hand, must have arrived with the European settlers, as America has no indigenous cat species from which domestic cats could have evolved. Domestic cats first appeared in North America when Europeans arrived, as cats were frequently kept aboard ships to protect grain and other foodstuffs from rodents; North America has no indigenous species from which domestic cats could have evolved.
Domestic cats may have started catting in the New World as early as the 1500s. Lovely, open expression. The American Shorthair’s ancestors were present on July 4, 1776, when the members of the Continental Congress met in Philadelphia to adopt the Declaration of Independence.
They were too busy chasing mice out of barns and fields to put their paw prints alongside Thomas Jefferson’s signature, but they wholeheartedly supported the document. After all, cats declared their independence thousands of years ago and continue to cherish the concept to this day. Cats became working members of American society, filling the age-old role of the ideal mouser.
People paid little attention to the color, pattern, and body style of their mousers because function was far more important than form. Natural selection helped these feline immigrants develop powerful muscles, strong jaws, and hardy, healthy constitutions, as life was difficult for both cats and humans back then. As people became more interested in the beauty of the feline form, life became easier, and cats became more than just mouse-catchers.
In the late 1800s, American Shorthairs were welcomed into the newly formed American cat fancy. At the time, the breed was simply known as Shorthair. The breed was later renamed Domestic Shorthair. The first American Shorthair to be registered in the United States was Belle, an orange tabby male imported from England in the early 1900s. It wasn’t until 1904 that the first American Shorthair (named Buster Brown) was registered under the Shorthair breed name.
With the introduction of new breeds, the ASH’s familiarity was no longer advantageous. Early in the twentieth century, fanciers became more interested in imported breeds such as the Persian and Angora than in the familiar ASH that had warmed their laps and served them faithfully for so long. Foreign imports interbred with the ASH, resulting in diluted American native bloodlines. In the early 1900s, a group of fanciers who admired their proud all-American cats started a selective breeding program to preserve the natural beauty, mild temperament, and hardiness of the American Shorthair.
Acceptance in the show ring, on the other hand, took a long time. Even in the 1960s, American Shorthairs were treated like strays in the cat fancy. Breeders also faced difficulties distinguishing between carefully bred American Shorthairs and randomly bred domestic cats. While a non-pedigreed domestic cat may resemble a pedigreed American Shorthair, the mix of genes means that a random-bred domestic will not generally breed true; you cannot count on type, temperament, and hair length as you can with a pedigreed American Shorthair.
In the late 1950s, many ASH breeders began crossbreeding Persians into their American Shorthair lines in order to “improve” the breed and introduce new colors. As a result, the body style and head type of the American Shorthair began to change, becoming more Persian in style. The face widened and flattened, the eyes grew rounder, and the ears shrunk. Many American Shorthair breeders, who had worked for decades to promote the ASH’s natural beauty, were disappointed by the changes. The American Shorthair standard has since been amended to exclude any cat that shows signs of hybridization.
Breeders voted in September 1965 to rename the breed “American Shorthair.” With a new name came a new image, and the breed finally received some of the recognition it deserved. The following year, CFA named a silver tabby male (Shawnee Trademark) Best Cat, and the breed of dog finally gained some hard-earned respect in the cat fancy. The American Shorthair is now one of the most popular shorthair breeds, which is fitting for America’s hometown breed.
Strong, powerful, and muscular build with well-developed shoulders, chest, and hindquarters. The back is broad, straight, and level.
Large, with a full-cheeked face that gives the impression of an oblong that is slightly longer than it is wide. Domestic cats were unquestionably present in Jamestown, the first permanent British colony in the New World, as a written record from 1609 mentions the colony’s cats. The forehead forms a smooth, moderately convex continuous curve that flows over the top of the head and into the neck. There is no ear dome. Medium length nose, same width throughout. A gentle curved rise from the bridge of the nose to the brow.
Medium in size, slightly rounded at the tips, and not overly open at the base. The distance between the ears, measured from the lower inner corners, is twice the distance between the eyes.
Large and wide, with an upper lid shaped like half an almond cut lengthwise and a fully rounded curve on the lower lid. At least one eye’s width between them. The outer corners are set slightly higher than the inner corners. Bright, clear, and attentive.
PAWS & LEGS
Long and boney, with a lot of muscle. From the back, all four legs are straight and parallel, with paws facing forward. Paws that are firm, full, and rounded, with thick pads. Five toes in front, four behind.
Medium length, heavy at the base, tapering to an abrupt blunt end, but with normal tapering final vertebrae
Short, thick, even, and with a hard texture. Allows for regional and seasonal variation in coat thickness. A dense enough coat to keep moisture, cold, and superficial skin injuries at bay.
There are numerous colors and patterns available, including solid, shaded, smoke, particolor, bicolor, tortoiseshell, cameo, van, tabby (classic, mackerel, and patched), and tabby and white.
While the characteristics listed here are common for this breed, cats are individuals with unique personalities and appearances. For more information on a specific pet, please contact the adoption organization.
Want to know more about American Bobtail? Check it out on the next post!