American Shorthair

  • The ancestors of the American Shorthair accompanied the pilgrims on the Mayflower’s voyage across the Atlantic.
  • The forebearers of the American Shorthair were credited with saving a colony’s crops from squirrels and chipmunks in 1634.
  • Shorthairs have been around for quite a while, participating in the first cat show in 1895.
  • An American Shorthair named Shawnee Trademark was named Best Cat of the Year by the Cat Fanciers Association in 1965, the same year the breed was officially renamed the “American Shorthair” to distinguish it from the more broadly comprised “Domestic Shorthair” classification.

Breed Summary



13 to 17 years



8 - 15 pounds

8 - 10 inches tall

Energy level

Energy level

Playful prowler

American Shorthair details

Closeup face of an American Shorthair cat.


Unique physical features

  • Round face with a shortened muzzle
  • Large, round, and expressive eyes
  • Short, pointed ears

Color patterns of the American Shorthair cat

There are 80 varieties of coat patterns recognized in American Shorthairs, but the most commonly seen are solid colors, tabby, tortoiseshell, and calico.

The American Shorthair is a mellow, yet sociable breed. They were bred from working cats whose job included rodent control in agricultural settings and on ships, so they have strong hunting instincts. While American Shorthairs enjoy their independence, they also get along well with humans. You often find them camped on the lap of their favorite people. They’re moderately affectionate and not overly needy for attention. As an easy-going breed, they get along well with children, seniors, and other pets, especially when introduced to them as kittens.

Similar breeds to the American Shorthair cat

  • American wirehair
  • British shorthair

History of the American Shorthair

Shorthair breeds can be traced back to the 10th century in the Roman Empire. As they spread across Europe, they became known as British Shorthairs in the British Isles and were excellent rodent hunters. American Shorthairs are descendants of these working cats that crossed the Atlantic keeping rodents at bay on the ships and went on to accompany settlers across the United States. Bred to be a bit smaller than their British cousins, they were effective rodent control in both homes and barns and were playful and sociable without being needy. They were one of the first five registered cat breeds recognized in 1906 under the name Domestic Shorthair. That name was changed in 1965 to American Shorthair to distinguish the breed from other non-pedigreed short-haired cats common throughout the States.

Behavior and training

Plays well with others?

The American Shorthair is friendly, playful, and accepting of other pets and people, including seniors and children. This breed is laid-back and mellow, but enjoys play due to its “working cat” origins.

Exercise requirements

American Shorthairs are a playful breed that requires moderate exercise to stay happy and healthy. American shorthair kittens are fun-loving and they continue to be playful well into their older years. Take advantage of their desire to chase by playing with toys — you can even teach them how to fetch!

Mental enrichment needs

The modern-day American Shorthair descended from working cats and can be both independent and affectionate with their guardians, although not overly-so in either case. Keeping kittens entertained and keeping their brain healthy as they age requires enrichment that encourages engagement. Hunting activities (i.e., providing prey-like toys) allows these kittens to learn and adult cats to express predatory instincts and skills, such as figuring out where “prey” items are and how to capture them; wand toys with prey-like lures and puzzle feeders are perfect.

Common behavioral issues

Due to its relatively large gene-pool, there are few genetic defects and no known genetically-predisposed behavioral issues that are common in this breed.

Activities the American Shorthair enjoys

  • These cats and kittens enjoy hunting, so playtime that features prey-like toys are favored. Wand toys with mice, bird, bug, and snake-like lures can be especially enticing.
  • Give these cats objects from which to view their environment (like perches, tunnels, and caves) and ambush “prey” (toys) as a fun way to fulfill their desire to hunt.
  • Provide American Shorthairs with plenty of windows through which to view birds and squirrels, as this breed certainly appreciates this activity.
  • These cats are fairly intelligent, so foraging toys (i.e., food puzzles) that must be manipulated in order to provide a food reward would also be fun for American Shorthair cats.

Veterinarian tip

Never leave your cat alone near an open window that doesn't have a secure screen. If it's on the first floor, your cat can get out of the house and get injured, lost or any of the other possible problems that outdoor cats face on a daily basis. If the window is on the second floor or above your cat is at risk of suffering from severe injuries of "high-rise syndrome," and you don't even need to live in a true high-rise building. The injuries of "high-rise syndrome" tend to be worst in falls from between the 2nd and 7th floors!

Orange American Shorthair cat laying in a white bed.


Grooming and care

The American Shorthair is self-sufficient in keeping itself groomed and their short coat means less owner maintenance. Weekly brushing combined with twice-monthly nail trims and regular teeth brushing keep this cat looking and feeling its best. Introduce your kitten to these experiences at a young age, keeping the experience calm and positive.

Although the Shorthair's coat is famously low maintenance (especially when compared to longer-haired cat breeds), it is worth noting that they can still suffer from skin and hair issues. Some Shorthairs may be prone to excess dandruff and dry, irritated skin. Be sure to monitor your cat's appearance, and contact their veterinarian if you notice any concerning changes.

Common health conditions in American Shorthair cats

Like all cats, American Shorthairs may suffer from health issues from time to time. Because this cat breed has a larger mix of ancestry, there are many different kinds of conditions that they may be prone to. The good news is that this diverse gene pool also means that the breed is healthy overall. That said, certain feline health conditions that may be more common in American Shorthair cats include cardiovascular issues (like feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy) and feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD).

American Shorthair cats in pop culture

Famous owners of the American Shorthair

  • Russell Brand (Singer)
  • Lea Michele (Actress)
  • Mackelmore (Rapper)
  • Morgan Freeman (Actor)
  • Axl Rose (Singer)
  • Drew Barrymore (Actress)
  • Debby Ryan (Actress)

American Shorthairs in books, music, and TV

  • Cat in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  • Keanu in the movie Keanu
  • Salem from the TV shows Sabrina the Teenage Witch and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
  • Toonces the Driving Cat on Saturday Night Live


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