The British Shorthair Cat

orange british shorthair cat lying on a wooden garden table in a sphynx pose on a sunny evening

If you’re looking for a pedigree breed that’s handsome, calm, low-maintenance, and undemanding, the British Shorthair cat is a great choice. You shouldn’t mistake their undemanding nature as being less affectionate. The breed is extremely friendly with its teddy-bear like shape and playful personality.

British shorthairs are blessed with a long lifespan, make easy pets as the breed is particularly healthy, and are generally not high maintenance divas! The breed has a very rich history that often fascinates cat enthusiasts. With their large and vividly colored eyes, these cats will surely win your heart at the first meeting.

If you want to get to know this exceptional breed a little more, we will take you through some of its fascinating origin history, personality traits, and physical attributes. So, without further ado, let’s jump right in.

History of British Shorthair Cat Breed


As the name suggests, the British shorthairs or BSH cats are native to the UK. However, the ancestors of this breed were transported from another location many years ago. This story starts nearly 2000 years ago when the ancient Roman people arrived in Britain with their cats.

a close up of a grey british shorthair cat with amber eyes

You might be surprised to know that these roman cats, the progenitors of the BSH cats, were among the oldest natural breed found in Great Britain. However, the breed had to struggle for recognition as they were used as working cats and used to roam on the streets of Britain.

The Romans took these skilled cats on their voyages around the empire to protect their products from vermin attacks and control disease. Interestingly, the cats weren’t native to the Roman Empire either, they were smuggled out of Egypt by the Roman armies.

However, the Romans can take credit for the widespread establishment of these cats as they took them along when they invaded many countries, including the British Isles. Although they eventually had to leave the isles, they left some of their cats behind.

Those cats were different from the modern British shorthairs. They had long bones, brown or yellowish-gray body color, and tabby marking at different parts of their bodies. While spending time in Europe, the cats met the European wildcat.

The European wildcat breed featured thick fur, a broader head, a muscular body, and widely set ears. Some of them also had interesting patterns on their bodies. 

So, when these two breeds crossed, the newly developed cats – the BSH – had a different coat and a distinct body structure. As the weather of Europe was cold and wet, the coat was thicker and more resistant to water.

Despite having a new look and very friendly nature, the destiny of the new British shorthairs remained the same, and they continued to hunt down harmful rodents and protect the British households, alleys, and granaries. Finally, the residents noticed and appreciated the beauty and companionship of these shorthairs in the 1800s.

Artist Harrison Weir and some other breeders fought for the right of this breed and named them ‘The British Blue.’ Eventually, in 1871, the breed took part in a cat show held in London. The breed survived the first and second world wars and became popular in America in the 1960s.

ACFA finally allowed the breed for their championship in 1970. In the present time, British Shorthairs are popular in both America and Britain.

Physical Characteristics of British Shorthairs

a grey blue british shorthair cat with orange eyes lying on a bed.


This breed is valued for its gorgeous body color and chubby shape. Many people find the BSH cats very attractive. Let’s take a look at some of the breed’s physical traits.

Size


BSH cats are mostly large or medium in size. Male British shorthairs have a larger size in comparison to the females. A full-grown BSH cat reaches 11 to 14 inches in height. The length of the body ranges between 12 to 16 inches. You can expect a healthy BSH cat to weigh around 8 to 18 pounds.

Head and Body 


A massive, round, and chubby head is an important characteristic of the BSH cats. The head is set on a thick and short neck. A round forehead features a flattened plane at the top portion of the head.

BSH cats have broad, medium-sized, flatter noses. The muzzle and the chin are well-developed. Whisker pads are prominent, and both genders feature jowls. People’s opinion about the facial expressions of this breed often varies. Some find the cats to be smiling, while some consider the facial expressions to be sour.

The body of the cat is also thick with well-developed muscles. A full chest complements the broad shoulder of the cats. At the rear end, there’s a long and thick tail that slowly tapers around the tip.

Ears and Eyes


As the ears of BSH cats are set far apart, the overall shape complements the round shape of the head. The size of the ears is medium although their fur can make them look like small ears, while the shape is rounded near the tips with a slightly broader base.

British shorthairs are famous for their large, rounded eyes. The color of the eyes is mostly copper or gold. Blue and different shades of green are also acceptable.

a ginger or marmalade british shorthair cat with yellow eyes.

Color And Patterns


British shorthairs display a wide range of colors and patterns as a hybrid breed. Grey or blue is the most common color – they are well known for being a grey cat breed. Other coat colors include black, ginger, tabby, cream, tortoiseshell, and calico amongst others.

Legs and Paws


As the breed has a rich history of hunting, the legs of a BSH cat are well-boned, muscular, and strong. The legs are short and proportional to the rest of the body’s shape.

Due to their hunting origin, the paws are round, soft, thickly padded, and firm. Front legs of a BSH cat feature 5 short toes.

Coat


British shorthairs have a short and thick coat that remains healthy in most seasons. However, heavy shedding is common for the breed. The coat should be even with a plush feel.

The Personality Of British Shorthairs

a tabby british shorthair cat outdoors.


British shorthairs have a quiet and loyal nature. They make great family pets. Neither as vocal or playful as some breeds, they can be standoffish with strangers but loyally friendly with family members. Some notable aspects of the British shorthair’s personality include –

Quiet and Solitary


Instead of continuously seeking attention and meowing around their owners, BSH cats love to stay alone and watch events unfold from a safe distance. This serious and thoughtful cat breed goes well with humans but sometimes creates problems with other cat breeds and dogs.

You can expect the cat to be undemanding and even-tempered. Instead of loud meows, the cat will create tiny squeaky sounds to draw attention. However, some of them make loud purrs when they encounter someone unpleasant. 

BSH cats will always remain alert and walk carefully and gracefully inside your apartment – they are generally soft and fleet of foot.

Playful


Despite having a preying origin, BSH cats exhibit low energy, and they like to roam around the house instead of running or showing athletic skills. However, the breed is playful and likes to solve puzzles play with cat toys, water, and butterflies. Also, the cat enjoys the company of kids and loves to play fetching games with them.

Socialization

Silver grey tabby british shorthair cat with amber eyes crouching on a tree stump


It takes time for the BSH cats to socialize with new people in a new environment. The cat requires great affection and love to overcome its initial fear and confusion. Once the cat gets accustomed to the family members and the environment, it becomes very friendly and affectionate.

The cat will require more attention initially, and it will fully return your love and kindness later. Instead of choosing and clinging with one favorite family member, it will socialize with everyone.

Reserved


British shorthairs are very sophisticated and reserved cats. Instead of sitting on your lap, it prefers to sit beside you or stay near your feet. Also, the cats don’t like to be carried at all so if you don’t appreciate cat hair on your clothes this could be the cat for you!

It will squirm and meow to express discomfort when someone picks the cat up. Although the cat hates being kissed, it accepts petting and gentle head presses.

Health Issues of British Shorthairs


Unlike many pedigree cats, British Shorthairs don’t suffer from breed-specific diseases. The cats are fairly healthy and remain in good shape throughout their lifetime. Below are some health issues that British shorthairs often tend to have –

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)

A very common cardiac disease in BSH cats, HCM thickens the heart muscles of the cat and decreases the heart’s efficiency. In severe cases, it affects many other parts of the body. The disease is curable when diagnosed in the early stages. If your cat becomes tired quickly and runs out of breath easily, go to your vet for an HCM test.

Polycystic Kidney Disease

Another serious health issue, Polycystic Kidney Disease or PKD, causes multiple cysts to grow in the kidney of a BSH cat. It slowly weakens the renal functions and leads the cat to death if not treated properly. 

Pain, inflammation, and high blood pressure are some symptoms of this disease. The treatment includes antibiotics to slow down or arrest cyst formation.

Hyperthyroidism

In this condition, the thyroid glands of the cat produce unnecessary hormones that affect the bodily functions of the cat. The problem might arise due to the development of tumor cells in or around the glands. 

Stomach upsets, weight loss, and nausea are the main symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Regular medication or surgery can resolve this health issue.

black and white image of a black british shorthair cat sitting in near darkness

Price of British Shorthair Cats


British Shorthairs are very popular and, as a result, tend to be expensive. In fact, you’ll probably need to buy a BSH cat directly from a specialist breeder – the chance of finding one up for adoption at a shelter are near zero. So how much do British Shorthairs cost? The price of this breed ranges between $800 to $1500.

But don’t be surprised if you need to spend at least $1500 to bring home a healthy BSH cat. The more renowned breeders will take more than $2000.

Final Words


The British Shorthair Cat is a great family pet that will not be too demanding but will easily fit into family life. They are not a snuggle cat and won’t pick favorites in the family so if you are looking for a devoted, attentive companion go for a different breed! They have a great robust look and come in a variety of interesting colors. This is a cat breed that makes your home feel “lived in”.