American Shorthairs (ASHs for short) are charmingly affectionate cats with an appealing configuration. They can exhibit a range of beautiful coat and eye colours. They can be a deep sable black, or have strong colours and distinct patterns. They can have soft, dilute shades or be pure while. Their eyes can be blue, green, or amber. The American Shorthair is a medium to large cat breed, requiring equipment (litter-boxes, cat carriers, cat trees etc.) to be a little on the larger side too.
American Shorthairs are very easy to care of. They’re not especially prone to medical conditions, have very even temperaments, and make great family pets. I would not hesitate to recommend this lovely breed to pretty much any household, from the single professional, to the family with a houseful of kids, to the quiet retiree. Here are 10 facts you need to know about these cool cats.
1: American Shorthairs were bred for pest control.
That means they’re athletic and very smart. While they don’t get into mischief like the notorious Siamese, they still need lots of play and exercise. Without active play, American Shorthairs can become sedentary and their health can suffer. Active play — encouraging the cat to get up and chase a toy or similar — is important for any cat, of course.
For this breed, though, I’d argue that it was even more important as they can get a bit lazy. You’ll notice this more once your American Shorthair passes the four-year mark. Without being engaged and encouraged to exercise, this breed can gain weight and may suffer problems with their joints, metabolism, lungs and circulation.
For this breed, I would recommend at least two active sessions with a teaser toy, lasting a minimum of 20 minutes. A good time for play is before you leave for work and again before bed. With my American Shorthair, I often use one of those fishing-rod toys.
These are perfect if your mobility is limited, or if you just happen to be tired; you can generate a lot of movement without needing to get up and run around.
Another wrinkle added by their hunting heritage is that the ASH has a ferocious predator instinct. Smaller animals like mice or rabbits should be kept well away from this cat, as they can go from gentle purring domesticity to hungry predator in the blink of an eye.
If you do choose to bring something prey-shaped home, make sure the potential casualty is ensconced in a very secure hutch or cage. Preferably this should be located in a room where the cat is not allowed to go. The same goes for birds and even fish: don’t leave the top off your fish-tank unless you want to find one or two of the denizens mysteriously vanishing when you turn your back.
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2: They’re great with other animals.
Potential prey aside, most American Shorthair owners report that their cats get on really well with other animals. They’re amiable and respectful around other cats, seldom resorting to territorial displays of aggression. Because they tend to be larger than many other breeds and are fairly strong by cat standards, they can hold their own against less tractable cats, neither being pushed around nor drawn into scuffles.
This is one of the better breeds to get if you have (or plan to have) a dog in the home. At worst, they’ll tolerate a canine companion or two. At best, I’ve seen American Shorthairs and dogs become fast friends, curling up in the same bed for naps and engaging in play together. While they can still become anxious around a dog that’s large and aggressive, they seem to have an instinctive knack for inter-species communication that sets them apart from most cats.
3: American Shorthairs need regular grooming.
While the ASH requires minimal grooming, their coats do needs a little attention every now and again. Their short hair causes less mess than longhaired breeds like Persians or Maine Coons, the thick, beautiful fur of the American Shorthair needs to be brushed or combed a little now and again to keep their coat and skin in good condition. Regular brushing also keeps down the incidence of hairballs.
I like to give my American Shorthair a quick comb around every 10 days or so. It took a little trial and error to find a brush or comb that he liked. I mostly use a metal dog comb and a stiff rubber brush. Between grooming sessions, I like to give him a quick wipe with a slightly damp towel, just to get rid of any loose hair. When they shed in the spring, you’ll need to brush more frequently.
Brushing this breed is important, as they can sometimes develop matted fur. Their beautifully coloured coats are short but very dense, making them hard to keep clean without a little help from you. Grooming is also a great opportunity to check for other problems that might be harder to spot without careful examination.
Check your American Shorthair’s ears for signs of ear mites, their eyes for parasites and infections, and their behinds for worms. Keep an eye open for insect bites, rashes, injuries, abrasions and signs of pest infestations. Little black spots in your pet’s fur are signs that fleas may be around (the dark flecks of debris are the fleas’ faeces).
Look and feel for areas that seem swollen or feel hot to the touch — these are symptoms of inflammation, which can mean that your cat is nursing an injury or an inflamed joint. All cats tend to mask injuries, and this breed in particular is very good at concealing the fact that they’ve been hurt. They’re so calm and stoical that you might not notice a problem until you look for it.
All cats need a little dental attention from time to time, and this breed is no exception. Once a week, brush your American Shorthair’s teeth with a kitty toothbrush and some tasty meat or fish flavoured paste. While I can’t speak for every owner, my own American Shorthair is pretty calm about having his teeth brushed and doesn’t seem to resent the process.
If you don’t take care of your American Shorthair cat’s teeth, they can run into problems. Cavities can affect cats just like they affect people. Cats can also suffer from gum disease and other problems if their teeth aren’t properly cared for.
Cats have an undeserved reputation for aloofness and distain for humans. This is especially unfair when it comes to American Shorthairs, who readily become attached to their families. They tend to enjoy company without seeking attention, generally turning up in whatever room you’re occupying to check up on your activities. They like to trail you from room to room, observing what you’re up to and occasionally asking for pets or to be picked up. They often wait by the door for you, or hang around outside the bedroom when it’s time for you to get up.
Some cats are oddly picky about who they’ll bond with. We all know that one cat who hisses and growls at everyone in the house except their one special human (usually the person who didn’t want to get a cat). Not so the American Shorthair. These cats don’t really play favourites, dispensing their charm liberally on resident and guest alike. They’re very gregarious and seem to actively enjoy meeting new people.
5: They’re great lap cats.
This breed is highly physically affectionate. Unlike their similarly named cousin, the British Shorthair, these cats are just incredibly cuddly. They love to climb into your lap for pets or snuggle up close to you in bed. They seem to enjoy being picked up more than any other breed I’ve met, often coming up and asking for cuddles by trying to climb your leg. My own American Shorthair enjoys being picked up and carried around like a baby.
This makes them a really good breed for those who like plenty of kitty cuddles and lap-time with their cats. Unlike the nervous Persian or clingy Ragdoll, this breed isn’t pushy about getting your attention. They just love to be petted and fussed over.
If you’re allergic to cats, though, this may not be the breed for you. They really like to be close to you — and despite their shorter pelt, they’re not really hypoallergenic. Those who start sneezing if the cat gets too close should probably look for a more aloof breed.
6: They’re a ruggedly healthy breed.
While some breeds are prone to a number of disorders, the American Shorthair is much more hearty. They’re a long-lived breed, generally living till at least 15 and sometimes into their 20s.
There are no special breed-specific disorders to look out for. Common conditions like hip dysplasia or hypertrophic cardiomyopathy are less prevalent than in many breeds. Of course, you’ll need to ensure that your American Shorthair gets all the usual interventions: regular check-ups, vaccinations, anti-worming treatments, etc. They need to be spayed and neutered as soon as possible to ensure the best possible lifelong health outcomes.
7: American Shorthairs are self-sufficient.
Although they genuinely love your company, American Shorthairs don’t seem to suffer from the same kind of separation anxiety as some other breeds. They’re a nice cat for retirees and homeworkers, thanks to their amiable and playful nature. However, they’re also great for professionals or families with kids in school, when everyone will be out at work or in class all day. While some cats will become unhappy and lonely if left by themselves, an American Shorthair is more likely to bat their toy mouse around a little and then go to sleep.
When I first got my American Shorthair I was living on my own and worried that he’d be lonely and nervous while I was gone. I set up a couple of cheap webcams to keep an eye on him while I was at work. I needn’t have worried. He was perfectly happy, napping the day away on the windowsill or getting into a rousing scuffle with his favourite toys. He always greets me enthusiastically when I come home, but doesn’t seem unsettled or distressed by my absence.
The key to a happy home-alone American Shorthair is to give him plenty of distractions while you’re away. All cats really need places to climb, scratching posts and fun spots to hide in, and this breed is no exception. With a cat habitat and some toys, your American Shorthair will be perfectly happy to entertain himself for hours on end.
9: American Shorthairs are great with kids
As well as being a fantastic cat for any first-time owner, this breed is ideal as a family cat. They’re fond of children, including small children and babies. Little ones really seem to appeal to these cats — they gravitate to the younger members of the household and always want to be around them. While some cats are suspicious and anxious when you bring a new baby home, this breed seems to positively delight in the company of an infant.
Because this breed is so very tolerant, I’d recommend supervising youngsters when they interact with the cat. Little fingers tend to snatch at ears and tails, and then there’s that wonderfully strokeable fur to grab a handful of. The problem is less that the child might receive more than a light swat or a nip, more that the American Shorthair will put up with so much rough treatment that they’re injured. It’s entirely possible for an over-enthusiastic toddler to end up hurting the stoically suffering ASH.
For this reason, it’s best to keep a close eye on their games, at least until your child is old enough to understand that they need to be gentle with the kitty. These cats also love playing with older children, who can be enlisted as exercise buddies to help the cat stay fighting fit. Their sweet dispositions and lively curiosity make them a wonderful pet for a youngster.
10: American Shorthairs are smarter than the average cat.
Another side-effect of the American Shorthair’s hunting ancestry is a very keen feline mind. Although they tend not to become destructive or hard to control, your American Shorthairs will be happier and more fulfilled if you give them plenty to engage their brains. Puzzle feeders and puzzle toys are great for this breed. My ASH tom loves to play with his maze toy, which lets him earn chunks of kibble by working then through a simple maze. It’s especially useful because he loves to eat and can get a little husky if he doesn’t need to work for his treats.
Their smarts make the American Shorthair eminently trainable. They quickly learn the arcane mysteries of the litter-box and are very quick to pick up routines (especially mealtimes). Some owners teach their American Shorthairs simple tricks, like putting up a paw for a high-five in exchange for a treat.
In my personal experience, they’re one of the easiest breeds to harness-train. I’m a fan of harnesses for cats — they’re the ideal way to give your cat the excitement of a walk in the outdoors without the dangers inherent in being an indoor/outdoor cat. Harness training is usually a slow process, taking weeks or months. American Shorthairs seem to get the hang of it in a day or two. They’re great explorers and love being taken outside on a lead.
With this breed, I haven’t had the kinds of problems normally associated with smarter cats. Their interests seem to run more towards seeking out hidden toys or working puzzles, rather than trying to find out how they can get into the fridge or the treat cupboard. Even so, you shouldn’t underestimate the American Shorthair’s smarts when deciding where to hide their food.
All in all, I can’t recommend these wonderful cats highly enough. If you’re a current cat owner, they’re a great addition to your household. They’ll get along well with your current cat or cats. If you happen to have a cat who gets fussy while you’re out, an American Shorthair is a great choice for a kitty companion.
If you’re a first-time cat owner and want to start with an undemanding breed, this could well be the cat for you. Because they don’t require a great deal of care and have no breed-specific conditions, they’re much easier to look after than more delicate breeds. They’re very stable, non-aggressive, and sweet-natured. On the whole, there are few breeds that could compete with them as the ideal first-time cat. Once you have an American Shorthair in your home, you’ll never look back.