Are British Shorthairs Good Indoor Cats?

BRITISH SHORTHAIR CAT BREED OVERVIEW

The British Shorthair (sometimes shortened to BSH or simply “Brit” is a pedigree domestic shorthaired cat. With their appealing “teddy-bear” configuration, amiable disposition towards humans and other animals, and their calm, low-drama energy levels, it’s small wonder that these special cats have found enduring popularity as a pedigree breed.

They are handsome, friendly cats with excellent constitutions, lacking the breed-specific issues that plague some other pedigree lines and blessed with long lifespans. They are generally very easy to take care of and solidly independent, making them a good first pet and ideal for both family homes and as a feline companion for someone living alone.

In this article, we’ll be taking a comprehensive look at what makes the British Shorthair so remarkable. We’ll delve into the breed’s fascinating history and their connection with the ancient Romans, learn about the British Shorthairs good looks and personality, find out where you can discover your perfect British Shorthair companion. You’ll also learn about all the ways you can keep your British Shorthair healthy and happy.

BRITISH SHORTHAIR CAT HISTORY

British Shorthair History
British Shorthair History

The story of the British Shorthair begins two thousand years ago, with the arrival of the Ancient Romans in Britain. To cope with the problem of vermin raiding their stores and spreading disease, both on long sea voyages and when they settled in the British Isles, the Romans brought along some skilful pest control experts: the first domestic cats, acquired from their territories in Egypt.

On arrival in Britain, the Egyptian cats made some new friends: indigenous European wildcats. These European wildcats were very distinct from Egyptian cats. As well as being larger and more muscular than those elegant desert felines, the wildcat’s temperament is markedly different. More solitary, more aggressive and not at all amenable to sharing their habitat with humans, the European wildcat was (and still is) considered impossible to domesticate.

Despite these significant differences, the two species appear to have found some common ground with each other and mated. The wildcats were genetically close enough to their more sociable Egyptian cousins that they could have kittens together. The results of these cross-breedings were hardy shorthaired felines, eager hunters like the wildcat but very sociable and quite happy to live alongside humans. These were the first British domestic cats.

For generations, the descendants of wildcats and Egyptian cats flourished throughout the British Isles. They were tremendously useful to humans, as they made short work of rodents and birds that would otherwise have destroyed both stored and growing crops. They played an important role in the history of the country, keeping countless people from starving or contracting fatal illnesses. These unsung feline heroes were working cats rather than pets — it wasn’t until the 17th or 18th century that keeping cats as pets became a widespread practice. Even so, the most successful domestic house-cats tended to be the ones who got on reasonably well with people; cats who were overly aggressive or skittish tended not to thrive in the vicinity of humans.

It was, and remains, a symbiotic arrangement: humans benefiting from cats due to the reduced losses from vermin, the cats benefiting from additional food, shelter and sometimes companionship provided by their human allies. Over time, the prototypical British Shorthair type emerged: a sturdy, muscular cat with a very dense coat, well able to withstand conditions in the British Isles, and blessed with a steady demeanour that made them reliable and non-destructive companions.

Fast forward to the Victorian era. By the late 1800s, cats had moved from being largely working animals and been brought into many homes as pets rather than simply mousers. Selective breeding for preferred characteristics was gaining popularity among certain sections of the Victorian upper classes. The development of the British Shorthair as we know her today is frequently attributed to Harrison Weir, often considered “the father of the cat fancy”. It’s not precisely clear whether Weir was the one who came up with the idea of creating a pedigree shorthair from the best specimens of the British domestic cat or whether a larger group formulated the idea.

We do know that Weir was charmed by the handsomeness and pleasant disposition of the British Shorthair’s progenitors and did much of the work in pioneering the breed as a real pedigree line. Weir encouraged others to pursue cat breeding and helped to consolidate the earliest iteration of the UK’s cat fancy.

The First British Shorthair Cat Ever

Thanks to Weir and other pioneering breeders, the first ever cat show in Britain was held in 1871. This show took place at the Crystal Palace in London, alongside many other culturally significant events. The British Shorthair shown at the Crystal Palace was the British Blue type, with solid grey fur and deep amber eyes. Alongside the British Shorthair, other breeds were also shown, including Persian cats and the appealing Russian Blue — a cousin of our beloved British Shorthair, with solid blue-grey fur and green eyes..

The British Shorthair’s history is intimately connected with the development of the cat fancy in the UK. Various groups of cat fanciers cropped up between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. By 1910, there were three main groups; these came together to form the General Council of the Cat Fancy or GCCF. The GCCF remains the main registry for pedigree cats in the UK. Other councils and associations with similar intent now exist around the globe, ranging from regional bodies to larger international organisations. These bodies allow people to check up on the pedigree of the cats they are buying, as well as helping to promote feline welfare by certifying responsible breeders. The British Shorthair cat is one of the oldest breeds to be recognised by the GCCF, although it took longer for BSH cats to be accepted onto some other registries.

cat show british shorthairAfter that triumphant debut at the Crystal Palace, The British Shorthair continued to thrive for many years. People were charmed by the cat’s friendly looks and calm disposition, which makes them the ideal candidate for a house cat. Unfortunately, the breed suffered a serious setback when WWI broke out.

Many animals in the UK at that time were euthanised or simply abandoned due to the fact that their owners could no longer provide for them. Cat breeding was seen as a luxury pursuit, something indulgent and at odds with the austerity of the times. The line dwindled significantly, with numbers falling below levels that would allow for healthy breeding arrangements. Excessive inbreeding was already known to be responsible for serious health concerns and breeders wanted to avoid this. To solve this problem, British Shorthair breeders began to cross their BSH stock with other pedigree lines, particularly Persians.

This caused a lot of problems for the breeders and the GCCF alike since the resulting offspring obviously had Persian characteristics and couldn’t really be called British Shorthairs. The cats’ coats were too long and they had other characteristics that set them apart from the breed standard. Eventually, careful breeding returned the line to its original shorthaired form — just with a somewhat thicker and softer coat.

Something similar happened during and after WWII, with BSH numbers declining even more dramatically than before. Breeders were once again forced to cross their British Shorthairs with Persians and Russian Blues to keep the lines from becoming hopelessly inbred. This time around, breeders also introduced the French Chartreux into their stock. Although the French Chartreux is not really related to the British Shorthair — the Chartreux is a rare French breed, thought to originate in what is now Syria — this type of cat has a strikingly similar appearance. They’re cobby like the British Shorthair, have rounded paws and a thick coat of grey fur. (To find out more about the similarities between British Shorthairs and Chartreux cats, check out our article on the topic.)

As previously, there were many difficulties in registering these cross-bed cats; this was eventually resolved by careful breeding back into the original lines until the breed was once again re-established. The GCCF recognised pedigree British Shorthairs that were sufficiently far removed from their Persian, Russian Blue and Chartreux antecedents. By the 1970s, the BSH breed was solidly re-established and British Shorthairs were recognised internationally; in particular, the American Cat Fancy Association (CFA) began registering British Shorthairs.

Since then, the British Shorthair has gone from strength to strength. These beloved cats are now the most popular pedigree breed in the UK and are appreciated all over the world. To find out just why everyone falls in love with the British Shorthair, read on.

BRITISH SHORTHAIR CAT PERSONALITY

Cream self-coloured British Shorthair
Cream self-coloured British Shorthair

The British Shorthair cat is famously independent — to the point where some people complain that BSH cats are too aloof. In fact, they’re some of the most loving and loyal cats you’ll ever meet. The British Shorthair is friendly and gracious to guests or strangers but can take a little time to really warm up to someone. Once they’re used to you, you will find no more staunch or committed feline companion than the British Shorthair.

They are the truest friends, attaching to a few special people and establishing a really wonderful connection. It’s typical to find your British Shorthair trotting around your home as you go from room to room, wanting to sit nearby you and keep an eye on everything you’re doing. Personally, I find this tremendously engaging. I really love having one of my kitties supervising my day-to-day activities, keeping me company and offering the occasional quiet comment on what I’m doing. There’s nothing so comforting as the presence of your loving BSH “manager” while you work, do chores or relax.

Some British Shorthairs reserve their supervisory expertise for one or two specific humans; my BSH companions are rather more liberal, politely instructing everyone from visitors to the window-cleaner on any little tasks they might be undertaking.

The British Shorthair seems to have a curiously acute sense of routine. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear that mine were wearing Swiss watches on their legs under all that fur. It’s not just mealtimes, either, although British Shorthairs certainly remember those! They seem to know that certain events generally happen at certain times of the day. If you generally come home at the same time each day, for example, it’s not unusual to find your BSH waiting for you when you get home from work.

One of my fellow British Shorthair owners became concerned when his cat always seemed to be sitting by the door when he got in, fearing that she’d been waiting anxiously for hours. He set up a couple of cheap webcams to watch her while he was out and discovered that she went “on duty” about ten minutes before he pulled up outside the house. Before this, she was snoozing in her kitty bed. She wasn’t anxious — she just knew it was home-time and got ready to greet him. Many cats of this breed will rouse themselves from their nap spots and go to wait at the door when it’s time for a family member to return from school or work, anticipating their arrival.

As a child, my family owned a British Shorthair who used to come and wait for me at the top of our road when it was time for me to get home from school. She’d slip out of the house and stand patiently on the corner until I came by and she could escort me to the door. Obviously, she’d decided that this human youngster needed lots careful of supervision by a responsible feline. A bad day at school would just melt away when I saw my loyal friend sitting there ready to greet me. (This was some years ago, however; I don’t recommend that cats be allowed outside nowadays.)

British Shorthair cats are a fairly low-activity breed

They do have more energetic moments but tend to spend most of the day sitting or lying quietly in their preferred lookout spots, dozing or supervising the household with their big round eyes. The British Shorthair is very intelligent — they are very easy to train and delight in learning new games and tricks. Unlike, say, the Siamese, this intelligence doesn’t manifest as problematic behaviour.

They’re much more likely to exercise that BSH brain with an intriguing toy or puzzle than in trying to raid the treat cupboard or work out how to open the fridge. Their high trainability makes it a cinch to educate your British Shorthair in practical skills like using the litter-box properly and scratching their posts, not the furniture. It’s also fun to teach your BSH a novelty skill such as giving you a high-five in exchange for a reward. My favourite skill to teach British Shorthairs is playing fetch. This not only gives the cat plenty of entertainment and stimulation, but it’s also a nice little trick to show people when they complain that cats aren’t trainable like dogs.

British Shorthairs tend to be on the staid side. Once they’ve outgrown their active, vibrant kittenhood, British Shorthairs calm down a lot and prefer a life of dignified repose to one of acrobatics. This is probably for the best, as they tend to be rather clumsy and given to tripping over their own paws if they run around too fast. Their lower energy level and laid-back nature make the British Shorthair a very non-destructive kitty. While some do claw or spray (chiefly younger toms), this tends to be minimal and quickly stops when they’re not under stress. In general, they’re patient and calm. One of the nicest traits of the British Shorthair is this patient nature.

They are wonderful companions for children, unfailingly patient and relaxed with no tendency to drama or aggression. Of course, kids need to be properly supervised when they’re playing with any animal (at least until the child is old enough to understand the kinds of things that distress them and avoid those activities). Even so, a British Shorthair is less likely to become aggressive or lash out at a child who’s being a little rough or overly persistent than most cats. If they become uncomfortable with the situation, they’re much more likely to make a dignified exit than to scratch or nip at little fingers. The same goes for other animals — British Shorthairs are very good with other cats and with properly trained, cat-friendly dogs.

British shorthair cat and dogWhile British Shorthairs are great with dogs and other cats, the same does not go for smaller animals. You need to keep in mind that these cats are the descendants of generations of working mousers. They have an absolutely ferocious prey drive. If you have small pets such as rabbits, mice, hamsters, fancy rats and so on, you need to be scrupulously careful about keeping them away from your British Shorthair.

Ideally, they should be kept in a room where the British Shorthair isn’t allowed to go. There is no “letting the cat get used to the bunny”. A British Shorthair is many things and one of those things is a hunter. The same goes for fish; this intelligent breed is quite capable of upsetting bowls and small tanks. Make sure that they don’t get the opportunity by investing in a properly-sized tank (bin your fishbowl, they’re cruel anyway) and securing it so it can’t be tipped over. Your tank should have a covering to prevent sneaky fishing expeditions by curious kitties.

For those who crave extended lap time, the British Shorthair may not be an ideal choice.

They tend to keep lap visits brief, hopping up and then hopping down after a few minutes. There are exceptions, of course (I’ve known one or two BSH cuddle-bugs in my time) but this breed doesn’t much care for being scooped up and snuggled — they’re noted as a “four paws on the ground” cat. That doesn’t mean they don’t like attention and affection; far from it. The British Shorthair loves being close to you and thoroughly enjoys petting and stroking. Just let her come to you and respect her personal space.

When people complain that their British Shorthair is too aloof and doesn’t seem interested in them, it’s often due to a failure to understand the ways these cats like to tell us they love us. I’ve sat in living-rooms watching a British Shorthair absolutely pour affection onto a human companion who’s in the process of explaining that the cat hates everyone. What the cat often hates, of course, is frequently things a human does rather than the human themselves. If you insist on grabbing the reserved British Shorthair in both arms and sweeping her up for forcible “affection”, she will inevitably rebel. The British Shorthair is a patient soul and will actually tolerate a fair bit of manhandling from people they like; however, they won’t put up with that sort of nonsense indefinitely. If an owner ignores obvious expressions of discomfort such as a lashing tail and a writhing body, the BSH kitty will make a spirited attempt to wrestle herself free.

Should the human be so ignorant as to carry on clinging to her and not put her down, then it’ll be time for a warning nip or swipe before the British Shorthair takes herself off somewhere out of reach. Most “mean” British Shorthairs are perfectly tractable — they’re just being pushed beyond endurance by their well-meaning owners.

Your British Shorthair has lots of ways in which she expresses her love. As we’ve already discussed, she’ll want to be close to you — maybe not right on top of you, but nearby so that she can watch you and enjoy your company. It’s quite common for a loving BSH to sit on a high perch where she can look down or across at her owner, slowly blinking her eyes. This is what cat-lovers call a cat kiss, and when you understand it you’ll soon feel very loved when she does this.

Closing her eyes like that is an expression of complete trust; she knows you care about her and aren’t going to hurt her, so she closes her eyes to demonstrate this. You can reciprocate by “kissing” her back, closing your own eyes while facing her. Somewhat similar is a headbutt. British Shorthairs seem to really like this one. When your cat ducks her head and butts it against your leg or hand she is saying “I love you and trust you. I don’t need to watch what you’re doing while I make contact, because I know you’re a good person.” Press back with your hand, pet her head or scratch her ears to let her know you understand.

If you can’t pick up your British Shorthair and cuddle her, how else can you express your affection? Well, in lots of ways. I’ve never met a British Shorthair who disliked being petted. Different individuals may have different tastes when it comes to the way you pet them; it’s easy enough to learn what these are. Some British Shorthairs enjoy a good whole-body sweep from head to tail, while others may prefer a more restrained approach where you focus on their heads and shoulders. You can tell if things are going well because the cat will relax and may begin purring (sometimes quite loudly). Scratching her head and ears is generally welcome.

This breed seems unusually fond of tummy rubs, too. For many cats, rolling onto their backs is a sign of trust: they’re showing you their vulnerable belly in the understanding that you will be far too respectful to do something as gauche as to try and touch their tummy fur. In the case of the British Shorthair, however, showing you her tummy is often a wholehearted invitation to rub the incredibly soft fur there. Go in slowly so she doesn’t feel threatened, then pet away. Rubbing a British Shorthair’s tummy is a unique experience — their fur is especially soft there and feels wonderful.

This one might seem a bit silly but it really works: try singing to your cat. For some reason, my British Shorthairs seem particularly fond of this one. Although BSH kitties are quite soft-spoken they do vocalise; it’s an important part of feline interactions. When you sing to your cat, they appreciate the fact that you’re using your voice to reach out to them. It seems absurd initially but when you see how happy it makes your British Shorthair, you’ll want to keep doing it. If you feel rather ridiculous singing to your cat or don’t like your singing, you could recite something or simply chat to her in a normal speaking voice. They do seem to prefer a song, though.

Playing with your British Shorthair is strongly encouraged

As well as being a great way to show that you care and like her company, play is also important for the BSH’s health. These cats are unlikely to become destructive when bored (the usual feline response to a lack of stimulation) but seem to have the opposite problem. The less you encourage them to get up and move around, the less they care to do so. It’s a bad idea to allow your BSH cat to laze around all day with no activity or exercise — this can lead to a number of health woes. Although they’re very low-energy, this breed has retained an incredibly powerful prey response; they just love games involving teaser toys and things they can chase. If your British Shorthair gets a little bothersome at night (unusual, but might happen with younger cats or cat who have become unsettled for some reason), try instigating a play session before you go to bed.

My absolute favourite toy to use with my British Shorthairs is a fishing-pole teaser. This is a long, flexible rod with a bunch of feathers and a small stuffed toy on the end of a tough plastic string. No matter how active I’ve been during the day or how exhausted I’m feeling, the fishing-pole toy allows me to engage my BSH kitties in a fun, active play from the comfort of the sofa. They really appreciate our playtimes. I try to have at least three sessions per day: one in the morning, one when I get home in the evening and one before bed. This keeps my British Shorthair cats on their toes and gives us the most wonderful bonding time together.

Something else that’s important for your British Shorthair’s health and overall well-being is the creation of a rich, cat-friendly environment. As well as one-on-one play and small cat toys, you need to offer equipment such as a scratching post. Posts need to be tall enough for your BSH cat to stretch all the way up with her forelegs fully extended. Ideally, have more than one post and include scratching surfaces at different angles. My British Shorthairs are quite happy with their rope-covered scratching post but some cats object to the texture — sisal rope can be a bit prickly. If your cat won’t use a sisal rope post, try a different kind of rope wound post or one using woven sisal fabric. Cardboard posts are fine as long as you don’t mind replacing them regularly. Posts for British Shorthairs may need to have heavier bases and be larger overall to accommodate our king-sized kitties. The same goes for cat trees and habitats; make sure they’re going to be big enough for your BSH companion as they can swiftly be outgrown or even demolished by a large cat.

Because they’re so laid-back, self-sufficient and easy to manage, I would cheerfully recommend the British Shorthair to any household. Some cats are skittish around other pets or children; not so the British Shorthair. Other breeds may be clingy and become anxious if they’re at home all day, while the British Shorthair is a solid little feline who will confidently entertain herself during your office hours without getting worked up or unhappy. Whether you’re a young professional go-getter or a quiet retiree, whether you live alone or in a house full of children and animals, the British Shorthair will fit right in. Their ease of care makes them an especially good choice for your very first cat — particularly when you factor in their robust good health. In the next section, we’ll talk about the British Shorthair’s health and lifespan, as well as how you can support their good health and wellbeing.

BRITISH SHORTHAIR CAT HEALTH

Vet CatSadly, many pedigree cats suffer from breed-specific health problems that can make caring for those kitties rather challenging. Abyssinians may develop retinal atrophy, for instance, while the Burmese may have problems with hyperesthesia. Scottish Folds may suffer from arthropathy. Exotics such as the “peke-faced” Persian may develop eye conditions or fall prey to brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome. By contrast, the British Shorthair is a picture of feline health. They do suffer from a handful of heritable conditions but the frequency is similar to that of any other cat, be it pedigree or mixed. In this section, we’ll talk about the most common conditions that a British Shorthair might suffer from and how to address them.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM): The British Shorthair is known to be vulnerable to HCM, although males are more likely to develop the condition than females. A Danish study on the prevalence of the condition among BSH cats revealed that 20.4 per cent of toms had HCM but only 2.1 of the females. In addition, a few per cent of the animals studied were recorded as being “equivocal”, meaning that they might or might not be in the process of developing the condition when they were tested. Some registering bodies now insist upon HCM testing of stud toms, in the hopes of reducing the incidence of the condition. (It should be pointed out here that any breed of cat, including non-pedigree mixed kitties, can develop HCM and that rates aren’t significantly higher among the BSH cohort than among the general population.)

HCM is not an automatic death sentence. That said, it does need to be caught early if you want the best outcome for your cat. Keep an eye on your British Shorthair’s activity levels; yes, they tend to be a bit lazy, but any unusual degree of lethargy can be a sign of a heart problem. If your BSH seems to be getting out of breath or tiring more easily, have your vet check things out. With proper medication and other interventions, your British Shorthair can live for many happy years after an HCM diagnosis.

Polycystic kidney disease (PKD): This is a serious disease which causes multiple cysts to form in the animal’s kidneys, slowly destroying renal function and ultimately killing the cat. The British Shorthair is generally believed to be at an elevated risk of developing PKD. In point of fact, careful breeding has greatly reduced the incidence of the condition in the breed. Although there are various causes for PKD, some of them not well understood, one major contributing factor is a genetic mutation inherited from the British Shorthair’s Persian antecedents. Happily, this mutation is less common than it once was. At least one of the labs involved in testing British Shorthair DNA has reported a significant drop in the number of PKD mutations picked up by their tests. It is thought that carrier frequency has now fallen to one per cent of the BSH population, making this condition much rarer than it used to be.

A British Shorthair cat with PKD will often show no symptoms for a number of years. In fact, the disease is sometimes only picked up when a secondary infection occurs due to a burst cyst. Tests include using a long needle to remove a sample of fluid from the kidney to see if cysts are present. Cats with PKD may have difficulty urinating, pain or inflammation from secondary infections, or hypertension (high blood pressure). Treatments may include antibiotics to resolve the infection if present and medications to arrest or slow the development of the cysts.

Cystitis: Also known as feline lower urinary tract disease, cystitis is a fairly common problem among cats that can affect British Shorthairs. Cystitis may be caused by an infection; it can also occur in cats who suffer from bladder stones. Signs include pain while urinating, frequent urination and accidents occurring outside the litter-box. Your British Shorthair may also cry more and show signs of being sickly or out of sorts, such as temperature.

Antibiotics can resolve infections and bladder stones can be removed, but prevention is by far the best approach to cystitis and other urinary and kidney issues in your British Shorthair. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this article, chronic dehydration can be an issue for many cats. You can help your BSH by switching to wet food, mashing a little water into her food, providing additional water bowls and by keeping water bowls scrupulously clean. Some cats are happier drinking out of a water fountain than a bowl — if your British Shorthair is forever jumping up on the sink to drink from the tap, this might be a solution.

Hyperthyroidism: Overactive thyroids can sometimes be a problem for British Shorthairs. In this condition, the thyroid gland in the neck begins producing more thyroid hormone than it should. Early signs of hyperthyroidism can include stomach upsets and nausea. Your cat may seem to be hungry all the time (over and above the usual BSH appetite, that is) but loses weight even with the additional food. You might also notice your British Shorthair’s normally pristine coat becoming unusually greasy.

Medication is available for hyperthyroidism. In some cases, a benign tumour may be to blame, in which case surgery may be required to resolve the issue.

Haemophilia B: Also known as the “Christmas disease”, this condition is carried on the female line but only affects male cats. The condition is known to crop up among British Shorthairs. It’s increasingly rare, fortunately. Good breeders know to test for the gene and won’t breed from carriers. Haemophilia affects the clotting factor in your cat’s blood and means that minor injuries can easily turn into dangerously heavy bleeds.

Diagnosis usually occurs when genetic testing reveals the presence of the gene responsible. In some cases, when the condition is not picked up during routine tests, the diagnosis does not happen until the animal begins to show symptoms. You British Shorthair may become weak, sickly and feverish. Swelling and inflammation can occur due to internal bleeding. The frequent bleeding leads to anaemia, manifesting in an irregular heartbeat and other anaemic symptoms. Treatment varies depending on the severity of the condition. A very badly affected cat may need to be euthanised. If the condition is less severe, your haemophilic British Shorthair cat may have a perfectly happy life as long as he’s cared for properly. He should never be let outdoors and must not be allowed access to sharp or abrasive objects. The rough play needs to be minimised to prevent injuries and bruising. The breeder you bought your BSH from absolutely must be informed so they can spay and neuter your cat’s parents. It goes without saying that cats with the haemophilia gene should not have any more kittens.

British Shorthair – Indoor or outdoor cat?

indoor outdoor catIt’s very common for breeders to insist that any British Shorthair cat they place will be an indoor kitty. This is a very sensible measure. While it can be fun for a cat to explore the great outdoors, it’s really not safe. If you live in an urban area, your cat runs the risk of being hit by a car or motorbike. In rural areas, predators such as foxes and even birds of prey can harm your cat. Wherever you live, there are hazards from badly trained dogs and other cats that aren’t as good-natured as your British Shorthair. Your cat is also at risk from other humans. In the best case, this might mean someone who wants to steal her; your British Shorthair may be a beloved friend and companion to you, but to an opportunistic thief she’s nothing more than a valuable piece of property to be stolen. In the worst case, there are violent and cruel individuals who delight in hurting creatures that are too small to hurt them back.

All of these hazards could result in serious injury — or worse, in the loss of your pet. There are also more minor issues, such as the possibility of your British Shorthair eating something she shouldn’t or picking up ticks and fleas. All in all, from the perspective of health you should definitely keep your British Shorthair indoors. If you think she might benefit from some fresh air and additional exercise, get her an outdoor enclosure where she can play safely. This can be a huge edifice that involves carefully fencing in your entire back garden or a simple collapsible kitty run that you can put up and fold away easily.

It is also entirely possible to train your British Shorthair to walk on a lead. Use a harness, never a collar. Collars are easy to escape from — especially the type with a breakaway snap, which I recommend. In some instances, walking a cat with a lead attached to a collar can actually result in injury. They place too much pressure on the delicate structures of the neck and shoulders, causing strains and sometimes even dislocations or broken bones. A harness distributes the pressure evenly over your British Shorthair’s body and prevents this kind of injury. (Tangentially, you should also use a harness if you’re walking one of the small dog breeds).

Most cats need at least a little persuasion before they’ll let you put the harness on them without a fight. It’s worth putting in the time to get them used to the harness before you try taking them for a walk. Leave the harness in your British Shorthair’s bed or next to her food bowl. Let her become accustomed to it as an object. If she shows interest in it and sniffs at it, reward her with something she enjoys — petting and kind treatment, or a very small amount of soft, tasty food. Once she’s accepted the harness is a fixture in her life, start laying it over her shoulders without putting it on. Do this when she’s relaxed and lying down or eating. If she throws it off, let her. Try again the next day.

Over time, she’ll get used to it. Once she accepts having the harness laid over her, the next step is to actually put it on. Don’t fasten it yet, though. Get her used to wearing it but make it easy to remove if she decides she doesn’t like it. In this way, you can acclimate your cat to wearing the harness. Eventually, you’ll be able to fasten it and leave it on her for increasing lengths of time. Once she’s okay with that, add the lead — but don’t try to walk her on it yet. Just let the lead trail on the floor. When your British Shorthair is comfortable with the lead, walk her around your home on it until you feel that she’d be okay outside. Initial walks should be kept short — walk her in the garden or up and down your drive — but can be gradually extended. Harness and lead training does represent quite an investment of time but in my opinion, it’s worth the effort to support your British Shorthair’s health.

After the indoor/outdoor question, one of the biggest factors in the health of a British Shorthair cat is likely to be her weight. While it doesn’t really constitute a breed-specific disorder, the British Shorthair’s low-activity, low-energy nature (coupled with a very hearty appetite) leaves BSH cats prone to obesity and health woes related to their sedentary lifestyle. You can really help your British Shorthair by managing her weight and ensuring that she gets as much stimulation and physical exercise as possible.

British Shorthair Diet – keep your cat healthy

Diet is very important for keeping any cat in good health — and that goes double for our beloved BSH kitties. I tend to oppose free-feeding generally (it makes cats less tractable and leads to issues with weight gain in all but the most lively of felines) but for the British Shorthair, it’s a particularly bad idea. These cats need a modest intake of high-quality, high-protein food. In the interests of providing sufficient fluid, I would always recommend wet food, not dry. Small amounts of dry food can help maintain dental health but kibble should not be the main staple of your cat’s diet. Many cats actually go through life somewhat dehydrated, to the detriment of their renal health, and the British Shorthair is no exception.

Choose a premium brand wet food that is high in protein but fairly low in fats. All food given to cats should be grain-free. Grain (wheat, rice and so on) is not a natural part of your cat’s diet and contributes little in the way of nutrients. The same goes for other sources of starch such as potatoes. Other vegetable ingredients are fine as long as they are fairly low in calories. Vegetables aren’t really necessary, whatever cat-food manufacturers may claim. They’re just a cheap ingredient that keeps down the cost of making the food. They do provide low-calorie bulk for your cat to curb her appetite a little and can contribute useful quantities of fluid. I generally give my older British Shorthairs one pouch of good-quality wet food in the morning and another in the evening; younger, more active cats may need more.

For the first year of life, you don’t really need to worry too much about limiting your British Shorthair’s food intake. Kittens should get a small dollop of food about five times a day for the first few months until their tummies are big enough to handle a good square meal. Kittens and young cats don’t really get fat unless they have some kind of medical issue so you don’t need to worry too much about overfeeding them; don’t just leave a heap of wet food in a dish, though, because it could go rancid and make them poorly. Some people insist on providing special kitten food for the first year, and that’s fine. I’m rather sceptical of kitten foods and generally just give my kittens the same food as the adults, served more frequently and perhaps mashed a little to make the pieces easier to eat. Still, kitten foods certainly won’t harm your British Shorthair and may give you a little peace of mind. Don’t feed these foods to your cat after the first year, however. Kitten foods are higher in calories than regular cat food and can make adult cats put on weight.

Treats should be kept to an absolute minimum and should be low-calorie kitty treats, not “people food.” (The one exception I would make here is baby food; if you can find a poultry-based recipe that’s free from grains, potato and starches, a blob of this on a spoon makes an excellent kitty treat that won’t contribute to weight gain.) If you need to reward or distract your British Shorthair, use a toy or a pinch of catnip in place of food. I only use food-based treats in very small quantities and usually only in the context of motivating my British Shorthairs to be more active. It’s not okay to overfeed pets just to keep them docile or for the pleasure you receive when you give out treats.

Many people assume that cats will only eat as much as they need but this simply isn’t true. Cats can and will overeat — and British Shorthairs are very food-oriented. You need to be a little bit strict about food with this breed; they really can “dig their graves with their teeth”, as the saying goes. We’ve all seen the cute internet memes about adorable chunky cats. Unfortunately, some of the kitties in these images are actually suffering. Obesity in cats has very similar effects to obesity in humans. Just as we can develop heart problems, breathing difficulties and high blood pressure if we’re sitting down too much and getting a bit on the hefty side, so can our BSH companions.

Letting your cat become overweight can also mean the pain of arthritis later on, as the extra poundage puts additional strain on their joints. The British Shorthair has the advantage of being naturally chunky at a healthy weight — you don’t need to overfeed them to have an “absolute unit”, as the saying goes.

To learn more about diet and your British Shorthair, check out “What do British Shorthair cats eat?”, a complete food guide for the British Shorthair. Here you’ll find more tips on healthy eating for your cat, including recommended products and some ideas for controlling their appetites.

British Shorthair Cat Life Span

The British Shorthair’s lifespan is a matter of some debate. One survey used data obtained from veterinary practices in England and came up with a median lifespan of a little under 12 years. A different study, this one using data pulled from insurance companies in Sweden, suggested a somewhat higher median lifespan of just under 12 and a half years. Then there’s the UK breed committee’s estimate, which puts the British Shorthair’s life expectancy at between 14 and a ripe old 20 years. What we can say for sure is that around eight out of 10 of British Shorthairs will live to be at least 10 years old, while well over half will live to be 12.5 years and upwards. My own personal experience is that BSH kitties can easily live till well into their teens — all of mine have lived to be at least 14. I have met some venerable old British Shorthair ladies and gentlemen who’d made it into their early 20s, slowing down but still enjoying life. one thing is for sure: this is definitely a long-lived breed. If you get a British Shorthair, you can reasonably anticipate a long and contented life with your feline friend.

BRITISH SHORTHAIR CAT GROOMING

White self-coloured British Shorthair cats
White self-coloured British Shorthair cats

Because they’re a shorthaired breed, grooming is fairly minimal for most BSH cats. Having said that, though, there are a few grooming procedures I would recommend for the British Shorthair. (Read “17 Grooming Tips for British Shorthairs” for more in-depth advice.) Although their fur is short, it is wonderfully dense and plush.

This means that British Shorthairs tend to shed more heavily than other breeds. I tend to have a fairly robust attitude to a little kitty hair on my furniture and clothing — if you can’t tolerate a bit of fluff, you should own a Sphynx — but the British Shorthair is a world champion when it comes to producing loose hair. This wouldn’t be too bad, except that when your British Shorthair cleans herself she’ll end up eating the shed fur and tend to develop hairballs. To cut down on the amount of vacuuming and hairball cleanup you need to do, I recommend giving your British Shorthair a good brushing or combing at least once a week. You might need to do this more often when the weather is warming up at the end of winter, as this is when your BSH cat will tend to moult.

You find use a variety of brushes and combs for cats; the one I like best is a steel “shedding comb” which was actually marketed for dogs. Most British Shorthairs don’t object to the process if it’s done gently. If your BSH is a bit uncomfortable with being brushed, try something softer. Some cats do better with a pet vacuum, while others get upset at the sound. A quick pass with a rubber brush or a clean damp towel will do if your cat really hates being brushed. Just get as much loose fur as you can so it doesn’t end up inside your cat. Be aware that senior British Shorthairs may struggle to keep themselves free of loose fur and mats; you’ll need to take over some of their grooming duties to keep them in good shape.

Claws can be a bit of a problem with this breed due to their low activity levels

You should provide a scratching post or two as a matter of course; scratching is very important for a cat’s health and happiness. As they get older and less active, though, your British Shorthair may stop scratching as much. She will probably spend less time on her feet, too. The upshot of this is that her claws may not be worn down as they normally would be, and the old claw sheaths may not be shed. This can result in British Shorthairs developing ingrown claws. For this reason, I recommend clipping your British Shorthair’s claws on a regular basis. It is very, very important to be careful when you do this.

Clipping your cat’s claws too close to the quick (the pink part of the claw) can result in pain and injury for your British Shorthair. The quick is full of nerves and blood vessels; it is extremely painful for your cat if this area is cut and can leave the tissue vulnerable to infection. Be sure that you are only cutting the very tip of the claw, where it’s white and slightly translucent. Your British Shorthair will probably object to you doing more than one or two claws at a time. I recommend you respect this — if you force the issue and try to do the whole lot, you’ll upset her and make the whole operation more difficult next time. As long as all of her claws get a light clipping every ten days or so, you should be fine. Trimming your cat’s claws also helps prevent painful scratching if you have to do something she objects to, such as giving her medicine.

Incidentally, this seems like a timely moment to mention the issue of “declawing” cats. Please note that the kind of feline mani-pedi I’ve described here should not be conflated with actual declawing. Declawing cats is a contentious topic: on one hand you have the vast majority of cat experts, vets and cat breeders, while on the other hand you have people who think immaculate furniture is more important than their pet’s wellbeing. Declawing is an incredibly cruel practice, amounting essentially to mutilation. The first joints of the cats’ toes are surgically removed, leaving them permanently disabled.

Fewer and fewer vets will now perform such an operation and it is being outlawed in more and more parts of the world. A complete ban on this barbaric practice cannot come soon enough. You should only ever lightly clip your cat’s claws. If scratching is an issue — unusual in British Shorthairs, but it might occur if she’s unsettled for some reason — there are safe, compassionate ways to deal with this. Lightly trimming her claws, covering surfaces with things she won’t want to scratch and encouraging her to use a scratching post can all help. Acrylic claw covers are becoming more popular nowadays; I don’t like them much myself, as they prevent the cat from fully retracting her claws and can cause irritation, but some people use them successfully. Just don’t declaw your cat, full stop.

It might sound a little odd but cats need their teeth brushed from time to time. This prevents them from getting gum disease, cavities and other issues. For some reason, British Shorthairs seem to be rather prone to these problems; I suspect it may be all the extra snacks they’ll grab if you’re not watching. You need to do this around once every week — more often if possible, preferably using a brush and some pet toothpaste. Some British Shorthairs are more comfortable with you brushing her teeth than others. If you find yourself struggling to get her to cooperate, try different utensils and toothpaste flavours. You might get better results with a finger brush or a clean cloth wrapped around a finger. I’ve known one or two BSH kitties who really got into having their teeth brushed, perhaps because they were fans of chicken-flavoured toothpaste. Others struggled with the procedure and never quite got used to it.

You might feel rather cruel when forcing an uncooperative British Shorthair to endure tooth-brushing but it’s far more cruel to let her develop rotten teeth and infected gums. Things that can help include letting her lick a little dab of the toothpaste off the brush or cloth until she gets used to the utensil, and making sure she has something fun to distract her afterwards. I don’t recommend giving your cat a food-based treat after she’s just had her teeth brushed, but tempting her with a favourite toy or a little catnip can really help her calm down. If she comes to associate tooth-brushing time with something she enjoys, your British Shorthair cat will be less reluctant to endure it next time.

Bathing your British Shorthair

This not really necessary unless you’re planning to show her. They’re naturally scrupulous about washing themselves so all you need to do is brush her. Even so, you should stash a bottle of cat-safe shampoo in your pet supplies just in case she gets something really sticky or nasty on her that she can’t clean off by herself.

If you are going to bath your cat, try to find a nice, gentle shampoo that won’t irritate her delicate skin and eyes. Remember that anything you put on her fur will end up in her tummy, so take care to avoid anything that could harm her. Be highly skeptical of terms such as “all-natural” or “organic”. These often have little meaning in the context of pet safety and don’t necessarily mean that the shampoo will be good for your British Shorthair. Unfortunately, the reverse may be true; “all-natural” formulas often include things like essential oils and herbal extracts, some of which are actively toxic to cats. If your cat is getting up in years or hasn’t been eating the best diet recently, her fur may become dry and brittle; in this case you should consider a waterless formula that won’t make the problem worse. Waterless shampoos are also a windfall for people whose British Shorthairs absolutely loathe being bathed. Make sure that whichever product you use, it is safe for cats specifically. Dog shampoos are no good as the formulae are different and they sometimes contain substances that could harm a cat.

Of course, you should avoid letting your pet come into contact with shampoo, soaps and other toiletries made for humans.

BRITISH SHORTHAIR CAT APPEARANCE

Chocolate British Shorthair
Chocolate British Shorthair

The British Shorthair is a very appealing cat. They have a physical configuration known as “cobby” in cat fancy parlance: solid, round and blocky, with a lot of muscle. Everything about the British Shorthair is round, in fact. Their feet, their heads, their wide, expressive eyes. The British Shorthair’s paws are very round and neat; their ears, too, are round and spaced wide apart on their heads. British Shorthairs have a modest degree of brachycephaly — not the kind of pronounced flattening of the face and shortening of the skull seen in exotics, but just enough to give them a cute snub-nosed look. Their heads are rounded, sometimes described as “football-shaped”.

They have quite pronounced whisker pads, giving them a charmingly chubby-cheeked appearance. Male British Shorthairs tend to be a little jowly (the effect is more pronounced in toms that have not been de-sexed). They’re often described as “teddy-bear cats”, an entirely fitting descriptor: big round eyes, gentle features, soft fur.

The British Shorthair is classified as a medium to a large cat. They run rather heavier than the average; this is not necessarily due to overweight, it’s just that they naturally have a heavy build. Males, in particular, can get very large, while females tend to be significantly smaller. Be aware that these cats can get larger than you might expect and may need to have plus-sized kitty equipment. Cat carriers are perhaps the biggest issue — many are only designed for cats up to about six or seven kilos or thereabouts, and a strapping BSH lad can easily outgrow them!

One of the most notable features of this breed is their coat. It’s dense, thick and remarkably soft, with a texture most frequently described as “crisp”. The fur breaks rather like sheepskin as the cat moves. Their fur texture is unique to the breed — there’s nothing quite like it. (It’s incredibly strokeable — I absolutely love running my fingers through my BSH companions’ glorious coats.)

The British Shorthair’s coat also has some really wonderful colourations. In the early days of the breed, the main colouration was the British Blue type. This is a truly charming variant, with fur of a solid medium grey and eyes in tones of amber or copper. British Blues are some of the most magical-looking cats you could hope to meet — the contrast between their grey-blue fur and deep orange eyes is remarkable. This blue-furred variety is by no means the only colouration found in the breed, however. British Shorthairs come in every imaginable shade and pattern, from tabbies, tortoiseshells and calicos to colourpoints and vans. Colours can be strong and vivid, like the blue, red or chocolate types; they can also be pale and subtle, like the lavender, cream and cinnamon shades. Not all shades and patterns are deemed acceptable on the show circuit (for example, British Blues with tabby markings) but are charming in their own way. Check British Shorthair Colours- Full Guide.

A solid or “self” coloured British Shorthairs are very popular. These can be the familiar blue, a paler warm grey tone known as lilac, chocolate (warm brown), red (a deep ginger-orange), cinnamon (a lighter reddish-brown) cream and fawn. Silver BSH kitties are especially pretty — they have the main colour with a light silvery shade over it. Pure black and pure white British Shorthairs are also possible and are gorgeous to look at. You can also find tabbies, spotted tabbies, calicos and so forth showing combinations of these shades.

The preferred eye colour for most British Shorthairs is in the deep orange range: rich amber, dark copper, old gold. British Shorthair kittens start out with blue eyes, like all kittens. As they get older, their eyes will start to change colour. Be aware that when you first meet your BSH kitten her eyes may not have finished changing; there’s often a long period, maybe from six to 12 months, where a kitten has flat brown eyes rather than orange. In time, they’ll develop the true copper or amber eyes of this breed. Other eye colours are possible, although only some are accepted in show cats and kittens. A BSH show cat’s eyes should not have flecks or rings of another shade around the iris.

One of the great things about British Shorthairs is that you can get a calico or tortoiseshell tabby cat without having to put up with that notorious “tortitude”. Calicos and torties of other breeds are well known for being fractious, irritable and cantankerous — a reputation that’s been borne out by recent research. In the case of the British Shorthair, however, the tendency to stroppiness seems to be offset by the mild and docile BSH temperament. There are British Shorthair callies and torties of all shades and colours, from the familiar black and ginger tones to more subtle and unusual shades. My very first British Shorthair friend — the childhood family cat I’ve mentioned — was an attractive light tortoiseshell tabby who had the sweetest nature imaginable. If you want the multi-coloured coat but not the drama, this is very definitely the breed for you.

WHERE TO FIND BRITISH SHORTHAIR CAT?

Black self-coloured British Shorthair cats
Black self-coloured British Shorthair cats

There’s really no two ways about it: buying a British Shorthair is an expensive business. People who meet my gorgeous British Shorthair cats are often quite smitten and want to know how much it would cost to get one for themselves. When I tell these interested parties how much a BSH cat will probably cost, their faces tend to fall. The next question is usually: “Can’t I just get one from a shelter?”

Normally you would be unlikely to find an adult British Shorthair in a shelter, much less a kitten. I do know a couple of people who found their BSH companions in shelters, but this is extremely rare. In general, British Shorthairs are not given up lightly. A properly pedigreed BSH is a valuable animal, even if she’s not a show-quality cat. You do sometimes find mature animals up for adoption, especially if their owner has passed on or suffered a sudden decline in health; families don’t always appreciate the worth of an eccentric relative’s pets and may put them on an adoption site instead of trying to sell them. It is worth checking the websites for your local shelters and looking at online adoption registries — just be aware that you might have a long wait and don’t get your hopes up.

As an aside, I’d suggest that if you’re looking at shelters for your cat then you really ought to consider taking on any reasonably healthy kitty, regardless of breed or pedigree. Whatever you do, don’t contact your local shelter and insist on a pure-bred British Shorthair or nothing. You are apt to get very short shrift from the shelter staff, whose favourite breed is usually “rescue” and who will regard you as entitled and unreasonable. It’s laudable to look for a shelter cat — they all need and deserve homes, after all — but if you’re planning to take on a shelter kitty you should not be too fussy about the breed. You should also be certain you’re ready to look after a cat who may have special needs: health issues, injuries, behavioural problems due to trauma or brain injury, and so on. I fully encourage taking in shelter cats if you can but would suggest that your first cat should not be a rescue. Caring for a special needs cat can be very rewarding, but it helps if you have experience with a less demanding feline first.

British Shorthair Cat Cost

The recommended route to owning a British Shorthair is to track down a reputable breeder and purchase a healthy, well-socialised kitten. This is expensive — you could spend a few hundred pounds on a pedigree pet-quality kitten and upwards of a thousand on a show-quality one — but there are a lot of advantages. Check this article – How Much Does A British Shorthair Cat Cost. You get to check your breeder’s background record, see the cattery and pick out a kitten you feel a bond with. You can also meet the kitten’s mother and possibly the father too if he lives at the cattery.

Many breeders just maintain queen cats and hire in an entire tom from elsewhere when they want more kittens, but some keep a stud tom in-house. Your kitten will be in good health, have been checked for disease and received all her early vaccinations. She will also have been de-sexed (responsible breeders will absolutely insist on this. Good breeders keep kittens with their mother until they’re at least 12 weeks, with many breeders preferring to hang onto their kittens until the 16th week just to give them a really good start in life. At this age, the kittens are well-adjusted, fully weaned and ready to embark on a new adventure.

Something else I often hear is “But I’ve seen British Shorthair kittens for sale for £50 in the small ads. Why don’t I just buy one of those?” You might pay something like this for an older cat who is being listed for adoption because of some family emergency. If you see a BSH kitten up for sale at a price that’s significantly lower than £400 or £500, you should keep looking. Run, do not walk, away from that seller. You’re probably looking at an unlicensed backyard breeder. Some of these people have perfectly good intentions but don’t really know what they’re doing. Their cats suffer as a result. As well as simpler issues such as poor diet and limited stimulation, breeding pedigree cats is a complex process in which numerous things can go wrong if you aren’t aware of potential risk factors.

In the case of an untrained, unlicensed backyard breeder, breeding queens may be allowed to have more kittens than is healthy for a female cat, and breeding may start when the cat is too young. Breeding stock may not be tested for serious health conditions such as haemophilia or the genetic markers for certain kinds of kidney disease. Unregistered breeders may not understand the risks of inbreeding, allowing parents to mate with offspring or siblings with siblings. Kittens may come to you unvaccinated and sometimes not even spayed or neutered. You may find yourself with a British Shorthair kitten that was actually too young to leave the mother, and which is anxious, stressed and poorly socialised because of this. Many of these breeders will at least attempt to keep their animals healthy and are honestly mortified when they come to understand how their actions have impacted their cats and kittens. Unfortunately, good intentions aren’t enough to make good breeders.

Worse are the shady backyard breeders who know exactly what they’re doing and simply don’t care. These operations are where serious abuse occurs. Exploitative breeders only see their animals as a source of easy money, not as living creatures with a right to be kept as healthy and happy as possible. They have absolutely no qualms about keeping their cats and kittens in poor conditions, brutally overbreeding their queens and allowing unacceptable levels of inbreeding between their stock. The result is a miserable kitten mill full of sickly animals. A British Shorthair kitten purchased from such a breeder will probably require extensive medical treatment and may come to you with psychological issues. Not only is buying from one of these breeders a false economy, but you’re also supporting an abusive industry. Instead, give your money to a quality breeder who cares for their breeding stock and kittens.

Reputable breeders know that bringing healthy pedigree cats into the world is a labour of love, not a revenue stream. Breeding British Shorthair cats have never made anyone rich and never will. The joy of running a cattery comes from seeing healthy kittens born to healthy parent stock, and then going on to loving, happy homes.

Don’t be fooled by the high cost of a show-quality British Shorthair kitten.

Breeding queens cannot become pregnant too frequently and a kitten able to command thousands of pounds doesn’t come along in every litter. Some litters will have only two or three kittens — and if they don’t have show-quality characteristics, they won’t sell for more than a few hundred pounds each. Whether or not they can sell their kittens for a particularly high price, a breeder must still feed, shelter and care for each member of their breeding stock.

Bills for quality food, visits to the vet and so on will still add up. It can also be very time-consuming to operate a cattery, especially if (as many breeders do) you are also exhibiting your cats on the show circuit. In most cases, a really serious cat breeder will need a separate income. What often happens is that cat breeder end up in couples where one spouse or partner goes out to work and the other dedicates their time to the cats. Unless you have some kind of unearned income, it can be hard to survive unless someone in the household has a full-time job.

Finding a good breeder is not too hard, thanks to the existence of registering bodies. (Depending on where you live, there may be separate government licensing for catteries as well.) Organisations such as the GCCF and CFA don’t just keep tabs on a cat’s pedigree. They also have numerous requirements that a breeder should meet in order to be allowed to register their cats through that body. If a breeder is found to be keeping their cats in such a way that they’re not properly cared for, breeding irresponsibly or handing over kittens who are too young (among other sins), that breeder can very swiftly find that they are booted off the register.

This can be quite a serious matter, cutting the possible sale price of even their best kittens by hundreds or thousands of pounds (or dollars, depending on the location). Their cats and kittens can no longer be sold as pedigree animals and their colleagues in the world of breeding and showing cats will tend to turn against them. Since breeders are all involved in the cat fancy as a community, you can approach cat fancier groups to find recommendations. The cat fancy is a small world and news of bad practices tends to spread fairly rapidly, while good breeders can acquire quite a little fan club.

The internet is a reasonably good place to find cat breeders; do be advised, however, that not everyone with a glossy website and hi-res images of cute fluffy kittens is on the up-and-up. It’s not unknown for unscrupulous internet scammers to set up sites, stuff them with images stolen from genuine breeders, and accept money for cats they’ve never owned. Be absolutely certain you know who you’re dealing with before you hand over the money for your cat. I would tend to avoid online small ads like Gumtree or Craigslist, as well as auction sites. Only a minority of breeders that I know of would ever use them. It’s very difficult to check the provenance of the seller and such listings tend to be popular with scammers and kitten mills. It’s much better to find a breeder via their individual website and then arrange the sale, taking care to perform your due diligence before giving them any money.

Mackerel tabby body markings in British Shorthair
Mackerel tabby body markings in British Shorthair

Another good place to ask about responsible breeders is your family vet if you have one.

Although one or two are sniffy about the cat fancy, vets would generally prefer that people acquire their new kittens from responsible, caring breeders than finance the backyard kitten mills. I’ve also found vets (anecdotally, anyway) better disposed to British Shorthair owners than to the owners of exotics, especially the ultra-exotic types with their acknowledged physical problems. While some vets are judgemental when it comes to pedigree breeds, pointing you towards a happy, healthy British Shorthair kitten couldn’t possibly leave a nasty taste in any reasonable vet’s mouth.

When you’ve found a likely looking breeder, you can dig into their background a little. First, check their registration. If a breeder claims to be registered with this or that organisation, you can easily find out of this is true or not by cross-referencing their name against the lists held by the registering body. I would also recommend searching the web for the name of the cattery to see what other people are saying. Ask about them online in the cat fancy fora or consult any friends you have who may know them.

Even when you’ve identified your dream breeder, you may have a bit of a wait. Breeders won’t always have kittens available and can’t necessarily predict when a new litter may appear. The very best breeders often have quite a waiting list, with eager would-be owners putting down hundreds of pounds as a deposit on a future kitten who may not even be born till the following year (or even later). Even if they have kittens for sale, you might have to hold your horses for a few weeks while you wait for those youngsters to get big enough to leave the nest.

Responsible breeders are very serious about placing their cats in suitable homes. They may have a few questions for you when you approach them about buying one of their animals. They’ll want to know that you understand what’s involved in looking after a cat and may want certain assurances about the way your new British Shorthair will be living. For example, many breeders will require that you keep your BSH as an indoor cat. Your British Shorthair kitten will come to you spayed or neutered as a matter of course. This not only saves you having to take care of neutering yourself but also helps prevent more backyard breeders from coming into existence.

At some point, when you’re an experienced owner with a good reputation in the cat fancy and can demonstrate that your home is properly set up as a cattery, you might be able to acquire a pedigree breeding queen of your own. Do not expect to purchase one as your first cat, however.

This might sound like a lot of effort for a kitten. Once you’ve been a cat owner for a while, though, you’ll understand the value of the services that good breeders provide. Not only do they guarantee you an animal with a known pedigree, but they also do everything they can to help your kitten get the best start in life. Even the most scrupulous breeder can’t guarantee that your kitten will be perfectly healthy; but if you buy from a good breeder, she will come to you with all her early vaccinations and tests up-to-date.

For those who would prefer an adult cat to a young kitten, a registered breeder is still a good bet. Many breeders find themselves with a queen or a stud on their hands who can no longer be used for breeding, either because they’ve been diagnosed with a heritable defect or because they’ve simply grown too old. You may also find older show cats for whom the pressures of fame have become too great and who will need a loving home where they can enjoy a peaceful retirement. Older cats may not be as cute as little kittens but they have many advantages. They’re more placid and less of a handful and have already been trained in useful skills such as using the litter-box. A mature cat is generally less costly than a kitten, too.

BRITISH SHORTHAIR CAT – INTERESTING FACTS

Red British Shorthair
Red British Shorthair

As well as being the belle of the ball at the very first cat show, the British Shorthair has an illustrious role in art, literature and popular culture. One of the earliest representations of a British Shorthair is probably Tenniel’s illustration of the Cheshire Cat from Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”. The cat’s familiar grin is an exaggeration but the British Shorthair wears a distinct permanent smile.

Then there’s perhaps the very first cat-related internet meme, showing a cheerful-looking feline and captioned “I can haz cheeseburger?” Nicknamed “Happycat”, the original image comes from an advertisement featuring a BSH kitty with the British Blue colouration.

This advertisement isn’t the only one to showcase the British Shorthair as a model, incidentally. British Shorthairs are popular in advertising and in the entertainment industry generally, and not just because of their eye-catching fur or sweet, cheerful faces. The British Shorthair’s calm demeanour and high intelligence are ideal in an animal star, letting the cat stay cool and well-behaved even in the stressful environment of a studio.

Do you know Arlene, Garfield’s lady-friend from the familiar cartoon strips? Yes, she’s a British Shorthair too. Her creator based her on the British Blue type.

British Shorthairs tend to meow rather more quietly than other breeds — but they are world champions when it comes to purring. A grey-and-white British Shorthair named Smokey once set a world record for having the world’s loudest purr. The record-breaking purr peaked at 67.7 decibels, although apparently, Smokey could be even louder. At times, her owner reported that Smokey had hit 90 decibels — about as loud as a lawnmower. Eventually, Smokey has knocked off the top spot but reigned as the world’s loudest “purr-er” for about four years.