British Shorthairs make a wonderful first cat: they’re extremely low-maintenance and independent yet very loyal and affectionate, essentially happy to look after themselves while shadowing you around the house and observing everything you’re up to as you go from room to room.
As a breed they have few health issues and are easy to care for, requiring only a weekly brush-down and other elementary grooming activities that are easy to stay on top of.
They’re also intelligent, biddable and very easy to train, meaning that you should have no problem persuading them to use a litterbox or to stop scratching the furniture. That just leaves one question: boy or girl?
What you need to know about male British Shorthairs
The British Shorthair can be described as an attempt to perfect the standard domestic cat. Their earliest ancestors are Egyptian felines brought over by the ancient Roman to keep the rats down on their galleys. Once these cats came ashore, they found the local European wildcats waiting for them.
The two populations interbred, giving rise to the stocky, hardy British domestic cat: densely furred to cope with a chilly climate, sociable but not too demanding and rather ferocious when confronted with prey.
These cats were highly prized both as working cats and as friendly household companions. In the 19th century, the Victorians began to take an interest in breeding pedigree cats; it was only natural that someone would take an interest in the British domestic cat as a diamond in the rough.
A breeder named Harrison Weir is largely responsible for the British Shorthair we all know and love today: a solid, muscular cat, especially the males, with a dense, crisp coat and round, expressive eyes. Both genders have a notable Cheshire Cat smile, with the males being a bit more jowly.
What you need to know about female British Shorthairs
It was Weir who took up the challenge of turning the standard UK housecats of the day into a pedigree species, selecting the finest specimens he could find and breeding them with other lines in order to benefit from certain features.
Weir mated his cats with Russian Blues to acquire the handsome colouration; the end result was the famous British Blue, a British Shorthair with solid blue-grey fur and copper eyes. This is still the most popular colouration for a British Shorthair, although a rainbow of different colours and markings is now available.
Like their brothers, female British Shorthairs come in all kinds of shades, from blue to white to lilac to black and everything in between. You can find these cats in solid colours, bicoloured variants, tortoiseshell and calico patterns and even colourpoints.
The main difference between a female cat and a male is that the female will tend to be significantly smaller. Despite being more slight, the female British Shorthair is just as robust and sturdy as her brother. Her features are slightly more dainty, with proportionately larger eyes.
You should expect to pay around £1200 for a male kitten, assuming he’s a show-quality lad from a registered breeder and comes with a full pedigree. A similar kitten in the US will cost about $1500-$2000, although you may find them for less (or even more). In Australia, the sticker shock is less painful — your little tom will cost something in the vicinity of $1000 AUD, although the exact figure will depend upon availability in your region. If this is too rich for your blood, or if you simply want a more mature fellow as your first cat, you could look into finding a retiree.
These are former show kitties and stud toms. The most inexpensive option is to take in a cat who needs to be adopted or a rescue animal. Adoption registry sites are one way to find your British Shorthair tom. You might also try checking shelter websites — they often have profiles for the cats they need to rehome.
Want to know more? Check: How Much Does A British Shorthair Cat Cost (US/UK/AU)?
There is little difference in price between a desexed male or female kitten. A British Shorthair girl will cost roughly £1200 in the UK, $1500 in the US and $1000 AUD in Australia, with the same reductions for older animals and adoptees. You will, of course, be buying a spayed or neutered animal over 12 weeks old. As a first cat, you should not even consider a British Shorthair who isn’t desexed. No reputable breeder would sell an “entire” kitten to a first-time owner; cat fanciers are keen that their kittens find loving homes and a wannabe backyard breeder is their worst nightmare.
Any British Shorthair breeder who is prepared to sell you an unspayed female kitten or cat is someone you want to avoid. Later on, when you’ve become an experienced cat owner and if you have your home set up as a proper cattery, it may be possible for you to look at buying an entire cat.
The differences in character between male and female British Shorthairs are quite subtle. There’s a great deal of variation between individuals but in general, males are a shade less reserved and more quick to open up. Your neutered tom probably won’t ever become aggressive; British Shorthairs seem less prone to problematic tom-cat behaviours in general. As long as British Shorthair kittens are properly socialised, they don’t seem too keen on spraying or other territorial displays.
These cats can usually be trained out of any bad habits. Male British Shorthair cats are usually kind and amiable, although not really lap-cats. They prefer to indicate their affection by stopping near you to headbutt your legs and then curling up somewhere close by to snooze. Lap-time will generally be rare and brief. This breed is not very active in general but males do seem to retain a little more playfulness than females even when they’ve grown out of their lively kittenhood.
In general, female British Shorthairs are just a little bit more skittish than their big brothers. They’ll warm up to you very quickly — they only need a little more time and reassurance to overcome their reticence. A British Shorthair girl may come to be quite “monogamous” when it comes to human friends, picking a special person who she spends the most time with and who gets the most affection. She’ll be unfailingly gracious to the rest of the household and their guests, of course — but there’s apt to be a particular person who gets the lap time and snuggles nobody else does. This is by no means universal but it’s fairly common.
British Shorthair girls are generally rather quieter than boys; they tend to be less playful as they get older and even more prone to become sedentary in later life. That said, they seem to struggle less with weight gain.
British Shorthairs are a very healthy breed. You can expect your tom to live for at least 10 years, with 15 and even 20 years being very common. They’re prone to the same conditions as any breed of cat but don’t suffer from the many sad maladies that beset some other breeds. There are a couple of nasty heritable conditions to look out for in this breed, however. One is haemophilia B; this is uncommon as breeders know to test for it. Another, rather more widespread problem is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) — a heart disorder that largely affects male cats. British Shorthair boys with this condition can make a good recovery if it’s caught early and treated appropriately.
Regular tests are sensible measure, as by the time symptoms become noticeable your tom may be suffering considerably. There is no cure but proper care, including medication and a low-sodium diet, can give your lad a long and full life.
In general female British Shorthairs are even healthier than their sturdy brothers. The distaff side of the clan benefits from all the hardiness of this breed and suffers very little from their heritable disorders. Female British Shorthairs cannot develop haemophilia. (They can, however, carry the gene for it and pass it on to their kittens.) While your British Shorthair girl could theoretically develop hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), this condition is far less common in female cats — only something like 2.1 per cent of females may develop it. Like their brothers they tend to live a long time; you can reasonably expect your female British Shorthair to be around well into her teens, possibly her twenties.
The British Shorthair can also suffer from the same health problems as any other cat and requires the same kind of care. Read on to find out more about looking after your British Shorthair cat.
Size and Weight
The male British Shorthair is an impressively husky specimen. While he starts out roughly the same size as his sisters, he’ll rapidly overtake her. British Shorthair boys can gain between half to three-quarters of a kilo every month during the first few months of their lives. Expect your young tom to go through a gangly “awkward age” at around 6 months or so; just like a human teenager, this will pass and he’ll grow into his adult configuration by the time he’s a year old. He may not reach his full majestic stature until between three and five years old; this breed carries on growing slowly well after the age when most cats stop.
The healthy weight range for a full-grown male of this breed starts at around six kilos; they can easily reach nine. If your British Shorthair boy gets much bigger than this you’ll need to have a word with your vet about his weight.
Female British Shorthairs are smaller than their male counterparts by a significant margin. They grow rather more slowly and will never get as big as their brothers. As well as being shorter they tend to be more svelte, although still cobby. This breed is classified as medium to large and you’re still going to end up with a fairly generous helping of a cat. The healthy weight range for a female British Shorthair starts at around four kilos and goes up to six, although some experts suggest five-and-a-half kilos as a healthier upper limit.
Your British Shorthair girl will tend to get heavier in later life; you’ll need to monitor this and may want to look at a diet and exercise programme to help her avoid problems due to overweight. Later in this piece, we’ll discuss the ways in which you can encourage your British Shorthair to stay in shape — keep reading to learn more.
Living With Kids And Dogs
The male British Shorthair is a very affable chap. He’s typically very good with both dogs and young children — not to mention other cats. Dogs need to be properly socialised to recognise cats as fellow members of the household (rather than “small thing I can chase around and possibly injure or kill”) and trained not to pester your British Shorthair for attention.
Much depends on giving the two animals a proper introduction — whether you’re bringing the cat into a household with a resident dog or the dog into a household with a resident cat, you should place them in separate rooms for a day or two so they can get used to each other’s smells and sounds.
Next, they can be introduced with a barrier between them, such as a pet crate or a baby gate. Once you’re sure the dog is going to behave appropriately around your British Shorthair, you can let them interact.
For more information visit: Are British Shorthair Cats Good With Dogs?
The female British Shorthair is also very good with dogs, with the same caveats as for males. Like her brother she’s excellent with children; this breed is very patient and tolerates a lot of childish curiosity without any drama. If the child does something your cat doesn’t like, she’ll generally just walk away.
I have heard it claimed that female British Shorthairs are better with kids than males; I’m unconvinced, however. I’ve seen some toms who were wonderful with little ones and some girls who were much less keen.
In general, most British Shorthairs enjoy the company of children; youngsters seem to bring out their playful side. Children should be supervised when they’re playing with your cat until they’re old enough to treat her gently and responsibly. British Shorthairs are not keen on being hugged or squeezed so discourage this; instead, encourage the child to play with a teaser toy or teach your cat to fetch.
Your male British Shorthair is not a high-maintenance lad. This breed has a very thick, dense coat, which benefits from weekly brushing or combing with a metal shedding comb. You should also trim his claws every couple of weeks (assuming he’ll let you) and brush his teeth at least once a week. Tooth-brushing is important as it helps prevent tooth decay; ideally, you should give your British Shorthair tom’s teeth a good scrub every few days but once a week will probably suffice.
To offset his sedentary nature, provide him with a cat tree and scratching post (upsized in proportion to his extra height) and make sure you play with him. The teaser toys I mentioned previously are excellent, as they evoke the mouser in your tom. You should also feed him carefully; give him moderate amounts of high-quality food and don’t let him snack too much.
For more information about grooming check: 17 Grooming Tips For British Shorthairs
Female British Shorthairs are also very easy to care for. Like her brother, you should comb or brush her regularly, brush her teeth every few days if you can, and clip her nails lightly every couple of weeks. Also like the male, your British Shorthair queen is prone to spells of very low activity — in fact, she’s apt to slow down even more than the male as she gets older.
Providing entertainment in the form of cat habitats and scratching posts, teaser toys and so forth can help her overcome the urge to nap the day away. Female British Shorthairs have, if anything, a stronger prey response than males do — you can harness this to get her moving.
Another good option for British Shorthairs is a puzzle toy. They’re intelligent creatures and like having their minds stimulated.As with males, watch her diet and don’t overfeed her.
Because there’s so much variation between individuals, it’s difficult to say whether a male British Shorthair or a female would be best for your first cat. The two genders don’t really seem to have any specific character traits that would recommend them — they’re all great cats. If pressed to make a specific choice I would lean slightly towards a female cat, purely because of their slightly improved health statistics.
Female British Shorthairs enjoy freedom from haemophilia and reduced incidence of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which takes some of the anxiety out of pet ownership. There’s also the side issue of spraying and territorial behaviour, although as I’ve mentioned that’s less of a problem with this breed.
All that said, there’s no absolute guarantee of health with any cat and a male British Shorthair might have a long and happy life too. At the end of the day, the right cat is the right cat regardless of gender. My ultimate recommendation has to be to visit your breeder and meet the kittens you’ll be choosing from.
You’ll recognise the British Shorthair that’s right for you when you see him — or her. The individual animal is more important than any number of statistics and theories.