British Shorthairs and Exotic Shorthairs are both wonderful cats, with thick, dense fur, round, cuddly bodies and teddy-bear-like features. The main difference between them is that the Exotic Shorthair has a markedly flatter face than the British Shorthair. Both cats are brachycephalic, with rounded heads; however, the Exotic Shorthair has been bred with Persian cats to create a short-haired breed with a peke-like snub nose, very similar to the “ultra Persian” type of cat.
They’re both cute and loveable, with very winning natures — so which one should you pick? Read on to find out more about these two adorable breeds and find out which one is right for you.
What you need to know about the Exotic Shorthair
Exotic Shorthairs are the result of cross-breeding between American Shorthairs and Persian cats. This has produced a cute and cuddly line of cats with the snub-nosed look of the exotic Persian but a short coat. The cats need plenty of attention from their humans to be happy. Remember, this is the same breed was formally recognised by various registering bodies in the mid-80s. Exotic Shorthairs have many charming traits, including the gentle, low-drama temperament of their Persian side, and make excellent pets.
They are easy to care for, although their dense coats do need regular grooming. Their voices, like the Persian’s and the British Shorthair‘s, are quiet, and they aren’t very chatty. When your Exotic Shorthair wants attention, she’ll let you know in other ways — by coming up and rubbing around your legs or clambering into your lap. Although they have the gentleness of the Persian, the Exotic Shorthair is a shade more playful and adventurous thanks to their American Shorthair ancestry. Overall they’re a thoroughly likeable cat — cute to look at and fun to have around.
What you need to know about the British Shorthair
British Shorthairs, I will admit, are a personal bias of mine. They’re the pedigree line of the “ordinary” domestic shorthaired kitties found everywhere in the UK. During the 18th century, a cat fancier noticed the splendid qualities of the native domestic felines (shorthaired, sturdy descendants of Egyptian cats imported by the ancient Romans and indigenous European wildcats) and determined to perfect the breed. The result is a tremendously loyal, low-maintenance, amiable cat with a stocky build and round features. They’re not terribly physically affectionate as a rule, although I have occasionally met lap hogs among cats of this breed, preferring to sit near rather than on you.
They are very non-destructive, patient and eminently trainable, taking genuine pleasure in learning new games and tricks. The British Shorthair is a very pretty cat, with its sweetly rounded features, stocky build and big, bright eyes. I defy anyone who’s met a British Shorthair not to fall in love with them a little.
Exotic Shorthairs, in common with other pedigree kitties, are not cheap. As with any pedigree kitty, prices will vary dramatically depending on a number of factors: age, how well the cat fits the breed standard, whether you’re talking about a “show quality” or a “pet quality” cat, and so on.
British buyers can expect to spend about £900 for an Exotic Shorthair kitten with papers, while US buyers will be looking at a ballpark figure of $1200. Buyers in Australia will see dramatic variations depending on which territory they live in; a very rough estimate would be about $1000 USD but some kittens may be much more or much less expensive.
The usual caveats about trying to find cheaper kittens apply: if you’re absolutely wedded to the idea of owning a purebred Exotic Shorthair and can’t accept a less expensive crossbreed (Exotic crosses are absolutely lovely, by the way — not show animals but still adorable), you could look into taking on an older cat or a kitty with problems that make her less adoptable. Whatever you do, don’t hand over money to an unlicensed breeder.
British Shorthairs are one of the more sought-after pedigree breeds and their price reflects this. While pet quality kittens may be much cheaper, a show kitten of this breed will probably set you back at least £1,200. A buyer in the US will pay something similar: a show kitten of the British Shorthair breed sells for approximately $1,000 to $1,500. If you’re in Australia the price will usually be much lower — you can expect to pay about $1,000 AUD. Check our article on “How Much British Shorthair Costs”. Older cats are less expensive; you might find a retired breeder or former show cat for a few hundred pounds. The least expensive option would be to adopt or rescue a British Shorthair.
Because they’re quite valuable and enjoy a very positive reputation among cat fanciers, British Shorthairs don’t often come up for adoption. You might, however, find them through shelter websites or online adoption lists. (I would strongly caution against actually approaching a shelter to ask if they have a pure-bred BSH cat — you’ll look callous and may receive a very short response from the shelter. Again, avoid unlicensed breeders.
The Exotic Shorthair has a really disarming personality. They’re a sweet and gentle cat, really friendly and affectionate. Their American Shorthair genetics has given them a playful streak so they’re a bit more adventurous and lively than the more sedate British Shorthair. Although they like to play around and be more active, they’re not mischievous or difficult to look after.
Quiet, convivial and very loyal, the Exotic Shorthair is a great companion and a loving pet. Like British Shorthairs, Exotic Shorthairs are very patient and great with kids or other pets (we’ll discuss this further in a later section). Of course, any cat may have a temperamental streak, but these kitties are generally very soft-hearted and cuddlesome.
This breed does tend to play favourites, attaching to a specific person in the house who becomes the main focus of their attention; however, they will be open and affectionate with everyone and curious when introduced to new friends. They can slow down a little in their senior years but will remain active if given sufficient encouragement.
The British Shorthair is more reserved and less outgoing than the Exotic Shorthair. They’re very calm, quiet cats. Some people find them too aloof, as they don’t usually go overboard with physical affection. They are, however, very loyal and enjoy attention and affection — they just like to express their love of their special humans in a more hands-off way.
British Shorthairs are very interested in their humans and what everyone is doing in the house. BSH cats seem to need to follow their favourite people around the home, tailing them from room to room and then keeping an eye on whatever’s happening from a comfy spot on a shelf or their cat tree.
The British Shorthair isn’t very keen on being scooped up and cuddled but is very caring and likes to be close to people. Lap time will tend to be limited, with the BSH cat preferring to sit next to you rather than on you. British Shorthairs are smart cookies who are easy to train and who enjoy learning games like fetch. Their smarts don’t seem to lead them into shenanigans, however.
The commonest health issue for Exotic Shorthairs is kidney problems; because they’re descended from Persian cats, they’re prone to polycystic kidney disease. About 40% of exotic cats have this. Exotic Shorthairs may have similar eye issues to the Persian, with eyes failing to drain properly. Sadly, Exotic Shorthairs very pronounced flattening of their features may suffer from a condition called brachycephalic airway obstructive syndrome. Symptoms can range from coughs and sniffles to severe respiratory issues and additional strain on the heart. In some countries, breeders who deliberately select for extreme flattening of the face have successfully been prosecuted for animal cruelty.
While any cat can have health problems regardless of breed, the suffering created by an over-emphasis on exotic features needs to be factored into breeding decisions. Kitties with brachycephalic airway obstructive syndrome can be helped; respiratory issues can be managed with anti-inflammatories and other medication, and by keeping the cat in a warm environment without too much humidity.
British Shorthairs are healthy cats, by and large. Males need to be tested for Haemophilia B, although this is generally being bred out. Like domestic cats in general, British Shorthairs may suffer from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy; this is significantly less common in females than in males. If properly managed, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy needn’t impact your cat’s longevity or well-being too much but it needs to be picked up as soon as possible. It’s a good idea to provide yearly checkups for your cat, regardless of the breed, to look out for this and other issues. These cats, like many others, can develop urinary and kidney problems if they don’t get enough fluid.
British Shorthair cats are a long-lived breed, meaning that they spend a large percentage of those lives as a senior kitty. You can manage weight gain with the proper diet and ensuring that your British Shorthair remains active as she gets older (we’ll go into more detail on diet and exercise later).
The Exotic Shorthair is a medium-sized breed but cobby and chunky, with heavy bones and a broad neck (sometimes referred to as a “linebacker neck” because it makes them look rather like a brawny American football player). There is a pronounced degree of sexual dimorphism in the Exotic Shorthair, with female cats being smaller overall than males.
Adult females can weigh anywhere in the region of 3.6 kg to 5.5 kg (8 to 12 lbs); males start at around 5.5 kg (12 lbs) and can reach up to 16.8 kg (15 lbs) before you need to start worrying about weight issues. The Exotic Shorthair is very prone to becoming overweight and can suffer from arthritis if you allow this to happen. Being overweight can exacerbate brachycephalic airway obstructive syndrome.
The British Shorthair is a medium to large breed. The weight range for BSH cats is very similar to Exotic Shorthairs, with females tending to weigh 3.6 kg to 5.5 kg (8 to 12 lbs) by the time they gain their full adult weight. Males are larger, weighing anything from 5.5 kg (12 lbs) up to 16.8 kg (15 lbs). The British Shorthair grows fairly quickly during the first year of life.
They may go through an “awkward teenager” phase somewhere between 6 and 12 months, especially the males, as their musculature struggles to catch up with the length of their bones. This can leave the BSH cat looking gangly and ungainly for a while. They gain most of their adult height and length by 12 months but will generally continue to grow and pack on muscle, albeit more slowly, until they’re between three and five years old. As with the Exotic Shorthair, you will need to monitor your BSH cat’s weight as she gets older.
The Exotic Shorthair is a really lovely cat for a household with children. They’re very amiable and playful; they also enjoy the games and romps that children excel at. Keep in mind that children need to be supervised around cats, at least until they’re big enough and well-educated enough to understand that a cat is a living creature and not a toy. Even the friendliest cat can be pushed into lashing out by children who manhandle or pester her.
Dogs need to be well-trained and properly socialised so that they understand that a cat is not something to chase or attack. Exotic Shorthairs are usually very good with other animals but aggressive or even overly affectionate dogs can cause them a lot of stress and anxiety. Introduce dogs and cats with care and supervise things closely until you know that everything is okay.
The British Shorthair is also very good with children. Youngsters can bring out the cat’s playful side, providing much-needed stimulation to a breed that tends to be rather staid. BSH cats are very patient with children — even provoked, they tend to remove themselves to a quieter spot rather than biting or scratching. Children need careful supervision until they’re old enough to respect your cat’s space and pet her without hurting or upsetting her. Even if the cat doesn’t retaliate against an overly grabby or clumsy young playmate (and British Shorthairs are patient to a fault), the stress could be bad for her. British Shorthairs also get on well with dogs and other pets.
The same warnings apply — dogs need to be properly socialised to be around cats and trained to behave well. A dog that tries to play when your cat isn’t in the mood can cause unnecessary stress and misery. A dog that chases or attacks the cat can be a serious physical threat.
Care and maintenance
Exotic Shorthairs have very thick, plush coats. Although they don’t develop matts as fast as longhaired breeds, they still need plenty of care. Keep her coat glossy and sleek with weekly brushing or combing — more often if she is shedding a lot, as in the summer. For strongly peke-faced Exotic Shorthairs, you should gently wipe and cleanse the folds around her nose and eyes to prevent a buildup of tear residue and mucus, as her eyes may tend to run a lot.
A cat that wheezes or makes snore like sounds is fighting for breath and need medical attention. Your vet can provide care to make breathing easier and more comfortable, as well as preventing the issue from becoming more serious. Like most cats, Exotic Shorthairs need to have their teeth brushed every week or so to prevent gingivitis and tooth decay. This breed has a tendency to become overweight; you can counter this by making sure she gets plenty of exercises through play and by switching her to a high-protein diet.
Just like Exotic Shorthairs, British Shorthairs have dense coats that really need a good brush once or twice a week. I like to use a metal comb called a shedding comb for my BSH cats; they’re made for dogs but they work well on these cats. Don’t forget to brush or at least wipe your cat’s teeth every week. British Shorthairs are moderately brachycephalic but not to the same degree as the Exotic so they don’t suffer from the same respiratory issues.
They do, however, have similar problems with weight as the Exotic Shorthair. You can help by switching to a high-protein diet aimed at senior cats and by getting your cat moving — play with teaser toys, provide treat balls and other forage toys to slow down eating and encourage play, or teach your cat to play games like fetch. This breed is very independent but will still enjoy the attention.
Aside from their features, the main difference between these two breeds is their degree of independence. They’re both wonderful pets who will do well in pretty much any household but the Exotic Shorthair definitely needs a lot of face-time and attention from her humans. She can get lonely and anxious if she’s home alone too much.
For this reason, I would recommend the British Shorthair to single professionals or families where the household is out a lot; the Exotic Shorthair might get stressed and frightened while the British Shorthair will simply take a nap until it’s time to get up and meet you at the door.
If you’re at home a great deal and want a playful companion who’ll curl up on your lap, the Exotic Shorthair is definitely your kitty. Because of the additional care needs of the Exotic Shorthair, I would have a slight preference for the British Shorthair if this is your first cat.