British Shorthair vs British Longhair

British Shorthair vs British LonghairThe British Shorthair and British Longhair are both wonderful animals, especially if you’re looking for a first cat. As well as being sturdy little felines with very few health issues, these cats are blessed with some of the most appealing character traits of any cat I’ve ever encountered. Although they can seem a little aloof at first, both of these breeds are tremendously loving, very loyal and tremendously good company; they’re also low-maintenance, patient and not at all destructive, with an independent nature that makes them a very good choice for a cat owner who’s out at work during the day.

What you need to know about British Shorthair

The British Shorthair is essentially the ultimate refinement of the standard British housecat. Their ancestors are the European wildcats who inhabited ancient Britain and domestic Egyptian cats imported by the Romans when they invaded the British Isles. The result was a breed of hardy shorthair cats, friendly to humans but absolutely fiendish mousers. In the 19th century, an early cat fancier took a shine to the unsung housecat and decided to create a pedigree breed from this stock (along with an admixture of Russian Blue for their handsome blue-grey colouration).

The result was the first British Shorthair: a handsome, muscular cat with a “cobby” (blocky) configuration and an engagingly expressive face. The standard British Shorthair has a rounded head with a modest degree of brachycephaly (although not enough to compromise the animal’s health), large, round eyes and widely-spaced ears. Their nature is loyal and affectionate, although they prefer a more hands-off way of showing it. They are an intelligent breed but their smarts aren’t the kind that leads them to get into mischief. They are eminently trainable and enjoy learning simple games like “fetch”.

What you need to know about British Longhair

The British Longhair is a close cousin of the British Shorthair. Known as the Britannica or Lowlander in Europe, they’re the result of breeding between the standard British Shorthair and longhair cats. Back in the early part of the 20th century, imported longhair cats were crossed with British Shorthairs to produce the British Longhair. If you’re a fan of long coats, the result really is the best of both worlds: the loving yet independent nature of the British Shorthair, with something of the Persian or Angora’s luxuriant locks.

They’re a medium-longhair breed with a dense, fluffy coat and an appealingly cobby configuration. The British Longhair is affectionate and friendly, although like the British Shorthair this cat prefers to demonstrate love in a less physical way. Your British Longhair is apt to follow you around the house, learn your routine and wait for you when you get home. Lap time and cuddles may be limited but you’ll get endless companionship and love. One caveat is that these kitties, unfortunately, can suffer from some of the health issues that often affect cats with Persian heritage.

Later on in this article, we’ll discuss these problems in more depth.

Let’s Talk About Price

British Shorthair Cats

The cost of a British Shorthair cat varies. The usual figure that gets quoted in the UK is £1200 for a show-quality pedigree kitten. Pet quality kittens tend to be less expensive. British Shorthair kittens in the US cost a more-or-less equivalent sum, round about $1500 to $2000. British Shorthairs in Australia seem to be much less expensive; expect to pay a modest $1000 AUD if you’re based in the lucky country. If you’re prepared to accept an older cat, you can usually get a retiree (a former breeding animal or a show cat who’s no longer able to tolerate the pressures of fame) for about a third of the price of a kitten.

The least expensive option is to rehome a British Shorthair who can’t be cared for by her current owners. Again, this normally means taking on a mature cat. You may occasionally find British Shorthairs as rescue animals — check the local shelter websites and BSH-focused adoption registries — but they tend to be scarce and go very quickly. They’re such winning animals that people can’t resist them for long.

British Longhair Cats

The British Longhair is not currently recognised by the General Council of the Cat Fancy, the UK’s premier cat registry, and thus can’t be shown at GCCF events. They are recognised by other bodies, including The International Cat Association. Prices tend to vary a lot; I would generally expect to pay about £700 or so at the low end and as much as £1000 for a TICA-registered kitten with a good configuration. Prices in the US are proportionally similar, with breeders asking for around $1000 USD. Prices in Australia are lower, with some kittens going for as little as $600 AUD.

Do check that the breeder is properly registered before you buy. Note that while the GCCF doesn’t recognise this breed yet, people who breed British Longhairs often breed other cats too and thus may have a GCCF registration you can chase up. Note also that registration for this breed is inconsistent across organisations; the name used for the British Longhair by one authority may refer to a completely different cat when used by another. You’ll need to do a little homework when finding a breeder.

How About Character And Temper?

British Shorthair Cats

I can’t praise the British Shorthair’s character enough. They’re a very drama-free breed. Unlike other intelligent breeds such as the Siamese, their brains don’t lead them into trouble (on the whole). They are slightly distant at first but rapidly warm up to their caregivers and become quite deeply attached.

I find that my British Shorthair cats tend to glue themselves to me. They don’t want to clamber onto my lap as a rule but they will tail me around the house, sitting at my feet in the kitchen while I drink my coffee, waiting by the door when I get home from work and following me quietly from room to room as I go about my evening chores. They’re not clingy cats at all — more like household supervisors, wanting to be close by you at all times but not demanding that you sit down and provide a lap to hog.

British Longhair Cats

The British Longhair has a very similar temperament to the British Shorthair: independent but loving, deeply loyal and very caring. Like the Shorthair, they are apt to shadow you from room to room and love hanging out with you to monitor all your activities. They prefer to keep an eye on you from the arm of the chair or upon the bookshelf than sitting on your lap. Sorry, longhair fans, but you may need to keep your hands off those glorious locks — this breed likes minimal petting, although they do seem to share the British Shorthair’s love of tummy rubs.

I’ve found the British Longhair to be chatty but quiet — they will come and talk to you and can get quite insistent if they need something, but they have much softer voices than most cats. This laid-back breed is very non-destructive and patient.

Any Health Issues Or Problems?

British Shorthair Cats

The British Shorthair is a sturdy cat. They’re ridiculously healthy, with none of the issues you might expect from a pedigree cat. I’d go so far as to say that a BSH kitten bought from a good breeder is apt to be healthier than any random mixed-breed domestic, simply because good breeders look after their animals so well and are diligent about choosing good stock. The British Shorthair may suffer from any of the conditions that afflict domestic cats in general and are somewhat more prone to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) — a heart condition that’s particularly prevalent in males. There is a slightly elevated risk of haemophilia in this breed.

The main health concern with the British Shorthair is a tendency to “middle-aged spread”. They are laid-back kitties with a low activity level and their laziness only gets more pronounced as they get older. Overeating is often a big issue with this breed and they can become obese if this is not corrected for. In all other ways, though, the British Shorthair is usually a picture of rude health.

British Longhair Cats

The British Longhair is only slightly less indestructible than her cousin. Unfortunately, the Persian in this breed has contributed something other than fabulous fur: there’s also a degree of proneness to kidney disease, specifically inherited polycystic kidney disease (PKD). This causes cysts to form in the cat’s kidneys until eventually they can no longer function. Sadly, there’s no cure; this condition can be managed, however, to minimise the impact on the cat’s welfare and prolong her life. Like the British Shorthair, the British Longhair is somewhat prone to haemophilia and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

Also, like the British Shorthair, the British Longhair is prone to become overly sedentary later in life and may develop weight problems if not fed carefully. It may be necessary to develop an exercise programme to keep your cat in good shape as she ages. They are very healthy otherwise, although subject to the same kinds of health issues as any cat.

How Heavy And Big Do They Get?

British Shorthair Cats

The British Shorthair is classified as a medium-large breed. Their blocky configuration and bulky muscles make them a lot heavier than you’d expect. This breed is quite dramatically dimorphic — males are very heavy as compared to females. As kittens they start off roughly the same size but boys outgrow their female siblings very rapidly. British Shorthairs achieve most of their adult weight during their first year of life but most continue to grow until they’re between three and five years old.

Once they’ve reached their full adult weight, the healthy range for a female British Shorthair is from 4 kg to 6 kg and 6 kg to 9 kg for a male. If your British Shorthair weighs much more than this they are likely to develop problems relating to obesity.

British Longhair Cats

The British Longhair is also a larger breed of cat. Their generous coats make them seem even bigger than they are. In common with their Shorthair cousins, they are strikingly dimorphic: the males are much taller and blockier than females. Their growth follows a similar tack to the British Shorthair’s, with kittens beginning life at much the same size and diverging as the boys grow faster than the girls. A female British Longhair kitten will put on — very roughly — just under half a kilo of weight per month in the first few months of her life, while a male kitten might put on closer to 750g per month.

The healthy weight range is very similar to that of British Shorthairs: around 4 kg to 6 kg for a female cat and a chunky 6 kg to 9kg for a tom. These cats do get larger but if they’re much over the upper limit you should consult your vet to make sure your pet doesn’t need to change her diet.

Are They Capable Of Living With Kids And Dogs?

British Shorthair Cats

I would recommend the British Shorthair to a family with youngsters. They’re patient, affectionate and good with children. The long-suffering British Shorthair becomes very attached to younger members of the family and tolerates a lot of playful attention. The British Shorthair gets on well with both dogs and other cats but is equally content to be the sole feline in the house. I would still advise introducing a dog to this breed with the usual caution — while they’re supremely laid-back and patient, it’s stressful and upsetting for any cat to deal with over-friendly or aggressive dogs.

Once your dog has been properly trained not to do things that bother the cat, the British Shorthair makes a very amiable companion for your canine friend. Very well-trained dogs who can be left alone with a cat will benefit greatly from her company while you’re out at work.

British Longhair Cats

The British Longhair is also an amiable and social creature. They’re a fantastic cat for families with other pets or young children, as they get on well with dogs and other cats. (Not small mammals, though.) Very small children should always be supervised around animals; in the case of the British Longhair, that lovely long coat is going to be a magnet for grabby little fingers. Be vigilant and explain to your child that it’s important to be gentle with the kitty.

This breed’s tolerant nature means they respond to stressors by absenting themselves from uncomfortable situations and getting out of a curious youngster’s reach. As with any breed, dogs and British Longhairs need to be introduced with care; dogs also need to be properly trained so they don’t chase the cat or harass her in other ways. A friendly, well-trained dog and a properly socialised British Longhair will generally get on like a house on fire.

What About Grooming?

British Shorthair Cats

Aside from the usual care that you would give to any cat, there are a few specific things I would recommend you do for your British Shorthair. One of these is a weekly brushing. People often assume that shorthair cats don’t need this kind of grooming but the British Shorthair really benefits from a regular brush or combing session. My personal preference is one of those metal shedding combs but any brush or comb made for short coats is fine. This breed’s dense coat produces a lot of loose hair which your cat can swallow, causing hairballs.

During the spring, when your cat goes into moult, you should try to comb her at least once a week. Brush your cat’s teeth every week or so to prevent dental issues. Monitor her weight and make sure she gets enough exercise.

British Longhair Cats

British Longhairs are slightly higher maintenance. This breed is prone to mats in that long coat, making brushing imperative. Ideally, I would recommend brushing every other day. You will need to pay particular attention to the areas the cat may struggle to clean. Like their cousins, this breed can develop tooth problems, which you should address with regular tooth-brushing.

Address this breed’s obesity-proneness by monitoring any weight gain and making sure she eats a moderate amount of high-quality cat food; you can also help your British Longhair by making sure she gets plenty of exercises. Games are a great way to provide this. I like fishing-pole teaser toys for both British Shorthair and British Longhair cats — both have a rather fierce prey response which is often the only thing that can overcome their tendency to laziness. I also like those puzzle toys that reward activity with a treat.

Final Verdict

Either of these wonderful breeds would make a brilliant first cat. They are not biters, scratchers or furniture-wreckers. Both breeds are highly trainable and generally don’t suffer from attacks of contrariness or hostility. Although they love to be close to you, neither cat will require constant attention. They’re a good first cat for virtually any household: a great fit for a family home, especially one with dogs or young children, but also a splendid companion for a working singleton who can’t be home during the day. They have a low activity level and can happily entertain themselves with whatever toys you leave out, or simply nap the day away until it’s time to park themselves by the door to greet you as you come home.

If I absolutely had to pick one, I would lean towards recommending the British Shorthair over the British Longhair as your very first cat. The British Shorthair is lower maintenance than the Longhair. This is partly down to the logistics of coping with all that extra fur but also because of their proneness to kidney disease. They’re lovely cats but they do require just a little bit more upkeep than the British Shorthair.