As the Breed is believed to have evolved from cats brought to Britain by the Romans that bred with the British wildcat population, the British Shorthair is one of the oldest distinctive cat breeds in the world. 

Over time, the breed has developed into today’s naturally large, heavy boned and muscular cats with their short cashmere-soft, thick fur and amber eyes. They have a “kind”, teddy bear-like face, and a soft affectionate, people-loving nature, giving them a rather un-cat-like personality. 

The “father” of the modern British Shorthair breed is believed to have been Harrison Weir who is thought of as a pioneer of professional cat breeding. He created the British Shorthair “ideal” by selective breeding to achieve a recognised pedigree breed.

During the First and Second world wars the breed suffered massively from population decline, but numbers have since recovered thankfully!

Having been known in the past as the British Blue, the breed now comes in a variety of colours.

Pet profile

A playful, friendly, people-loving breed, and although they are not the cleverest cat they form strong bonds with their owners.

  • Size: A large cat on average.
  • Weight: Typically over 5kg.
  • Life expectancy: Long lived, typically 12-20 years with average life span in UK of about 12 years.


Exercise and nutrition

The British Shorthair is typically a laid-back cat. While they enjoy playing and love attention form their owners, this attention seeking is usually only in short bursts between naps! However, they are never afraid to play with anyone that’s interested as they love people and like being with you. 

If they are kept indoors, they will need to be given plenty of play time and lots of toys to replace the time that they would spend outside running, jumping and climbing. It is also advised that you provide plenty of places for your cat to snooze during the day.

As with most pure-bred animals, if you buy a British Shorthair from a breeder, they will usually advise you on a type of food and feeding schedule to keep to. As your kitten grows you will need to make changes to their feeding plan but it will need to be done carefully and slowly to avoid tummy upsets.

While older Shorthairs are not particularly fussy about their food, they should still be given good quality food that meets their nutritional needs, twice a day. It is best to keep a close eye on your cat’s weight - obesity will have a serious impact on their general wellbeing, and Shorthairs, if encouraged by poor diet or too many treats will become couch potatoes very easily! As with all cats, they should always have access to clean and fresh water.

Common health problems and illnesses 

Generally, the British Shorthair is a very robust and healthy breed. However, there are several conditions it pays to watch out for that the Shorthair can suffer. It’s best to consider buying pet insurance when your kitten is young so that you can get the best possible cover for the best price before any conditions show themselves. This will help you to cover any possible future vet fees and give your cat the vet care they deserve.  

PKD is a condition where cysts develop inside the kidneys of affected cats. Affected kittens will be born with the condition, but symptoms may not be noticeable until the cat is around 3 years old, but it can take up to 10 years to realise there is anything wrong. 

The kidneys of affected kittens contain small cysts. Over time, these will grow in number and size, resulting in kidney tissue and function loss. Eventually, they will suffer kidney failure.
The signs of this disease include more frequent urination, weight loss, poor coat condition, anorexia, increased water intake, depression and lethargy, vomiting or diarrhoea, nervous system issues such as seizures or blindness, anemia, or ataxia.

Diagnosis is usually through urinary and blood analysis and an ultrasound might be used to confirm the condition.

In most cases the cysts themselves are so small and numerous that surgery is not an option. However, once the condition has been identified, there are treatments that help limit the effects of this disease.
IV fluids may be given to address dehydration, and it can help to feed your cat wet foods. Specific food supplements may be advised, as well as medications to control symptoms.
There is no way to cure this disease so always buy from a reputable breeder and ask if they have screened their breeding cats for this disease.
Talk to your vet if you think your cat might be suffering from this condition.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is an abnormal thickening of walls of the heart, and the most common cause of heart disease in cats. The heart walls in sufferers become too muscular making the main heart chamber, small. This has the effect of reducing the general volume of blood that can be moved with each beat, can create abnormal blood flow in the heart and an abnormally dilated left atrium.

Due to the subtle nature of this condition, it can often go undiagnosed. A heart murmur, or arrhythmia, may be the first signs of this disease, however, there are several other warning signs. Rapid, laboured breathing, extreme lethargy, blood clots, and collapsing can be indicative of this condition, too.
In order to diagnose this condition your vet may do chest x-rays, an Electrocardiogram to find out of there is an abnormal rhythm, blood tests, blood pressure monitoring, and an Echocardiogram to pinpoint the issue.
Treatment for this condition can involve hospitalisation for several days to treat the effects of congestive heart failure. Other treatment might include oxygen therapy, diuretics, medication and blood pressure monitoring. Treatment will typically focus on lowering the impact of the condition using medication in order to give your cat the best quality of life possible. With the proper support, care, and medication, some cats with this condition can live for years.

Talk to your vet for advice on what to do if you think your cat suffers from HCM.

This condition occurs when the thyroid, a gland in your cat’s neck, produces too much thyroid hormone. This can be due to a benign tumour within the gland, or something more serious. 

Your cat might be hungrier than usual but lose weight despite eating more. They could be thirstier and need to wee more. The condition can create behavioural changes, such as general increased activity, restlessness and in more extreme cases, an increase in aggression. The fur of the cat may look greasy and poorly groomed.

This condition is treated in several ways. Medication can address the increased hormone levels, while radiation therapy or surgery are also options to remove the tumour. A prescription diet may also be recommended. Talk to your vet if you have any worries or think your cat might be suffering from Hyperthyroidism.

Fun facts

  • The British Shorthair may have been the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire Cat in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and because of the shape of their mouths the Shorthair is described as a “smiling” cat. 
  • The British Shorthair has been the most popular pedigree cat in the UK since 2001. 
  • This breed is particularly good with children - it is calm, confident, plays well with kids and loves the attention. 
  • Loved and owned by fashion designer Stefano Gabbana, singer Sam Smith and actress Sadie Frost, and an instagram favourite with 3.6 million posts tagged #britishshorthair as of 12th Nov 2018! 

British Shorthaired