The American shorthair cat has been part of the American story for as long as non-natives have called this country home. The cats started their lives here as workers, keeping households and barns rodent-free, so they’ve earned every nap they enjoy today. The American shorthair is friendly and relaxed, and they’re easy keepers, thanks in part to their independent streak.

Physical characteristics of the American shorthair cat

The American shorthair should not be confused with the more generic domestic shorthair breed. While many domestic shorthair cats resemble the American shorthair, true American shorthairs come from purposeful and specific breeding.

North America has no native cat species from which domestic cats could have developed, so American shorthair cats share their history with many non-indigenous Americans—they arrived by boat. Ships that carried European settlers to America typically had cats aboard to deal with the rodent population, and the breed comes from these forefathers.

Originally called the domestic shorthair, the breed was one of the first five that the Cat Fanciers’ Association recognized, in 1906. In 1965, breeders voted to change the name to American shorthair to distinguish it from the more common, run-of-the-mill domestic shorthair.

American shorthairs have slightly shorter muzzles than their mixed-breed cousins, and they sport large, round eyes that give them an adorable, pixie-like appearance. They are strong and well-balanced, medium length, with muscular legs and a broad, straight back. Their large head bears a sweet expression.

Personality and temperament of the American shorthair cat

American shorthairs are even-keeled and playful. While they hold their independence dear, they are sociable and enjoy being a lap cat, albeit on their terms.

Their working-cat history makes American shorthairs especially good hunters, and they will happily chase a toy if live prey is unavailable. American shorthairs can be trained to play a game of fetch with a ball or wad of paper, and even to sit for their dinner.

American shorthairs are generally amenable to sharing a home with children and other pets, provided that the children are well-versed in handling cats appropriately.

Common health concerns for the American shorthair cat

The American shorthair cat is generally a hardy, healthy breed, with an average lifespan of 13 to 17 years. Reputable breeders try to eliminate major health concerns through responsible breeding, but some diseases inevitably remain. Common concerns in the American shorthair cat include:

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)

Feline HCM is the most commonly diagnosed cardiac condition in cats. In HCM, the heart’s muscular walls become thickened, rendering it less effective at pumping blood through the body. HCM can eventually lead to congestive heart failure, and may result in fatal arrhythmias and blood clots.

Diabetes mellitus

All the body’s cells need glucose (i.e., sugar) to function. The hormone insulin is responsible for transporting glucose into the cells, but diabetic animals do not have enough insulin, which results in high blood sugar and starving cells.


Hyperthyroidism results when a benign thyroid tumor increases the circulation of thyroid hormone. The most commonly diagnosed hormone imbalance seen in cats, hyperthyroidism’s most obvious sign is weight loss despite a normal or increased appetite.

Other health concerns include:

  • Colonic cancer
  • Dental disease
  • Renal failure
  • Polycystic kidney disease
  • Allergies
  • Urinary tract disease

Caring for the American shorthair cat

You’ll be hard-pressed to find an easier cat to care for than American shorthairs. Like all cat breeds, they are keen on keeping clean and will handle the majority of their grooming themselves. You will want to trim their nails twice monthly and invest in sturdy scratching posts to save your furniture and carpet from their innate need to scratch.

American shorthairs are typically a healthy breed, but, like all pets, they need yearly veterinary exams once they have completed their kitten vaccines. Indoor and outdoor cats alike should be kept on heartworm preventive in areas endemic for heartworm, and flea and tick prevention is imperative for outdoor cats no matter where they live.

Home and veterinary dental care will be needed over their lifetime, so owners should ensure they get their cats accustomed to regular tooth brushing using pet-specific toothpaste while they are kittens.

The American shorthair cat is the perfect cat for you if:

  • You want an independent pet
  • You enjoy a lap cat from time to time
  • You have other pets
  • You are a single owner looking for companionship
  • You have a family that includes children
  • You want a cat that can be trained
  • You need a good hunting cat