The American Shorthair is known for its longevity, robust health, calm disposition, good looks, friendliness and gentleness. It is a true native American breed that comes in a variety of colors, although it does not come in a pointed pattern like that of the Siamese. The best known American Shorthairs are the dramatically marked silver tabbies, which have been popular in commercial advertisements and movies.
The American Shorthair ranges in size from medium to large. It is well-built and powerful, with a short, dense coat and large, piercing round eyes. This breed is less square in shape and larger than its counterpart, the British Shorthair. It also has a more oblong rather than a round head, larger ears and longer legs. This is a low-maintenance breed that only requires occasional brushing to keep its coat fresh and manage mild shedding.
The ancestors of today's American Shorthair came to North America with early European settlers. Domestic cats reportedly were brought to America in the early 1600s, aboard the Mayflower and other ships, where they earned their keep by controlling ship-borne rats and other rodent populations. There was no indigenous feline population in the United States before the first European colonies were established. As early pioneers moved inland and developed the American frontier, their cats accompanied them and flourished as working family members. These cats were prized not only as pets, but also as talented hunters and rodent exterminators.
The domestic shorthair gradually populated the entire continent, in both domestic and feral environments. The rough conditions under which their early ancestors lived contributed to the strength and adaptability of today's representatives of this popular breed. By the 1700s, the domestic shorthair was a common member of American households. By the 1800s, they were also popular residents of many United States postal offices, where they kept the mail from being eaten by rats and mice.
Early in the twentieth century, a number of foreign feline breeds were brought to America and cross-bred with the now-native American shorthairs. This led to litters of kittens without reliable similarity in type or temperament. Fanciers of the domestic American shorthair began to breed their best specimens selectively, in an attempt to keep the breed pure in terms of disposition, body style, coat length, coat pattern and color. The Cat Fanciers' Association of America (CFA) recognized the Shorthair for registration in 1906, as one of its first five breeds. Originally called the Shorthair, and then the Domestic Shorthair, the breed's name was officially changed to the American Shorthair in 1966, after a lovely silver tabby won the title of US Cat of the Year in 1965.
American Shorthair cats are predisposed to developing a cardiovascular condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or HCM. Middle-aged and older cats are at an increased risk, and males may be predisposed (although the reason for this is not well-understood). Otherwise, this is a hearty breed that usually is long-lived.
Apart from their renowned hardiness, American Shorthairs are noted for their even disposition, intelligence and adaptability. Their calm nature makes them ideal pets and gentle companions for children, cats and dogs. This is a friendly, inquisitive and versatile breed that is extremely popular. In fact, the American Shorthair is one of the most popular breeds of domestic cats in North America, both in the show ring and as beloved household companions.
American Shorthairs are very strong and athletic. They have a natural intelligence, no doubt derived from the many years that their ancestors fended for themselves in the wild. They retain their native urge to hunt, to this day. They are active more so than reclusive, but they do not need a great deal of exercise to maintain their health or fitness. Regular play in the household, with other companion animals and/or people, is almost always sufficient to keep the American Shorthair fit and firm. Still, they will likely hunt if given the opportunity.
The American Shorthair is a skilled hunter. Its short, dense coat provides warmth and good protection from brush and undergrowth, and its hunting instincts are well-ingrained. This highly-adaptable animal is among the most popular of all American companion cats, due to its intelligence, sensitivity and trainability. These beautiful cats attract buyers from many different areas, but they should not be placed into homes indiscriminately. The American Shorthair is solid, refined and highly personable and requires close in-home care and almost constant attention. This is not a cat to be left alone for long periods of time, or it can become depressed and destructive.
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