American Shorthair: Cat Breed Profile, Characteristics & Care

Appearance, Personality, History, Care, & Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Gray striped American Shorthair cat laying down and looking at camera.

 Pakin Songmor / Getty Images

The American Shorthair is a medium-sized cat with a gentle nature that makes this breed a great companion for families with children and/or other pets. Descended from cats that were brought over on European shipping vessels, the American Shorthair is one of the most popular pedigreed cat breeds in North America, thanks in no small part to these felines' endearing personalities and ability to adapt to a wide variety of circumstances. These sweet kitties tend to be happy and playful pets, but also have an independent streak that means they’re not quite as needy as some other breeds.

Physically, American Shorthairs are healthy cats with long lifespans (15 years or more). While they’re not quite known for their athleticism, American Shorthairs are surprisingly well-muscled and powerful—a trait established from all those years of hunting rodents on shipping boats. The most prominent feature of the breed may be their round face. As for their coats, the American Shorthair has short, thick fur that gets even thicker in the winter. These cats can be just about any color or coat pattern, although tabby is particularly common. 

Breed Overview

Personality: Gentle, affectionate, playful, easygoing, and curious

Weight: 11 to 15 pounds (males); 6 to 12 pounds (females)

Length: 12 to 15 inches

Coat Length: Short hair

Coat Color: Many colors, including white, silver, black, cream, blue, brown, and red

Coat Patterns: Tabby is the most common, although calico, tortoiseshell, bi-color, and solid are also acceptable

Eye Color: Hazel, gold, blue, copper, or green

Lifespan: 15 to 20 years

Hypoallergenic: No

Origin: United States

Gray striped American Shorthair cat.
 xia yuan / Getty Images

American Shorthair Characteristics

These cats are known for their easygoing, amiable personalities. Their round faces give them a sweet look that correctly conveys their temperaments. However, don't think that these are dull cats that laze around all day long; as descendants of hard-working mousers, American Shorthairs are still playful and curious felines that like to explore or bat around a crinkle ball or catnip mouse.

Often silver with black tabby markings, these are strikingly attractive cats. They get along very well in homes with children, other cats, or cat-friendly dogs, but they don't demand constant attention. Your American Shorthair can entertain itself with toys, spend time gazing out the window, clamber up and down a cat tree, or enjoy a good catnap when not spending time cuddling or interacting with you.

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly High
Exercise Needs Medium
Playfulness Medium
Energy Level Medium
Intelligence Medium
Tendency to Vocalize Medium
Amount of Shedding Medium

History of the American Shorthair

European settlers to North America brought a lot with them, including the ancestors of what we now refer to as the American Shorthair. This breed’s European forbears snagged a trip to the New World thanks to their affinity for hunting and catching rodents—a quality that was as prized on rat- and mice-laden shipping vessels as it was in the homes and barns of the country’s newest residents. It is believed that the ancestors of the American Shorthair came over on the Mayflower, and that they may have made the trip even earlier than that.

Once in America, these cats began to multiply, over time developing the traits that distinguish them as a unique breed. Due to their prized personalities, American Shorthairs were (and continue to be) selectively bred in an effort to maintain and propagate their many likable qualities. Many of their physical traits can be traced to their early days in the country, including a dense coat that was ideal for withstanding cold winters while working and hunting outdoors, a moderately large size, and a muscular body.

The name American Shorthair was given to the breed in 1966 to distinguish them from the domestic shorthair, which is randomly bred and does not carry such specific traits. Today, American Shorthairs are the sixth most popular pedigreed cat breed, according to the Cat Fanciers’ Association. 

American Shorthair Care

The American Shorthair loves to play and will happily do so—provided they’re in the mood. This breed enjoys socializing with their humans, though they have enough of an independent streak to entertain themselves as well, meaning you don’t usually have to worry about separation anxiety. Leaving interactive toys around the home will help ensure an American Shorthair gets enough exercise, as will setting aside one-on-one playtime. Since this breed does well with other cats, getting a kitty companion is another way to keep your American Shorthair active.

As for grooming, these cats may have short hair, but they do require regular brushing due to the thick nature of their coat. You can expect your American Shorthair to shed throughout the year, with peaks during the spring and fall. Weekly brushing is ideal for optimal coat health, and other standard grooming practices should be followed as well, including regular dental care, ear cleanings, and nail trims. 

Common Health Problems

American Shorthairs are robust, long-lived felines not genetically prone to any particular health issues. Like any cat, however, they can develop chronic or acute diseases, particularly if allowed to roam freely outdoors, where they are likelier to pick up parasites or come in contact with viruses and bacteria. Free-roaming cats are also likelier to be injured in accidents or ingest toxic substances.


A full-grown American Shorthair is a fairly large cat, but generally does not reach mature size until the age of three or four years. These beautiful cats have thick, short fur that can be a wide range of colors and patterns, but the overwhelming majority—75 percent, according to the Cat Fanciers' Association—are tabbies, with silver tabbies being especially popular. They can have a variety of eye colors, as well, although green and gold are quite common.

The body of an American Shorthair cat is muscular, with a powerful and sturdy appearance. Their heads are round, with widespread ears and large eyes. Male American Shorthairs tend to be larger than females.

These cats are moderate shedders, and they are not a hypoallergenic breed.

Diet and Nutrition

American Shorthairs are powerful cats who require strict nutritional oversight to ensure they do not get overweight—a trait to which this this breed is prone. While they are disposed to long lifespans and can live for up to 20 years in good health, this is dependent on a high-quality diet that provides enough fuel for their muscular statures without leading to excessive weight gain. If you’re concerned about how to properly feed your American Shorthair—or if your American Shorthair is overweight—talk to your veterinarian about proper feeding guidelines. 

As a general rule, your cat should eat a diet that is high in protein, moderate in fats, and low in carbohydrates. Whether that diet is all kibble, all wet food, or a mix of each is up to you, but remember that most cats, like most people, enjoy some variety in their meals.

Where to Adopt or Buy an American Shorthair

As a popular and fairly common breed of cat, you should have no problem in adopting or buying an American Shorthair. These lovable felines make a great addition to any home, especially those with children or other pets.

We always recommend starting your search with pet rescues. There are a few good places to start:

You can also search for the breed on rescue sites like Petfinder or Adopt-A-Pet. Be aware, however, that the majority of pets in rescues and shelters are mixes, not purebred animals.

If you are interested in purchasing a purebred American Shorthair, you can find a list of vetted breeders through The International Cat Association or by searching online for a registered breeder. You can also find American Shorthair breeders by visiting cat shows, where these popular cats are usually on display.

American Shorthair Overview

Sweet, easygoing, curious, playful, and affectionate: these cats make wonderful family pets, but because they are able to keep themselves entertained, they also do well in homes with a single adult. American Shorthairs are beautiful cats with thick fur in a wide range of colors, but most often, they dazzle in boldly striped coats. They are not hypoallergenic, however, and do shed moderately.

With their muscular bodies, befitting to a breed developed to hunt rodents throughout cold winters, these are not delicate felines, but they are still happy to spend time curled on their favorite human's lap or enjoy a game of catch the feather on a string.

  • Friendly and great household companions

  • Get along with other pets

  • Independent

  • Prone to weight gain

  • Require weekly brushing

  • Heavier than they look

More Cat Breeds and Further Research

There are plenty of wonderful cat breeds out there. Adopt an American Shorthair today, or simply go to the shelter and see who pulls at your heartstrings.

If you’re interested in other American breeds, check out:

Otherwise, check out all of our other cat breed profiles.

  • What's the difference between an American Shorthair and a domestic shorthair?

    While the names are similar, they are not interchangeable. American Shorthairs are a recognized breed of cat with breed standards set by various cat registries. By contrast, domestic shorthair is a generic term used to indicate a mixed-breed cat of indeterminate parentage; basically, these cats are the feline equivalent of a mutt. However, that doesn't mean they can't be wonderful pets.

  • How much do American Shorthair cats cost?

    The cost of a purebred American Shorthair depends greatly on the cat's parentage, appearance, and breeder, but as a general rule, these cats cost several hundred dollars, with particularly desirable, show-ring quality cats selling for $1,000 or more. Some breeders sell "pet quality" purebreds for considerably less, though.

  • Do American Shorthair cats like to be held?

    This is a very affectionate and easygoing breed of cat, so you can expect your American Shorthair to enjoy cuddling, stroking, and being held. But as with any cat, your pet prefers affection on its own terms, so if your cat begins to wiggle, sets its ears back, or shows other signs of annoyance, it's time to set it down.