American Shorthair: Cat Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips, and 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 their 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 and slightly flat face, similar almost to a Persian in that respect. As for their coats, the American Shorthair has thick fur that gets even thicker in the winter and which can be found in more than 80 different colors and pattern combinations. 

Breed Overview

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

Length: 12 to 15 inches

Coat: Short

Coat Color: A wide variety of possibilities, including white, black, cream, blue, brown, chinchilla, tortoiseshell, cameo, and many more

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

Life Expectancy: 15 to 20 years

Gray striped American Shorthair cat.
 xia yuan / Getty Images

Characteristics of the American Shorthair

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 forbearers 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 barn of the country’s newest residents. It is believed that early American Shorthairs came over on the Mayflower, and that they may have made the trip even earlier than that.

Once in America, these cats began to breed, over time developing the traits that distinguish them as a truly American cats. 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. And 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.

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 from progeny to progeny. 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 has 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 brushings due to the thick nature of their coat. Weekly brushings are 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 relatively healthy cats, as evidenced by their long lifespans. However, the breed is prone to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a common form of heart disease that affects many different breeds of cats. While it is believed that HCM can be traced in part to genetics, the disease can appear in any cat and is not entirely preventable. If purchasing an American Shorthair from a breeder, ensure that both parents have been specifically screened for HCM. 

Diet and Nutrition

American Shorthairs are powerful cats who require strict nutritional oversight to ensure they do not get overweight—a trait that this breed is prone to. While they are disposed to long lifespans and can live healthy for up to 20 years, 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. 

Pros
  • Friendly and great household companions

  • Get along with other pets

  • Independent and don't mind being left alone

Cons
  • Prone to weight gain

  • Require weekly brushing

  • Heavier than they look, and may not be ideal for someone who has difficulty lifting objects

Where to Adopt or Buy an American Shorthair

Because American Shorthairs have been specifically bred for their most lovable traits, you should have no trouble finding a loving and affectionate cat of this breed.

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

You can also search for the breed on rescue sites like Petfinder, Adopt-A-Pet, and Overstock Pet Adoptions

If you are interested in purchasing an American Shorthair, you can find a list of vetted breeders through The International Cat Association.

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 similar breeds, check out:

Otherwise, check out other popular cat breed profiles.