Oriental Shorthair: Cat Breed Profile, Characteristics & Care

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

Oriental Shorthair Cat laying on a bed in the sun

VittoriaChe / Getty Images

The oriental shorthair is a svelte cat with elegant features and a coat that comes in a rainbow of 300 color variations. Part of the Siamese family of cat breeds (which also includes the Balinese and oriental longhair), this beautiful "rainbow cat" is intelligent, athletic, and vocal—it is not shy about demanding attention. The oriental shorthair craves affectionate interaction with its family, both the human members and other pets.

Breed Overview

Other Names: Rainbow cat, Ornamental

Personality: Affectionate, playful, sociable, and vocal

Weight: Up to 12 pounds

Length: Up to 18 inches

Coat Length: Short hair

Coat Colors: White, black, gray, brown, orange (300 variations)

Coat Patterns: Solid, shaded, smoke, and tabby

Eye Color: Green, blue, gold, yellow; odd-eyes are possible

Lifespan: Up to 15 years

Hypoallergenic: Yes (somewhat)

Origin: England


The oriental shorthair is often considered a "hypoallergenic" cat. While no breed of cat is truly hypoallergenic, this breed generally produces less of the Fel d 1 protein that is responsible for triggering allergies in humans.

Spotted tabby oriental shorthair
Jehandmade / iStock / Getty Images 
Blue Oriental shorthair
Cynoclub / iStock / Getty Images
Black oriental shorthair in chair
JodiJacobson / iStock / Getty Images

Oriental Shorthair Characteristics

Considered an excellent pet, the oriental shorthair is outgoing and fun. This cat is gregarious by nature and, unlike many other breeds, can become withdrawn and depressed when left alone for more than a few hours at a time.

Most orientals enjoy meeting new people. Occasionally, a cat may become fixated on one person and be more evasive with other people, but this is more of an exception than the rule.

It should be noted that vocalization is a key part of the oriental shorthair’s personality, a trait shared among most cats of the Siamese family. An oriental will express excitement, interest, despair, or other emotions with a wide range of vocal sounds. Many oriental owners report that their cats carry on "conversations" with various meows and chirps.

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

History of the Oriental Shorthair

The oriental shorthair resulted from the crossbreeding of several other cat breeds. In the wake of World War II, many domestic cat breeds were in jeopardy. To revive the Siamese, English breeders introduced Russian blues, Abyssinians, and British shorthairs into their lines.

At first, each non-pointed hybrid received a unique breed distinction, but breeders soon realized that the gene pool of these cats harbored a vast array of color combinations. To simplify classification, all non-pointed kittens became known as orientals.

The oriental was introduced to the United States in the 1970s and quickly gained championship status from the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) in 1977. Initially, the breed was only a short-haired variety, but further crossbreeding in the US led to both the oriental shorthair and oriental longhair breed varieties. The oriental longhair received championship status from the CFA in 1995.

Crossbreeding in the United States further expanded the breed's coat color combinations, leading to the approximate 300 varieties of colors and patterns existing today. The oriental is sometimes called the "rainbow cat" for its colorful coat.

Oriental Shorthair Care


The oriental's short, silky coat is low-maintenance, and this cat does an excellent job of self-grooming. However, your cat might appreciate an occasional brushing to remove any loose hair and stimulate the skin. 

Regular ear-checks, dental cleanings, and nail trims are also important parts of keeping any cat well-groomed.


Oriental shorthairs thrive on interactive stimulation and enjoy learning skills such as walking on a harness, performing tricks, and playing fetch. These cats are considered to be very interactive and enjoy playing with human family members or other cats or even dogs. It’s often recommended that you make sure your oriental has a furry companion.

Orientals love leaping and climbing to high vantage points—like refrigerators or cabinets—to keep an eye on activities down below. You can encourage safe (and potentially less destructive) climbing by providing a tall cat tree with lots of levels for active play.

Common Health Problems

With a genetic history closely intertwined with the Siamese, oriental shorthairs are predisposed to the same health problems as their pointed relatives. In general, however, the breed is considered healthy.

Health conditions observed in oriental shorthairs include:

  • Bladder stones
  • Liver and kidney amyloidosis
  • Mast cell cancer
  • Crossed eyes


A smooth, silky coat that lies close to the body accents the breed’s angular face, wide-set ears, and long legs. The oriental shorthair is a medium-sized cat with a long, lean build and somewhat exaggerated features (ears, nose, and eyes).

Diet and Nutrition

Keeping your oriental shorthair healthy requires feeding high-quality cat food. Feed the appropriate amount of food at scheduled times to avoid excessive snacking and weight gain.

Where to Adopt or Buy an Oriental Shorthair

The oriental shorthair gained rapid popularity after being imported to the United States, and today the breed enjoys a healthy fan base. Because of this popularity, there are many oriental shorthair breeders. In addition, regional and national groups help re-home displaced oriental shorthair cats.

Some resources to check out as you search for an oriental shorthair include:

Oriental Shorthair Overview

The oriental shorthair looks svelte and elegant while retaining a playful personality. It loves being with humans—cuddling, walking, playing, and "talking" with its distinctive voice. The only trouble with owning an oriental is the fact that this cat requires attention. Almost dog-like in its personality, the oriental loves being involved in its owner's daily life and will almost certainly become depressed if ignored or left alone for too long.

  • Outgoing and friendly

  • Beautiful coat colors

  • Generally healthy

  • Tends to vocalize a lot

  • Climbs to high places

  • Needs almost constant companionship

More Cat Breeds and Further Research

If you’re interested in similar breeds, check out:

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

  • How much does an oriental shorthair cat cost?

    An oriental shorthair can cost anywhere from $500 to $1,000, depending on the quality of the cat (pet or breeding quality).

  • How big do oriental shorthair cats get?

    These cats grow to be about 12 pounds at maturity.

  • Where did the oriental shorthair originate?

    Oriental shorthairs were created in England in the 1950s by crossbreeding Siamese cats with other breeds like the Russian blue and British shorthair.

Article Sources
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  1. Satorina, J., Szalai, K., Willensdorfer, A. et al. "Do Hypoallergenic Cats Exist? Determination of Major Cat Allergen Fel d 1 Production in Normal and Hypoallergenic Cat Breeds." Clin Transl Allergy 4, P11 (2014).