Oriental Shorthair Cat: Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and 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 colors, with up to 300 color combinations possible. Part of the Siamese family of cat breeds (which also includes the Siamese, Balinese, and Oriental Longhair), these cats are intelligent, athletic, and vocal.

The Oriental Shorthair is often included on lists of cat breeds that are hypoallergenic. While no breed of cat is truly hypoallergenic, there is some thought that this breed produces less of the Fel d 1 protein that is responsible for triggering cat allergies, however this varies greatly from one cat to another.

Breed Overview

Weight: 8 to 10 pounds

Length: About a foot and a half long

Coat: Short and smooth

Coat Color: Many different colors possible; including solids, shaded, smoke, and tabby color combinations.

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

Life Expectancy: 10 to 15 years

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

Characteristics of the Oriental Shorthair

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 a number of other cat breeds. In the wake of World War II, many domestic cat breeds were in jeopardy. To revive the Siamese, breeders in England began introducing Russian Blue, Abyssinian, and British Shorthairs into their lines. The result was non-pointed kittens that were eventually bred back to Siamese cats. Those subsequent crosses produced Siamese-pointed kittens that would carry on the breed, along with unique and elegant color combinations that became the foundation for the breed we know as the Oriental.

At first, each non-pointed color received a unique breed distinction, but breeders soon realized that the gene pool of these cats would result in an vast amount of color combinations. To simplify things, 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 United States 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 also further expanded the cat’s coat color combinations, leading to the approximate 300 varieties of colors and patterns existing today. The Oriental is sometimes referred to as the rainbow cat for its colorful coat.

Oriental Shorthair Care

Considered an excellent pet, the Oriental Shorthair is outgoing and fun to interact with and observe. They are gregarious by nature, and unlike many other breeds of cat, can become withdrawn when left alone for extended periods.

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. Many Oriental owners report that their cat often greets them at the door when they return home and will begin to vocalize with various meows and chirps.

It should be noted that vocalization is a key part of the Oriental Shorthair’s personality, a trait shared between cats of the Siamese family. These cats often express excitement, interest, despair, or other emotions with a wide range of vocal sounds.

Unlike other breeds of cat that may be stranger-shy, most Orientals enjoy meeting new people and will eagerly ask for attention by hopping into the lap of a visitor. Occasionally, this breed becomes fixated on one person and might be more evasive about interacting with other people, but this is more of the exception than the rule.

These cats can be taught tricks, are often adept at walking on a harness when trained at an early age, and may even enjoy playing fetch. They also have an incredible vertical and often enjoy perching themselves on high spots (like the top of a refrigerator or cabinets) to keep an eye on activity down below.

A smooth, silky coat that lies close to the body accents the breed’s angular face, wide-set ears, and long legs. The coat is low-maintenance, with the Oriental Shorthair doing an excellent job of self-grooming. However, your cat might appreciate an occasional brushing to remove any loose hair and stimulate the skin. 

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 generally considered to be healthy.

Health conditions that have been observed in Oriental Shorthairs include:

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

Diet and Nutrition

Keeping your Oriental Shorthair healthy requires feeding a high-quality cat food. Don’t let their vocal nature sweet talk you into too many treats!

  • Outgoing and friendly

  • Good with strangers

  • Tends to vocalize a lot

  • Perches on high spots

Where to Adopt or Buy

The Oriental Shorthair gained rapid popularity after being imported to the United States, and today the breed enjoys a healthy fan base thanks to its myriad colors. These cats are sometimes even nicknamed Ornamentals due to their wide range of colorful coats. Because of this popularity, there are many Oriental Shorthair breeders.

You should also considering open your home to an Oriental from a cat rescue. Both regional and national groups exist to find a new home for displaced Oriental Shorthair and Longhair cats.

Some resources to check out as you search for an Oriental Shorthair include:

More Cat Breeds and Further Research

The more you know about the Oriental Shorthair, the more you’ll understand about this unique and outgoing member of the feline world. If you’re evaluating whether this cat is the right one for you, reach out to breeders and cat owners to get more information on the breed’s unique disposition and needs.

Other closely related breeds you might be interested in learning about include:

  • How much are Oriental Shorthair cats?

    Big-eared Oriental Shorthairs cost from $500 to $1000.

  • How big do Oriental Shorthair cats get?

    From eight to 12 pounds at maturity.

  • Where does the Oriental Shorthair originate?

    A very close relative of the Siamese, there is conflicting information about the history of Oriental Shorthairs, a man-made breed. Some believe they were created in England in the 1950s, and not imported to the United States till the 1970s. Others, that the breed was created by New York breeders in the 1970s.

  • What cats do you breed to get an Oriental Shorthair?

    Oriental Shorthairs are basically Siamese cats with different colored coats. They were originally created by mating Siamese with Russian Blues, Abyssinians, American Shorthairs, and the Polycat.

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). https://doi.org/10.1186/2045-7022-4-S2-P11