The Breed History
This is the National cat of the British Isles. These cats derived from British domestic shorthaired street cats ("moggies"), cats that may have first arrived in the region during Roman incursions. During WW II, most of these cats were lost. Rejuvenation of the breed occurred due to careful breeder outcrosses carried out for a period following the war. When compared with the American and European Shorthairs, this cat has a much rounder head. Lewis Carroll in "Alice in Wonderland" made the British Shorthair tabby the model for the Cheshire cat.
In Britain, this breed may be referred to as the "Shorthair". This breed is still rarely seen in North America. The CFA first recognized this breed in 1980. No outcrossing is allowed in CFA though some other registries still allow selected outcrossing to Persian, American and European Shorthair, and Chartreux; these may not be eligible for CFA registry.
Weight: 9-18 lb (4-8 kg), females smaller than males
Coat: The short, dense, plush soft single coat is accepted in most colors and patterns. Lavender, chocolate, and Himalayan pointed coloring are not allowed in CFA, but TICA allows chocolate and lavender. Hair texture is hard, not wooly. By far, the most frequent color seen is the British Blue: tabby markings may fade after six months of age. This is a slate grey color.
Coat is water repellant.
Eyes: Large, round, and usually copper to gold. Silver, golden, and shaded silver cats have green to hazel eye color.
Points of Conformation: Cobby (heavily set), short thick boned limbs, with broad thorax, and a large round head. Ears are small with rounded tips. The muzzle is moderately short, nose is short and broad and with a slight dip, whisker pads are prominent (resulting in the so-called "Cheshire grin"). Paws are moderately sized and round, and they possess a thick medium length tail with a round tip. Russian Blues have green eyes, they are less cobby, the coat is more open, and they are smaller cats than the British Blue.
Grooming: Low grooming needs; one can just hand groom quickly every few days. When bathing, avoid blow drying. More frequent grooming needed while shedding.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Reported breed characteristics include: Likes human companionship but is not demanding and not considered a lap cat. Not known as jumpers and climbers. The British Shorthair is considered very appropriate with children and other pets. Quiet cats with a pleasant voice, they are suited for therapy cats, and travel well.
Normal Breed Variations
Slow to mature (three to five years), later sexual maturity compared with American Shorthair cats.
Easy birthing and litters average four to five kittens.
These cats may tend to become obese if not limit fed.
Blood Type B: Frequency of B blood type in a 1991 American study found 50 of 85 cats in that group to be type B (proportion was 0.588).1 In another report, a frequency of 36% blood type B was reported.2 In the UK, in a study group of 121 British Shorthair cats, 58.7% were type B, and 1.6% type AB.3 These data show that there is considerable regional variation in the distribution of the B blood type allele.
None reported in the literature
Feline Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM): This is the most common cardiac condition in cats (10% prevalence), and a fairly common condition in some British Shorthairs; possibly inherited.
This condition affects mostly middle age to older cats, clinical signs seen more often in males.
Serum cardiac troponin 1 levels (cTnI), a marker of myocardial damage may be elevated in the face of normal echo findings according to early studies and may be useful in future screening for at-risk cats, though further studies are needed.
Neonatal Isoerythrolysis (NI): Increased risk should be considered in this breed due to prevalence of type B blood; testing before mating especially in regions of higher prevalence may prevent adverse events. The proportion of matings at risk for NI was reported to be 0.24.
Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD): Can occur in the breed with the Persian mutation. (See under Persian). A genetic test is available.
Transfusion Reactions: Increased risk should be considered in this population due to prevalence of type B blood. Before transfusion, blood typing will help identify cats at risk.
Calcium oxalate urolithiasis: A case control study of ~15,000 cats affected with urolithiasis and ~150,000 unaffected cats over 15 years reported British Shorthair cats at increased risk.
Gingivitis: Anecdotal reports of increased prevalence.
FIP susceptibility: A study in Australia confirmed that the British Shorthair breed cats were over-represented.
Rare and Isolated Reports
Congenital Cataracts: An older case report identified congenital cataracts in this breed and it was proposed by the original authors to have an autosomal recessive inheritance pattern.
Factor IX Deficiency (Hemophilia B): A sex-linked recessive gene which produces mild to moderate bleeding tendencies in males and females, with normal carriers has been reported. In reference to one older case report, in one cat, clinical signs were reported first at surgery (had 27% of normal factor activity); in other cases, excessive spontaneous hemorrhage (n=2, with <5% factor activity) occurred. Cases reported were from one family of cats from Philadelphia in 1984.
Another published report described onset of periodic shifting lameness at four months of age, with ongoing gingival bleeding at six months old in the index kitten. Relatives of this index cat were tested and pedigree analysis was carried out to confirm the inheritance pattern. Female carriers had intermediate Factor IX activity (One was 67%, one 88%, another 80%, though carriers typically have activity of the factor in the range of 40-60%); female carriers are usually clinically normal. Some of the male kittens in related litters died young. Subcutaneous hematomas may also been seen in affected individuals. Note that when getting blood samples to assay Factor IX, stress activation of the factor may artificially increase levels assayed. It was proposed to be the explanation for higher than expected factor activity levels in these assayed carrier females.
Primary Hypoadrenocorticism: Single case reported in 1999; only 11 naturally occurring cases have been reported in the literature. The case involved a two year old female cat presented with lethargy, weakness, constipation, and hypothermia.
Hereditary Deafness: Is associated with the dominant gene for white cat (W); may be found in white cats of this breed.
Testing for B blood type would be prudent before mating and transfusions due to prevalence of B blood type in the breed. Also test young cats with episodes of bleeding, excessive gingival bleeding, periodic shifting lameness (hemarthrosis) and subcutaneous hematomas, for factor IX and coagulation profile for suspected Hemophilia B.
HCM screening recommendations not set for this breed, but until further information is available, may consider echo screening for breeding animals.
Direct genetic test for PKD is available from UC-Davis VGL.
- Breed name synonyms: for tipped cats-Chinchilla Shorthair,
Historical Synonym: British Blue (since original cats were blues). Also: Brit, National Cat of Britain, Blue Cat
- Registries: FIFР№ (as the "British"), TICA (British Shorthair and British Longhair), CFA, ACFA, CFF, NZCF, WCF, ACF, GCCF (as the "British")
- Breed resources: Southern British Shorthair Cat Club: british-shorthairs.co.uk/
CFA British Shorthair Breed Council: britishshorthairbc.org/bshbc001.htm
Colourpointed British Shorthair Club: colourpointedbritish.co.uk/index.html
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