Perhaps it may seem surprising that there is a pedigreed cat with very strict breeding standards that is known as the American Shorthair. Shorthaired cats are seen everywhere, all the time, in all color configurations. Yet, in 2012, the CFA reports that the American Shorthair was ranked at number seven among the most popular breeds of cat in the United States!
Shorthaired domestic cats arrived hundreds of years ago in America, having sailed over from England with the pilgrims aboard the Mayflower in 1620. Upon arrival, these cats joined the new American workforce as highly effective rodent hunters both in barns and in the fields. Years of natural selection and adaptation to their environments turned them into a strong, hardy breed with a dependably calm temperament. With the import of foreign breeds, however, the original American Shorthair bloodlines became diluted, a situation which convinced breeders to try to preserve the purity of the original Shorthair line.
Acceptance in the show ring was a long time coming for the American Shorthair, however. As late as the 1960s, American Shorthairs were treated like the poor relations of the cat family, and were not considered to be of eligible quality to merit appearing within the show circuits.
Breeders also had to deal with much confusion between their carefully bred American Shorthairs and randomly bred domestic cats. While a non-pedigreed domestic cat may look like a pedigreed American Shorthair, the mix of indiscriminate genes means that the domestic generally will not breed true; you cannot count on reliable reproduction of type, temperament, and length of hair as you can with a purebred American Shorthair.
The first American Shorthair to be registered in this country was an orange tabby male named Belle that, ironically, was imported from England in the early 1900s. It wasn't until 1904 that the first American- born American Shorthair (named Buster Brown) was registered under the breed name of Shorthair.
Later, the breed was renamed Domestic Shorthair, and in 1965 the breeders voted to change the name again, this time to the American Shorthair. The same year, CFA named a silver tabby male (Shawnee Trademark) Best Cat, and the breed finally began to receive some hard-earned respect in the cat fanciers’ world. Today, American Shorthairs are competing in show rings everywhere, and finally earning their due share of admiration and rosettes.
The American Shorthair is a very robust cat, with a larger, leaner, and more athletically-built body than its relation, the British Shorthair. Described as a "working cat,” it has a long tail and usually slender body. Males weigh eleven to fifteen pounds in maturity which isn’t reached for at least three to four years, where females weigh less, between eight and twelve pounds. A cat which relates well to everyone including children, strangers and other pets, it has few health risks as a result of its diverse genetic history. Considered one of the healthiest of all cats, with conscientious care and a nutritious diet, the American Shorthair can live up to 20 years!
With a breed standard that includes some eighty different colors, patterns, blends and combinations, the most popular may be the silver tabby since this color dominates more than a third of all American Shorthairs. Easy to understand why, its superb pattern of black embellishments on a field of silver fur makes a strikingly attractive statement.
While American Shorthairs are frequently praised for their sweet dispositions and charming facial expressions, they often do not like to be picked up, seeming to cherish their freedom – like their Pilgrim companions who sought their own independence.
The American Shorthair has distinguished itself as a happy medium in every respect: size, shape, coloration, attitude, temperament, lifestyle and preferences. If the perfect cat for you is one that will be content to spend some time in your lap without being overly obnoxious, the American Shorthair is your type of cat!
Barron’s Encyclopedia of Cat Breeds, J. Anne Helgren