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Breed History

THE BRITISH SHORTHAIR CAT


Close your eyes and imagine the archetypal cat. A cobby, four-square cat ..…... a people cat ..…... a ‘companion’ cat ....... a lap-cat ....... and occasionally “I’ll sit on your lap when I feel like it, thank you!!” cat ....... a purring machine on short sturdy legs ....... a “teddy-bear” cat ....... in fact the feline friend for life.


Welcome to the World of the Wonderful British Shorthair.


The character and appearance of this enchanting cat has captured the hearts of owners throughout the years, and made them one of the most popular breed of cat around. They originated due to the devotion of a small band of dedicated breeders who obviously recognised the quality in these cats. Sir Claude and Lady Alexander of the “Ballochmyle” prefix founded the British Cat Club in 1901 (this Club is no longer in existence), and were pioneers in the development of the breed. Together with great fanciers such as Reverend Basil Rees, Miss Cochrane, Mrs Abell, Mrs Dimperline, etc. the breed and its many colours was established. The building blocks of the breed were the domestic short-hairs to be found in towns and villages across the country. The best examples of these animals were bred from in an effort to establish a ‘type’ and colour standard. From the days of the early cat shows, it was realised that, particularly with the blue colourway, there were two distinct types. Some cats had the round, full head and cobbier body of the modern British cat and some had a finer, longer head and body similar to the foreign cat. In fact kittens from one litter could at that time be registered as British Blue Shorthairs or Russian Blue, depending on the type. Many of today’s owners can trace their cat’s pedigrees back to a mixed litter of British and Russian cats, and indeed some of the most well-known lines in the British Shorthair breed were originated this way.

The modern standard calls for a compact, well balanced and powerful cat, showing good depth of body, full broad chest, short strong legs, rounded paws, thick tail with rounded tip. Small ears, round cheeks, firm chin, large round and well-opened eyes and a short broad nose. The coat to be short and dense. All in all a strong, muscular cat, with an alert appearance.

The rainbow of colours and patterns in which this breed is now produced is most impressive considering the humble beginnings. Colours as diverse as white, black, blue, red, cream, chocolate, lilac, tortoiseshell, blue-cream, and the latest cinnamon and fawn. All these are possible with the addition of white, resulting in bi and tri-colours. Patterned cats include the tabby, spotted, colour-pointed and tipped. Eye colour varies from gold or copper in the self and bi and tri-colours, to green in the tipped, blue in the colour-pointed, and hazel or green in the black version of the silver tabby and silver spotted, the rest having gold eyes as their self counterparts. The British blue is still the most popular choice, closely followed by the Silver Tabby, although at long last the diversity of colour and pattern, which exists in the British Shorthair breed, is being recognised. This is due in no small part to the fact that breeders are now showing many different colours and patterns, and bringing these to the attention of prospective kitten owners.

British Shorthair cats make excellent pets, but like most things in life you only get out what you put in. Lots of love and attention will be repaid one-hundred fold from these lovely animals. Although cats are regarded as independent creatures and spend a large amount of their time asleep or merely resting, they do appreciate company.

The British Shorthair will quite happily live indoors, a much safer environment for it, or any cat, when one considers the dangers of traffic, the evil intent of some people, and the diseases which can be transmitted from one outside cat to another. Where there is no human company during the day, due to owners working etc., then it is kinder to have two cats as company for each other. This will apply to any breed – cats are generally social animals and appreciate companionship.

The character of the British Shorthair cat is generally one of a gentle, willing to please, playful and affectionate nature. They are a quiet cat, happy to be with you at all times. Some are willing lap-cats, but there is the occasional one who deems itself ‘too grand’ to sit on a mere mortal’s knee but none the less will still want to be as close to its owner as possible. They enjoy games with a small toy or ball, as long as they are getting the owner’s attention. They can be lazy at times and love nothing more than snoozing in front of the fire in Winter, or in a sunny spot in Summer watching the World go by. As with all cats they are prone to short bursts of activity and will rush back and forth, up and down the stairs in a chaotic game of their own making, causing havoc as they go (two or three can cause far more chaos than one!!). This urge to exercise usually comes over them around 11.00 pm each evening, as devoted and exasperated owners will tell.

The general health of the British Shorthair is good, with no apparent weaknesses and they have an average life span into their late teens. The care of these cats, as with all cats, is just general common sense. They need good quality food supplied at regular times, a bowl of fresh water to be available at all times. Cats are extremely clean, fastidious animals and under normal circumstances the most attention that a British Shorthair cat requires is love - and plenty of it. Due to the short coat of this cat hand-grooming and a gentle brush once a week is all that is needed to keep it in good condition. A rub over with damp hands will help to remove any of the dead hair from the coat. When the cat starts to moult, as it will possibly once or twice a year, then a daily grooming is necessary to alleviate the threat of the fur-ball. A warm bed, out of draughts, should be provided - you will probably find that the type they prefer are around 24” off the floor, have an area of 4’ 6” x 6’ 0” and are usually covered with duvets!!

The British Shorthair cat has quite rightly become one of the most popular breeds of cat over the years. Many new owners are discovering their delights, and you only have to look on today’s show benches to see the pride that owners feel towards their pets. ‘British’ are a joy to own (if ever one can own a cat!) and repay love and affection without question. Anyone wanting a cat with looks, temperament and presence would be well advised to consider a British Shorthair.

For further cat-related information please visit the official web-site of the FELINE ADVISORY BUREAU - www.fabcats.org