British Shorthair - Breed Facts & Characteristics

How do you not fall for a British Shorthair? Their plump face and soft-as-silk fur draw you in but it’s their lovable demeanor that keeps you coming back for more. A barely audible meow yet huge purr marks this sweet breed, who will accept a cuddle on their own terms. Otherwise, the British Shorthair cat remains a steadfast observer and quiet comrade.

Official name: British Shorthair

Other names: British Blue, Shorthair

Origins: Great Britain

Close-up of a British Shorthair in black and white

Hair length


Family Pet*
Shedding level Very low
Cohabitation with other pet High
Grooming needs Low
Can stay alone*
Energy level* Low
Environment (indoor/outdoor) Low
Vocal tendencies Medium

* We advise against leaving pets alone for long stretches. Companionship can prevent emotional distress and destructive behaviour. Speak to your veterinarian for recommendations.

Every pet is different, even within a breed; this snapshot of this breed specifics should be taken as an indication.

For a happy healthy and well-behaved pet, we recommend educating and socialising your pet as well as covering their basic welfare needs (and their social and behavioural needs).

Pets should never be left unsupervised with a child.

Contact your breeder or veterinarian for further advice.

All domestic pets are sociable and prefer company. However, they can be taught to cope with solitude from an early age. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or trainer to help you do this.

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Illustration of grey British Shorthair
6 - 9 kg Weight
4 - 6 kg Weight

Baby cat Birth to 4 months
Growing kitten 4 to 12 months
Adult 1 to 7 years
Matur 7 to 12 years
Senior From 12 years

British Shorthair outside on wooden beam looking at camera


Get to know the British Shorthair

All you need to know about the breed

The British Shorthair is a great all-around feline and a wonderful choice for first-time cat owners. Their incredibly soft coat is the first of many appealing traits (and never mind that it comes in so many different patterns and colour combinations!), followed by their large round eyes, captivating to say the least.

An independent spirit, the British Shorthair cat is calm and reserved - how typically British of them! Upstanding in every way, the breed is very loyal to their owners and warmhearted, despite a somewhat independent streak. The British Shorthair cat is even adorably clumsy at times - let’s just say they won’t be winning any awards for agility any time soon. It’s aspects like these though that make them all the more endearing. The breed doesn’t reach physical maturity until they are at least three - if not five - years old.

One could describe the British Shorthair as more soft and squishy than lean and mean, but no matter: The British Shorthair has a personality that can be comical at times - imagine that, for a cat! The kitten energy of year one will die down into year two, and adult males are typically more active than their counterparts, but all around, this is a sensational pet to have at any stage, of their life, or yours.

Side view of a Bengal cat walking on grass


2 facts about British Shorthair

1. Don’t confuse the blues

The beautiful blue-grey colour of the British Shorthair is known far and wide as a hallmark of the breed, but they often get mistaken for the very popular Russian Blue, Chartreux, or the softer-hued Burmese. The British Shorthair breed however comes in a huge variety of colours and patterns, including deep red, chinchilla silver, and pure white.

2. Thick outerwear is so in 

The dense coat of the British Shorthair gives it a distinctive plush look but exists in multitudes: The loose fur of the British Shorthair breed spans more fur per square inch than any other breed. The cat may overheat as a result of their thickness, so as a result is not a huge cuddler.


History of the breed

Despite their British origins, the British Shorthair can trace their roots to Ancient Rome, a cross initially of a domestic breed and wild cats. They are thought to be the oldest breed hailing from Europe although they were not formally recognised as a show breed by the Cat Fanciers’ Association until 1980. Originally prized for their expert ability to catch mice, that role has now taken a back seat to their current one as keeper of domestic bliss.

For most, the breed is a very familiar face, used by Lewis Carroll as the model for his legendary Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland and for the bold cat in the childhood fairytale Puss in Boots.

Europe’s first well-documented formal show happened in London in 1871 at Crystal Palace. Best in Show was taken by a British Shorthair cat, at the ripe old age of 14!

Golden Retriever sitting facing camera in black and white


From head to tail

Physical characteristics of British Shorthair

1. Ears

Medium-sized ears, broad at base, curved tips, set far apart

2. Head

Round head and matching rounded cheeks. Males have larger jowls than females.

3. Body

Muscular body, short thick neck, short to medium-length yet powerful limbs

4. Tail

Somewhat short tail in proportion to body, thicker at base, tapering to tip

5. Coat

Velvet-like coat, short very dense fine fur, no double coat.

British Shorthair walking on grass


Things to look out for

From specific breed traits to a general health overview, here are some interesting facts about your British Shorthair

Better left indoors

Due to their very gentle nature, the British Shorthair is probably best as an indoor cat for the most part, to guard the breed from predators - which includes more wild animals like foxes and raccoons but also domesticated ones like neighboring dogs who may have a high prey drive. Keeping your cat indoors will also help them avoid diseases they can readily catch outside, like Lyme disease or common parasites.

Not exactly athletic….

Sweet and docile as the British Shorthair is, they won’t be winning an agility contest any time soon. The breed can easily gain weight given their propensity to sit back and take in the world, more of a “meh…” than “meow” approach to life. It’s something we appreciate as their owner but need to be wary of when it comes to guarding their health. Play regularly with your cat to keep her fit, and let her wander around the house and in the garden while observed. Keeping treats to a minimum and small, measured meals is best to keep that body as trim as possible.

Look out for gum disease.

The breed has a tendency toward gingivitis, a common irritation of the gums at the base of the teeth. Thankfully, this very early start to gum disease isn’t a reason to run to the vet but will, as with any medical condition, needs to be watched and cared for, as gum disease will progress if left unchecked. Brushing your British Shorthair’s teeth at least weekly will help prevent the build-up of tartar on both teeth and gums; daily brushing is optimal although can be difficult when it comes to feline cooperation...

Grey and white British Shorthair lying on a pool lounge


Caring for your British Shorthair

Grooming, training and exercise tips

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Ah, that plush coat! A pleasure to look at and not so bad when it comes to upkeep either. Grooming the British Shorthair is a fairly effortless task. The dense, soft hair needs little brushing - weekly at best - with more done at seasonal shedding times in the spring and autumn to keep it in top condition. Their extremely soft coat exists in one layer, as they do not sport a double coat.

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Despite their laid-back manner, the British Shorthair personality is full of benefits, starting with their high intelligence and unflinching loyalty. Given these character traits, the breed is an easy one to train, and demonstrated to have insight into commands that make them amenable. Whenever they are in the mood.

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British Shorthairs have a muscular but not athletic body; call them more bruiser than bodybuilder. Still, they should have outdoor time like all breeds to get in a daily dose of exercise. Keep them in your sights when they’re in the garden however to prevent any attacks by predators, including nearby dogs with a prey drive. Playtime indoors works just as well to keep this - or any cat - fit.


All about British Shorthairs

Very, but they are not cuddly. There is a difference: The British Shorthair is not a lap cat as a result of their thick fur. Cuddling too much will make them easily overheat. They prefer sitting by your side as a content companion. One thing they are known for: following owners around the house.

This is one breed with a fairly good life span, anywhere from 7 to 12 years, as long as they are given proper nutrition and a fair amount of exercise that will keep them in optimum health.


1 - Veterinary Centers of America

2 - Royal Canin Dog Encyclopaedia. Ed 2010 and 2020

3 - Banfield Pet Hospital

4 - Royal Canin BHN Product Book

5 - American Kennel Club