Although not listed on ships rosters, the American Shorthair came with early settlers to this country bringing their diverse backgrounds to form an "American" cat. They were "working cats" protecting the ships' stores on the long journeys. These early American cats were strong, hardy cats that earned their living status here with their hunting skills but were soon noticed for their intelligence and many varied colors and patterns.
In early cat exhibitions in the 1900 the shorthair cats then known as Domestic Shorthairs were represented. As more shorthair breeds were imported, dedicated breeders of the domestics began selective breeding to develop a cat of specific type. Although the American Shorthair is a natural breed, it is the process of selective breeding that has developed the American as we know it today. It was not until the early 1960s that the breed was renamed American Shorthair and began its rise in recognition and as a contender on the show circuit.
Americans are good-natured, easy-going cats, popular with families, as they are known to be very tolerant of children. They can be calm but are also playful even into old age. Female cats tend to be busier than the males; males are more easygoing. In general they are intelligent cats and quite interested in everything around them. Many Americans retain their hunting instincts with any insects that should venture into the house. They also like to watch birds and other activity from a windowsill. They enjoy the company of their people but retain their independence. Many are lap cats, while some prefer just to be nearby.
The standard relies heavily on the term medium. It is not a large, heavy boned cat as is the British. It is a very balanced medium size, medium boned cat, with a firm muscular feel to the body, well proportioned in all parts. The head is slightly longer than wide and with an open, sweet expression. Eyes are wide-set, medium to large in size proportionate with the size of head, rounded, which means the upper lid is shaped like half an almond and the lower lid is a fully rounded curve--the eyes should not be round as are the Exotic Shorthairs. The muzzle is medium-short with a full strong chin giving it a squarish appearance; ears are medium in size and slightly rounded at the tip set twice the distance between eyes. There are a number of different looks found in the Americans that are acceptable by the standard. Females are smaller than males with the balance of the cat being of most importance.
The coast is short, hard in texture, lustrous, dense enough to give a natural protective appearance. The color of the cat seems to affect the texture to some degree with the ideal coat most often found in the brown tabbies. Color and pattern are weighed equally with clarity of the marking in the patterns most desirable. Tabby and Tabby with white, usually with the classic pattern, have been the most popular for showing. The coat requires little extra care so unless being shown, a bath is rarely necessary; a weekly combing to remove dead hair will suffice. When bathed for a show care must be taken or the coat ends up too soft or fluffy.
Americans do not really mature until they are around three or four years old. The features of the breed are then at their best.
Health Issues Common to American Shorthair
All pedigreed cats have some sort of health problem, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Any breeder who claims that her breed has no health or genetic problems is either lying or is not knowledgeable about the breed. Run, don't walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on kittens, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her kittens are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons.
The American Shorthair is generally healthy, but some of the problems that affect the breed include hip dysplasia and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the most common form of heart disease in cats and causes enlargement (hypertrophy) of the heart muscle. You may have heard that it is caused by poor nutrition, but that isn't true; the disease is hereditary. If your veterinarian detects a heart murmur in your American Shorthair, an echocardiogram conducted by a veterinary cardiologist can confirm whether he has HCM. Avoid breeders who claim to have HCM-free lines. No one can guarantee that their cats will never develop HCM.
Hip dysplasia is a hereditary defect of the hip socket. It can be mild, causing little or no pain, or it can eventually lead to severe lameness. American Shorthairs with hip dysplasia may move slowly or avoid jumping. Depending on the severity of the condition, weight loss, medication or surgery can help to relieve pain. American Shorthairs who will be bred should have their hips x-rayed and graded by a veterinary orthopedic specialist at 2 years of age. Ask the breeder to show evidence that an American Shorthair kitten's parents are checked annually for heart murmurs and have hips that have been rated as fair, good or excellent.
It is always wise to buy from a breeder who provides a written health guarantee.
Pet Insurance for the American Shorthair
Pet insurance for purebred cats costs more than for mixed breed cats. This is because a purebred cat is more likely than a mixed breed cat to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.
Embrace cat insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which purebred cats are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your cat is when he's a healthy kitten. You can't predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can't get when you need it the most.