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The American Shorthair
Full Breed Profile of the "All-American" Cat
Guest Feature Article by Michelle T. Bernard ©2003 - 2009

The American Shorthair (ASH) is thought to have originated from cats brought over on the Mayflower. These cats were employed on the ship as mousers. While today's ASH should still be able to hunt, most are far too busy being lap cats to be bothered by such a mundane task as mousing. When first registered and exhibited with The Cat Fancier's Association (CFA), the ASH was called the Domestic Shorthair. The name was changed to American Shorthair in 1965.

The ASH is a breed that should be moderate in all respects. There should be nothing exaggerated in its appearance. Exhibited in a rainbow of colors, the most common being the striking silver classic tabby and the brown classic tabby, the ASH is a medium to large-sized cat with females ranging from 8 to 10 pounds and males from 10 to 12 pounds.

The head structure of the ASH is one of the features that distinguishes the ASH from today's random-bred domestic shorthair. The head, when viewed from the side should be as broad as it is long. The eyes are large and wide-set with the top of the eye being round and the bottom almond-shaped. The standard (the description of the "perfect" ASH used by judges when evaluating show cats) calls for brilliant gold eye color for most colors except for silver tabbies who should have brilliant green eye color. Solid whites can be shown with gold, blue or odd eye (blue and gold) eye color.

The muzzle of the ASH should be square (capable of grasping prey) and the ears should be medium in size and low-set. The overall head structure should offer a wide-open, sweet expression.

The body should be medium-sized with a solid bone structure. The length of the body should be able to be divided into three equal parts. Excessive ranginess or cobbiness is faulted.

The coat should be short in length, thick and it should have some texture to it. While the coats of some colors, like the silver tabby, tend to have a longer, softer feel, the short length, textured coat is what is preferred.

The ASH, being a working cat, should present the appearance of a cat that would be able to withstand the elements, run through undergrowth and catch prey. It is normal for a slight pouch under the belly of the ASH which provides protection. The skin should also be slightly loose, again, for protection.

While we certainly do not want our ASH running around like wild cats, fending for themselves, they should still have all the necessary equipment.

The temperament of the ASH is like its body structure and appearance: moderate. They are very middle-of-the-road. Not too active, nor too sedate, the ASH is a wonderful cat to live with. Normally, they are not vocal and often will communicate in sweet chirps and squeaks. Many will open their mouths to meow and no sound comes out - a silent meow. They are great couch or bed cats and will happily follow their caregiver from room to room.

One aspect of the ASH personality that is important to know is that they are what we call "four-on-the-floor cats." They prefer to get around on their own steam. While some ASH may accept toting around, many will struggle to be put down if carried too far, too frequently. In fact, should your ASH become frightened while in your arms, it is usually safer for all concerned if you put the cat on the floor and restrain her there instead of in your arms. They tend to calm down more rapidly if their four feet are on a solid surface.

While ASH have the reputation of being great family cats, I do not think they are any better than many other breeds. It all depends on how they are brought up as kittens. Research breeders carefully. If you want a cat to be a child's companion, try to find a breeder who has children. While kittens tend to adapt to new situations, it will be easier to introduce a kitten to children if he has previously been exposed and handled by children. The same goes for previous exposure to dogs. If nothing else, find a breeder who raises kittens "under foot" in a home environment. This type of upbringing results in well-socialized, easy going kittens.

While the ASH is one of the more healthy breeds, there are a few hereditary diseases in some lines such as cardiomyopathy. Ask about the parents and grandparents of the kitten you are considering. If they are not alive, ask what they died from. Ask for references from the breeder. You should purchase your kitten with a health guaranty wherein the breeder agrees to replace the kitten should he be diagnosed with a hereditary disease.

Given healthy food, adequate exercise and a clean environment, your ASH should be with you for many years.


Michelle Bernard has spent over a decade digging into what makes cats bloom naturally with excellent health. A freelance writer who once bred and showed American Shorthairs, she has been keeping her own cats vibrantly healthy using a raw meat diet, homeopathy, and plain common sense since 1993. Michelle is renowned for her sound approach to rearing cats and her writing on many aspects of holistic cat care.

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