The British Shorthair is the pedigreed version of the traditional British domestic cat, with a distinctively chunky body, dense coat and broad face. The most familiar colour variant is the “British Blue”, a solid blue-gray with copper eyes, but the breed has also been developed in a wide range of other colours and patterns, including tabby and colorpoint.
It is one of the most ancient cat breeds known, probably originating from Egyptian domestic cats imported into Britain by the invading Romans in the first century AD. In modern times it remains the most popular pedigreed breed in its native country, as registered by the UK’s Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF).
The breed’s good-natured appearance and relatively calm temperament make it a frequent media star, notably as the inspiration for Tenniel’s famous illustration of the Cheshire Cat from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In the more modern era, a blue British Shorthair is the subject of the original “I Can Has Cheezburger?” image, credited with popularising the lolcat phenomenon.
The British Shorthair is a powerful but compact cat that should give an overall impression of neatly balanced sturdiness, having a broad chest, strong thick-set legs with rounded paws and a medium-length, blunt-tipped tail. The head is likewise massive and distinctively rounded, with a short muzzle, broad cheeks (most noticeable in mature males, who tend to develop prominent jowls) and large round eyes that are deep coppery orange in the British Blue and otherwise vary in colour depending on the coat. Their medium-sized ears are broad at the base and should be set widely, not disturbing the overall rounded contours of the head.
They are slow to mature in comparison with most cat breeds, reaching full physical development at approximately three years of age. Unusually among domestic cats they are a noticeably sexually dimorphic breed, with males averaging 9–17 lb (4.1–7.7 kg) and females 7–12 lb (3.2–5.4 kg).
Coat and colour
The British Shorthair’s coat is one of the breed’s defining features. It is very dense but does not have an undercoat, thus the texture should be plush rather than woolly or fluffy, with a definitely firm, “crisp” pile that breaks noticeably over the cat’s body as it moves.
Although the British Blue remains the most familiar variant, British Shorthairs have been developed in many other colours and patterns. Black, blue, white, red, cream, silver, golden and—most recently—cinnamon and fawn are accepted by all official standards, either solid or in colourpoint, tabby, shaded and bicolour patterns; the GCCF and TICA also accept chocolate and its dilute lilac. All colours and patterns also have tortoiseshell variants.
They are an easygoing but noticeably dignified breed, not as active and playful as many but sweet-natured and devoted to their owners, making them a favourite of animal trainers. They tend to be safe around other pets and children since they will tolerate a fair amount of physical interaction. They require only minimal grooming and take well to being kept as indoor-only cats.