Breed Group – British
A quarter of all kittens registered with the GCCF each year are British Shorthairs, making the British the most popular pedigree cat in the UK. The British is a patient, relaxed soulmate, forming strong bonds with human companions of all ages and being tolerant of other pets such as dogs and rabbits. Whilst not overly talkative, your British will take a great interest in the family routines and will make sure that he is always on hand to ensure things are done properly and on time! British kittens have an adorable teddy-bear quality which combines with a comical and affectionate personality. Slow to mature, the calm and easygoing British deserves his place as number one in the hearts of the British family.
The Romans introduced large numbers of cats to the United Kingdom as working cats to help reduce the rodent population. These cats interbred with the native wild cats of Great Britain to produce the native domestic shorthaired cat. The accepted date of origin of the British Shorthair as we know it today is 1870. Despite being popular at the Crystal Palace cat show of 1871, by the end of World War II, along with many other British cat breeds, the British Shorthair numbers were devastated. A number of careful breeders worked to recreate and restore numbers using a combination of British Shorthairs, Persians, Russian Blues, Burmese and other pedigree and non-pedigree shorthair varieties. It was a British Shorthair – a blue male named Brynbuboo Little Monarch – that was the first adult of any breed to gain the GCCF title Grand Champion. Virtually every British Shorthair today can track its ancestry back to this cat due to his use at stud and to the selling of his progeny.
Appearance and Colours
At first sight the British cat should be a gently rounded and well balanced cat. An essential feature is the expression which should be sweet and sincere and enhanced by large round eyes. With a full broad chest, short strong legs, rounded paws and a tail that is thick at the base and rounded at the tip, the British should look both compact and powerful. The British coat is a defining feature of the breed with more fur per square inch than any other breed. Only the British has the short, plush coat that is often described as crisp or cracking, referring to the way the coat breaks over the contours of the cat. Males should be significantly larger than the females and mature males tend to develop prominent jowls. Be patient – this breed takes up to five years to attain full physical maturity. The British can be found in all of the major colour and pattern groups. The British Blue is the ‘flagship’ of the breed, with almost half the breed registrations being the ‘self’ colours. The colours and patterns can be classified as follows:
British Self – These varieties are all one colour e.g. white, black, blue, lilac, chocolate, red, cream, fawn and cinnamon – all with orange eyes although you will also see the British White with blue, orange or odd eyes.
British Colourpointed and Colourpointed & White – These varieties have the coat pattern and blue eye colour of the Siamese.
British Tipped – These varieties have coats which are coloured at the tips and the eyes are usually green; you will most commonly see Black (silver) Tipped and Golden (non-silver) Tipped. You could say these are the shorthaired version of the Chinchilla and Golden Persian.
British Tortoiseshell, Tortoiseshell & White and Bi-Colour – These varieties have mixed colours with or without any white and cover both the dilute and dominant colour spectrums.
British Tabby – These varieties have tabby patterns in various colours (including silver) and can be found in the four tabby patterns of classic, spotted, mackerel and ticked.
The British personality is just like their appearance – strong, stable and, perhaps when mature, prone to laziness! Not a talkative breed, the British form strong bonds with their ‘people’ and are patient and tolerant companions. Although they are unlikely to roam far from home, the British should be supervised outside because their nature may be trusting, leaving your pet vulnerable to mishap. The British is suitable as an indoor only companion but this intelligent animal will need suitable stimulus and care must be taken to ensure that any tendency to weight gain is managed. The British is a four-square cat that prefers to have all four paws on the ground so may not wish to be carried about as an adult – but you will find that they are very happy to lounge on your laptop as you work! This is a wonderfully adaptable, confident cat that makes a superb family companion.
The British is a fairly easy cat to manage. As they are slow to mature, the British kitten should be fed kitten foods for at least the first year of age whilst bone is being laid down. Unless you are showing your British, the coat will not need regular shampooing but will require grooming during the moulting seasons to remove loose hairs from the dense coat. As the cat ages and becomes less able to groom itself, it may be that the coat will need attention to prevent mats from forming. Unlike the domestic shorthair breeds, the British is a noticeably sexually dimorphic breed. Males weighing in at 9 to 17 lbs (4.1 to 7.7 kg) and females 7 to 12 lbs (3.2 to 5.4 kg).
The British cat has a slow metabolism; whilst a healthy mature British will have a well-padded muscular body, we must be careful not to let this padding turn from muscle to excess fat. The British Shorthair is considered to be a long-lived cat, with a life expectancy of 14 to 20 years. PKD (Polycystic Kidney Disease), once a problem within the breed, is now under control thanks to the common use of available DNA tests by responsible breeders. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) can be a problem in the breed. There are no DNA tests yet available for HCM in the British breed. However, responsible breeders will take measures to ensure that any affected animals are not used in ongoing breeding programmes.