Everything you need to know about British Shorthair Cats

Written by Napo HQ
Reviewed by Dr Louisa Lane
16th Aug 2022
7 mins read
The image shows a blue British Shorthair kitten on a plain blue background
The traditional British domestic cat. The British Shorthair is well known for its sweet rounded face and characteristic “Cheshire Cat smile”. They might not be the cuddliest cat, but they love to stay near their humans and are very loving, loyal companions.

Key Stats

Medium to Large
14-17 years
Short, plush
30 mins daily
Loyal, loving, calm

Breed history

British Shorthairs have a long history. It’s thought that the Romans first brought domestic cats to Britain from Egypt, to help control the rodent population. These domestic cats then bred with the native European Wildcat population.
Their wild ancestors gave the British Shorthair their stocky build and hunting instinct. But the domestic cat side of their family meant they were still happy to be around humans. And so, the first British domestic cats were born.
Things stayed that way for nearly two thousand years. It wasn’t until the 1800s that cat fanciers began “refining” the breed, selectively breeding for certain temperaments and traits. And that’s how the British Shorthair came to be.

The photo shows a British Blue, a kind of British Shorthair cat, lying on a teal satin bedspread

The British Shorthair is a pretty big cat. They have a strong, stocky body, with thick legs. Although they look rounded, these cats are powerful with plenty of muscle hidden under that thick fur.
One of their most recognisable traits is their round faces and sweet expression. It gives them the appearance of an inquisitive teddy bear! They’re also famous for their “Cheshire cat smile”. (They were the inspiration for the Cheshire Cat, after all!)
Although British Blues (a colour variation of the British Shorthair) are famous for their amber eyes, this breed’s eyes can come in a few colours. Their eyes range from amber to green, gold, and copper depending on their coat colour. Meanwhile, their noses can be either black or a shade of pink or red.

British Shorthair colours

Without a doubt the most famous colour of British Shorthair is blue. These gorgeous grey cats are known simply as “British Blues”, but they aren’t a distinct breed. They’re simply a colour variation of the British Shorthair.
British Shorthairs come in a wide variety of colours. Including:
  • Black
  • Blue
  • Silver
  • White
  • Red
  • Cinnamon
  • Cream
  • Golden
  • Fawn
  • Lilac
  • Chocolate
British Shorthairs don’t just come in solid colours though. All of those colours can come in different patterns, like bi-colour, seal point, shaded, tabby, and tortoiseshell. So as you can see, there are dozens of potential colour variations your cat could be!

British Shorthair temperament 

British Shorthairs are known to have a calm and friendly temperament and are very easygoing cats. 
They aren’t too fond of being picked up and hugged. But, they are patient and will usually tolerate a bit of physical affection. However, British Shorthairs much prefer low-key affection. They’ll stay close to their owners, lying at their feet or next to them on the sofa. They even enjoy a little light petting when they’re in the mood. 
British Shorthairs are still very loyal pets. These cats have a tendency to follow their favourite human around the house to stay close to them. And although they’re usually quiet, your British Shorthair might “chat” with you from time to time, and they have a surprisingly soft, low voice.
'My British shorthair, Hıdır, is the coolest cat I've ever met. He's playful at some times but mostly, he likes his own company. I just love how he likes listening to our conversations at home, when we gather in the living room and chat, he'll sit in between us and listen to us chatting away.''
Deniz - Napo’s lead customer champion, and owner of handsome Hıdır the British Shorthair

The photo shows a lilac and cream British Shorthair lying down, looking at the person taking their photo.

How much exercise does a British Shorthair need?

Although most people tend to think about exercising dogs more than cats, our feline friends need plenty of exercise and enrichment too.
According to veterinarian Dr Louisa Lane, we should be encouraging our cats to go outside. “they thoroughly enjoy plenty of time outside. We should be encouraging cats to be outside if possible to reduce stress.”
Dr Sarah Ellis, head of cat advocacy at International Cat Care, would agree.
As she explained in our podcast
, “By the very nature of what cats are and the behaviours that they perform - the exploration, the patrolling, the hunting or predation behaviours, the territorial marking - they are designed to be in a complex outdoor environment.”
Being outside helps to reduce stress for your cat, and gives them the opportunity to exercise and to exhibit normal feline behaviours.

Indoor exercise

Of course not every cat can go outside safely, for example if they’re blind or deaf. But you can provide them safe access the outside world with a catio, and ensure they receive plenty of enrichment and exercise inside the house.
A few 5 minute play sessions throughout the day will be plenty of exercise for your British Shorthair. British Shorthairs are known to be excellent at entertaining themselves, often taking toys to play with alone. They might invite you to join in by bringing a toy over to you, so try to take a few minutes to share some quality time playing together. Here's some ideas on
how to help exercise an indoor cat

How to groom a British Shorthair

Like most cats, the British Shorthair is very good at grooming itself. However, there are a few things you should be doing regularly to help keep your cat clean and healthy.
You should try to brush your cat at least once a week with a slicker brush or a comb. This helps to remove any dead fur, which reduces shedding and keeps their coat plush and healthy.
One thing you probably won’t need to do is wash them. You should only bathe a cat if they really need it. Perhaps if they’ve had diarrhoea, or are very visibly caked in mud. It’s always best to avoid bathing a cat unless it’s absolutely necessary, since cats generally dislike water and find being bathed stressful.
Ideally, you should also brush your cat’s teeth regularly to prevent dental disease. In addition, you should aim to trim their claws every few weeks.
The photo shows a blue British Shorthair sat beside a white vase full of red and orange flowers.

Common British Shorthair health problems


Obesity is a common problem in pets in general, but British Shorthairs are prone to piling on the pounds. Keep an eye on your cat’s diet and make sure they’re getting some exercise to try and keep them looking trim.


Cystitis or lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) are any conditions that affect your cat’s bladder and urethra. They make weeing painful and difficult, and can have a variety of causes. They can be treated with pain relief, proper hydration, prescription diets, and stress reduction.

Heart problems

British Shorthairs are vulnerable to a heart condition called “hypertrophic cardiomyopathy” (HCM). This is where some of the muscle on the left side of their heart thickens, and can’t pump blood as well. There’s no cure, but the condition can be managed. Your cat may need regular medications to manage their condition and provide a better quality of life.

Dental disease

Dental disease
70% of cats
over 3 years old, so it is likely that your British Shorthair could develop the condition. To prevent dental disease, try to brush your cat’s teeth regularly, and get your vet to give them a dental check-up every year.
Protect your cat from tooth to tail with
comprehensive cat insurance
, so your British Shorthair can always have the care they need to keep that Cheshire Cat smile!

Frequently asked questions about British Shorthairs

Are British Shorthair cats friendly?

British Shorthair cats are friendly felines, and very loyal and loving with their family. They enjoy spending time close to their owners, but aren’t really lap cats or cuddly kittens. Instead, they show their affection by simply being near you. Your cat might even follow you around the house to stay close by and keep tabs on what you’re up to, and might “chat” to you.

Are British Shorthair cats hypoallergenic?

No, British Shorthair cats are not hypoallergenic. They don’t shed a huge amount, because they only have a single coat of fur. But you will still have some fur and dander in your home, which can upset some allergies.
There is no such thing as a hypoallergenic cat. However, some cats might shed less and so seem more agreeable to allergy sufferers. Plus, different breeds of cat can produce different proteins in their hair and dander, which might mean only certain kinds of cat might trigger your individual sensitivities.

The best thing to do is to try and spend some time with a British Shorthair. This way you can see if they upset your allergies or not before committing to buying or adopting your own cat.

When are British Shorthair cats fully grown?

British Shorthairs take longer than average to reach their full size, compared to other kinds of cat. A British Shorthair isn’t considered fully grown until they’re about three years old.

Can you train a British Shorthair?

Yes, you can train a British Shorthair, but don’t expect them to do tons of tricks. They are an intelligent and biddable breed of cat. Many trainers and owners consider them quick learners and easy to train, by cat standards.

Can British Shorthair cats jump?

Yes, British Shorthairs can jump. However, these cats prefer to keep all four paws on the floor. They’re also not the most agile or acrobatic cat, and are sometimes considered a bit clumsy! So your British Shorthair can jump, they just might not want to.
You should still provide plenty of places for your British Shorthair to climb and explore, though. Cats love to hide if they feel stressed or need some time alone, and instinctively climb to high perches to avoid potential danger and to survey their surroundings.
You can find out more about your cat’s welfare needs and how to keep them happy at home in
our podcast with Sarah Ellis,
co-founder of International Cat Care.
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