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American Shorthair vs British Shorthair Cat: What’s the Difference? (With Pictures)

Although the breed names are very similar, there are distinct differences between the American Shorthair and the British Shorthair. The British Shorthair is a devoted and loving cat but they don’t tend to be a lap cat, preferring to be the ones that initiate contact and content to stay in the background. They don’t tend to be silly or dramatic, and they make good house pets. They do not usually require much exercise, either.

The American Shorthair is often considered more of a working cat than a house cat. They can control a mouse or rat population effectively and, although they can get on with other house pets, they may pose a threat to mice, hamsters, and other small critters. The American Shorthair can be left alone for quite long periods without the need for human attention. This makes them a good choice for owners that go out to work all day.

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Visual Differences

american vs british shorthair

At a Glance

American Shorthair Cat
  • Average height (adult): 8–10 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 10-15 pounds
  • Lifespan: 15-20 years
  • Exercise: Medium
  • Grooming needs: Minimal
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Other pet-friendly: Mostly
  • Trainability: Calm and capable of learning
British Shorthair Cat
  • Average height (adult): 12-14 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 7-17 pounds
  • Lifespan: 14-18 years
  • Exercise: Medium
  • Grooming needs: Minimal
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Other pet-friendly: Usually
  • Trainability: Intelligent, likes to be occupied


American Shorthair Cat Overview

American Shorthair
Image Credit By: CC0 Public Domain, pxhere

The American Shorthair cat is considered a medium breed, but she is muscular and strong and has a rounded appearance. Her appearance stems from the fact that she was originally used to keep mice and rats out of houses and other buildings. Her dense coat becomes thicker during winter, another nod to a history that would have seen her spending a lot of time outdoors and in cold cellars and warehouses.

The American Shorthair likely originates from European cats that would have been brought over to the United States, initially protecting grain and food on ships, and then performing the same task in cellars and homes. The first recorded breeding of this breed took place in 1904 and the British Shorthair, called a Domestic Shorthair at the time, was listed as one of the parent breeds.


The American Shorthair is a friendly and pleasant cat. She makes a good companion and is easy going and placid. She doesn’t do drama, but it is important to remember that she was bred to control vermin rodent populations, so she will have a keen interest in any small pets in your home. She does enjoy playing, although she won’t demand it all day long, and she will often play by herself when no human parent is around. She can be left for several hours at a time while you go out to work or are away from the house for any other reason.

Although friendly and moderately affectionate, the American Shorthair is not overly needy. Your Shorthair may want to spend some time on your lap but will be just as happy laying in the sun in the same room as you.

Health & Care

The breed is known for being hardy and healthy, and they have a long lifespan of around 20 years. She will need regular brushing, but her coat is not especially prone to matting or knotting. The breed may be prone to joint dysplasia and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which is the most common feline heart complaint and sees the heart muscle to enlarge. Possibly the biggest health problem that needs to be monitored with this breed is its weight. In particular, you will need to ensure that the American Shorthair gets adequate exercise to retain a healthy weight.

american shorthair cat lying on the floor
Image Credit: Apisit Hrpp, Shutterstock

Suitable for: 

The American Shorthair makes a great companion pet, especially for those that don’t want an overly clingy cat but a feline companion that is still happy to receive attention from time to time. They can be left, so are suitable for working pet parents. They are also highly accomplished mouse and rat catchers, so can be used to keep pests under control.

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British Shorthair Cat Overview

British Shorthair Appearance
Image Credit: Taut, Pixabay

The British Shorthair was once known as the Domestic Shorthair. It originated in Britain and was likely brought over by settlers in a bid to control mouse and rat numbers. They are considered very friendly, although rarely like to be picked up and cuddled like some of the more affectionate feline breeds out there.

The British Shorthair is smaller than its American counterpart. They tend to be quite slender and they have a silvery, blue coat that is soft to the touch but easy to look after. This coat is the reason that the breed also has the name of the British Blue.


The British Shorthair cat is loving and devoted to their humans. They will show affection, but in their own way, because this breed is not usually keen on being picked up and cuddled. They may well rub against your leg or hand as a sign of appreciation, and they will enjoy being stroked, but they will be just as happy to vocalize their affection from the other end of the sofa. They aren’t overly energetic and they don’t usually have high exercise demands or play requirements.

Health & Care

Like the American Shorthair, the British Shorthair is considered a healthy and hardy breed. They have a life expectancy of around 17 years and, like their American counterpart, they are not known to be susceptible to any breed-related hereditary illnesses. However, they can suffer from joint dysplasia and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. The British Blue does not require much care but will benefit from daily or regular brushing to keep their coat in top condition.

British Shorthair Health Care
Image Credit: Taut, Pixabay

Suitable for:

The British Shorthair can survive being left alone for a few hours and is not as prone to obesity and being overweight as the American Shorthair. They are just as affectionate, but they prefer their affection at a distance and will be the ones to instigate any contact. They are suitable for almost any family, but they are many more generations away from their rodent control ancestors, so are not as suitable as working cats.

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Which Breed is Right for You?

Both the American and British Shorthair breeds are friendly and make great family cats. They are loving and affectionate, although both breeds prefer to be the ones to initiate contact with their humans. Both cats can be left, but if you go out to work all day, every day, then the American Shorthair is more tolerant of being left alone for this kind of period.

It is the American Shorthair that is more tolerant of being picked up and will enjoy the experience of being cuddled far more than his British counterpart, too. Both breeds are healthy and considered hardy, with a life expectancy exceeding 15 years in both cases.

Given the similarities of these cats, it may come down to looks when you are choosing your next furry friend. Just know that you can’t go wrong with either one of these fine feline choices.

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Featured Image Credit: CNuisin, Shutterstock