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The British Shorthair is a domesticated cat whose features make it a popular breed in cat shows. It has been the most popular breed of cat registered by the UK's Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) since 2001, when it overtook the Persian breed.
The British Shorthair is the descendant of cats brought to Britain by the Romans and then interbred with wild native cats. They were later crossbred with Persian cats to improve the thickness of their coat. The breed was defined in the 19th century and British Shorthairs were shown at the 1871 Crystal Palace cat show. The popularity of the breed declined by the 1940s, but since the end of World War II, breeding programmes have intensified and the breed's popularity is high once again.
British Shorthairs have dense, plush coats that are often described as crisp or cracking, referring to the way the coat breaks over the contours of the cat's body. Eyes are large, round and widely set and can be a variety of colours, though the copper or gold eyes of the British blue are the best known. Their heads are round with full, chubby cheeks. Their bodies are large, sturdy, and muscular and are described as having a "cobby" build. The breed has a broad chest, shoulders and hips with short legs, round paws and a plush but not fluffy tail that ends in a round or blunt tip. These are the characteristics listed in most governing bodies breeds standards to which show cats must conform.
The males of this breed are larger than the females, and the size difference between them is more easily noticed compared to other breeds. The males' average weight is 5-10 kilograms, whereas a female would weigh up to 5-7 kg. As with many breeds, the adult males may also develop prominent cheek jowls that distinguish them from their female counterparts. The typical lifespan of this breed is 14 to 20 years.
The British Shorthair is a very muscular cat, with a "square" body shape and thick legs. Because of its bulk and muscle, it is nicknamed the bulldog of the cat world.
British Shorthairs have large, broad heads. Their eyes stand out and tend to be large and round. Their relatively small ears with rounded tips are set far apart, making the head look domed. They have pert snub noses and slightly rounded chins which help emphasise the breed's powerful jaw and round head.
British Shorthairs come in many colours and patterns. For many years, the more popular blue variant was common enough to have a breed name of its own: the "British Blue". It remains one of the most popular colours, though there is now a large variety of other colour and pattern variants accepted by most feline governing bodies and associations. These include the colours black, blue, white, red, cream, chocolate, lilac, cinnamon and fawn. British Shorthairs can be bred in "self" or "solid", which are all one colour, as well as the colourpoint, tabby, shaded and bicolour patterns. All colours and patterns also come in the tortoiseshell pattern, which is a combination of red and cream with other colours.
British Shorthairs are an easygoing breed of cat; they tend to be safe around children as they will tolerate a fair amount of physical interaction and hiss or scratch very rarely. They have a stable character and take well to being kept as indoor-only cats, making them ideal for apartment living. They are not terribly demanding of attention, though they will let their owner know if they feel like playing. They enjoy mouse type or stick style toys. They are not hyperactive cats, preferring to sit close to their owners rather than on them. They might supervise household activities from a comfortable perch or perhaps the floor.
British Shorthairs are wonderful cats for people who work, as they are very happy to simply laze around the house while their owner is out. They do not get destructive or need other animals for company, though they do enjoy having another British Shorthair or a cat with similar temperament around.
They like attention and enjoy being petted. They are not a very vocal breed but will meow to communicate with their owners, for example when they are hungry and their food is being prepared. They may also meow at their favourite toy as they play with it. British Shorthairs have a tendency to follow people from room to room, as they may want to be with their owner and see what is going on. Some do not mind being cuddled, but most prefer to keep four paws on the ground and be patted rather than picked up.
The breed has become a favourite of animal trainers because of its nature and intelligence, and in recent years these cats have appeared in Hollywood films and television commercials. They can learn small tricks spontaneously.
British Shorthairs do not require a lot of grooming as their fur does not tangle or mat easily. However, it is recommended that the coat be brushed occasionally, especially during seasonal shedding, since they may develop hairballs at this time. British Shorthairs can be prone to obesity when desexed or kept indoors, so care should be taken with their diet.