The gentle, even-tempered domestic shorthair cat can be considered one of the earliest pioneers to the New World. Indeed, these stocky, muscular cats earned their right as passengers by hunting vermin that infested the first sailing ships to arrive in North America. These working cats flourished along with their pioneer owners and eventually established themselves as the native shorthaired cat.
With the introduction of foreign breeds to the United States during the early part of the 20th century, the naturally pure bloodlines of these “native” shorthairs began to be diluted. Longhairs and Siamese were being allowed to run free, resulting in kittens with a variety of coat lengths, body types, colors and temperaments. Those who admired the qualities of the native shorthaired cats and wished to preserve them acquired the finest examples of the American shorthair and began to selectively breed them. These pioneer breeders worked to perfect the patterns and colors, while retaining the strong conformation, beautiful face and sweet disposition of the breed.
Cost of a Domestic Shorthair Cat
Acquiring a domestic shorthair is certainly easier and cheaper than getting a purebred. You can often get a free or nearly free domestic shorthair from private parties who advertise in your local paper, but often this is not as good a deal as you think. In the long run it may be better to adopt a kitten or cat from your local shelter, SPCA, or rescue organization. Generally, people who allow their cats to breed indiscriminately will do little to ensure the health and socialization of the kittens. Then, too, you’ll be doing your part to end the pet overpopulation problem by not supporting people who allow their cats to breed.
Shelters and rescue organizations, on the other hand, see to it that the cats they adopt out are healthy and well socialized, and often test for serious diseases such as feline leukemia virus and feline AIDS. They also make certain that the cats are spayed and neutered. One California SPCA charges $60 for a cat adoption. For that price, you get a free veterinary exam, vaccinations, the spay or neuter surgery, and a pet identification tag. If you were to buy these services separately for your “free” kitten, it would cost you much more than $60. Prices vary by location, however, so call your local program for more information.
Our nation’s shelters are overflowing with lovely shorthaired cats and kittens that would love the chance to share your life. Visiting your local shelter or humane society is an excellent way of getting your dream cat, and you’ll feel good about saving a worthy cat from possible euthanasia. June is Adopt-A-Shelter-Cat Month, and with the annual crop of spring kittens, a variety of domestic shorthairs will be available.
Selection of a Domestic Shorthair Cat
When choosing a domestic shorthair kitten, look for a kitten that is healthy, curious, playful, and alert. Look for clean, soft, short fur, and avoid kittens with a rough or dirty coat. Spread the hairs and examine the roots of the fur. If you see tiny black particles clinging to the hairs, the kitten has fleas.
A healthy kitten’s eyes are bright and clear and do not run, and the face shouldn’t have tear stains. The kitten should not sneeze or wheeze, and her nose shouldn’t run or be crusted as this could be a sign of respiratory problems or illness. The ears should be clean and free of dark colored wax, and the kitten shouldn’t shake her head or scratch at her ears. That’s an indication of infection or ear mites. The anus should be free of fecal matter or evidence of diarrhea. Gently pry open the kitten’s mouth. A healthy kitten’s gums and mouth are pink with no sign of inflammation and the teeth are clean and white.
A kitten’s temperament is equally important. Domestic shorthairs are individuals and they behave according to their unique natures. In any given litter you’ll notice a range of behavior. Observe the kittens before you choose. Tempt them with a cat toy and see how they react. Look for a kitten that seems curious, friendly, intelligent, and used to handling. Don’t choose a kitten that cowers, runs away in terror, hisses, snarls, or struggles wildly. Avoid a kitten that appears too passive or unresponsive as well. This could be a sign of health problems as well as temperament concerns. If all the kittens seem unaccustomed to human contact (provided they are more than 6 weeks old), move on. Kittens that have had little early human contact are less likely to form strong, trusting bonds with their human companions.
Showing a Domestic Shorthair Cat
While the cat associations give preference to purebreds, most associations have a category in which random-bred cats can compete. This is usually called the Household Pet Category (HHP). The purpose of the category is to promote appreciation of cats that are lovely, personable, and well cared for even if they don’t have a piece of paper that tells who their parents are.
In the HHP category, cats are judged on overall beauty, personality, condition, balance, and proportion rather than on how well they measure up to a breed standard. Any color, pattern, hair length, and tail length is acceptable. This makes the judging much more subjective, so an appealing personality is even more important. An extroverted, easygoing, people-oriented cat is likely to do well. Grooming, health, and overall care are important, too. HHPs must be spayed and neutered to compete. And in some associations, declawed cats cannot be shown, since some cat lovers feel this is a cruel and unnecessary procedure. Differently abled cats, however, can compete in some associations. TICA and ACFA, for example, accept HHP cats that have lost all or part of a limb, ear, or tail.
In most associations, household pets can earn points and gain titles. While different from the titles granted to purebred cats, these titles mean the cat has accumulated a number of points and has won particular awards. In TICA, for example, HHPs can earn the lofty titles of Master, Grand Master, and Double, Triple, Quadruple, and Supreme Grand Master.
Cat clubs like the Happy Household Pet Cat Club (HHPCC), cater specifically to household pets. This international organization is open to all feline lovers and promotes the welfare of all cats, but their emphasis is on showing HHPs. This club gives national, regional, and state awards and also bestows titles; your cat can work his way up to “Supremely Honored Housecat.” Check out the HHPCC’s website for an abundance of information on showing your domestic shorthair: www.best.com/~slewis/HHPCC/.
The following associations have a Household Pet (HHP) category that will allow you to show your domestic shorthair:
Titles and Awards
- American Association of Cat Enthusiasts (AACE)
- American Cat Fancier’s Association (ACFA)
- Cat Fanciers’ Federation (CFF)
- Traditional Cat Association (TCA)
- United Feline Organization (UFO)
Titles And Regional And National Awards
- The International Cat Association (TICA)
Titles And National, Regional, And State Awards
- Happy Household Pet Cat Club (HHPCC)
Regional Year-end Awards
- Canadian Cat Association (CCA)
Can Compete But Not For Titles Or Awards
- Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA)
For more information, please see the article on Choosing a Domestic Shorthair.