Making sense of the shorthair cats – American vs. Domestic vs. British

Web Image of Example of Domestic Shorthair red tabby
Domestic shorthair red tabby Photo: ©

Have you ever wondered, “What’s the difference between the American Shorthair (ASH), the British Shorthair (BSH), and the Domestic Shorthair (DSH) breeds?”  I know we certainly did!

When our family first began our life with purebred cats we found ourselves on a an intense ride with much to learn.

Growing up on a rural farm in the Pacific Northwest, I had once assumed that cats were pretty much all created equal.  There were shorthair cats and longhair cats of a variety of color patterns.  Black and white tuxedo cats, calicos, and garden variety tabbies were common place.  Occasionally, we would chance upon a beautiful seal point and globally identify them all as “Siamese”.

Web Image of National Winner Teddy Cat Hugo Blue British Shorthair
British Shorthair NW TEDDY-CAT HUGO Photo: ©

My introduction to the purebred British Shorthair came many years later, about 2 years prior to acquiring our first purebred cat (an American Shorthair kitten we named Hannah).  Family friends had recently brought home a British Blue Shorthair (BSH) cat.  She was in all ways the stereotypical BSH.  A stout, compact cat, with the ever popular, dense plush blue coat.  Her broad head and wide eyes were reminiscent of Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire Cat.  And her laid back, independent attitude was a magnet for us all.  My whole family was intrigued.


Web Image of Grand champion National Winner KELLOGGS ROCK N ROLL REBEL an American Shorthair classic silver tabby
American Shorthair GC, NW KELLOGGS ROCK ‘N’ ROLL REBEL Photo: ©

As we began to research the British Shorthair breed we soon came across its distant cousin — the incredible American Shorthair Cat.  We found ourselves immediately drawn to the spectacular classic tabbies.  Knowing ourselves and our active family, we were looking for a bold, affectionate, confident and kid-friendly cat.  The “working cat” history as a well-bred mouser also appealed to us on or family farm.

Below, we’ve outline a few of the key characteristics of these commonly confused terms, “Domestic Shorthair”, “American Shorthair”, and “British Shorthair” cats.


  Domestic Shorthair American Shorthair British Shorthair
Abbreviation DSH ASH BSH
Pedigreed Not Purebred Purebred Purebred
Physical traits Varies, but frequently not at robust as the ASH/BSH.  Head tends to be more angular, and eyes are more almond shaped Broad head with large round eyes and robust build. Strong bodied, agile, and athletic.


“Teddy Bear-like” with a broad head and large round eyes.

Solidly framed body with a tendency toward obesity.


Size Varies Medium to large build Slightly smaller & more compact than the ASH
Weight Varies – 8-12 pounds 11-16 pounds 7-18 pounds
Coat Short Coat Short, Thick, Lustrous, Soft Coat Short, Dense, Plush Coat
Color Varies – all Silver Tabby (most common), also red, brown, blue & smoke tabbies, shaded silvers, black, cameo and tortoiseshell, with or without white Blue (most common) also black, white, lilac, silver tabby, shaded silver, tortoiseshell and chocolate, with or without white
Personality Varies Active, curious, easygoing, playful, confident, adaptable, affectionate

Often get along well with other animals, including dogs

Easygoing, gentle, loyal, patient, poised, shy, affectionate, but often do not like to be picked up
Web Image of GC BWC NW CAT LIFE MOONFACE American Shorthair silver and white tabby
American Shorthair GC, BWC, NW CAT LIFE MOONFACE Photo: ©

We’d be the first to agree that ALL cats are fantastic, incredible creatures, regardless of their breeding, lineage, or availability of a pedigree.  Having a pedigree will certainly not make one cat more suitable than another to be a loving and faithful companion.  One of my dearest pets was a regular old, every day, “moggie” barn cat.  But the pedigrees do allow breeders to continue to develop and showcase the beautifully unique characteristics of these magnificent felines we love.


Photo Compraison: Domestic Shorthair vs. British Shorthair

Web Image of Example of Domestic Shorthair tuxedo cat
Domestic Shorthair Photo: ©
Web Image of China NW Snowdance Melan British Shorthair Cat
British Shorthair CHINA NW SNOWDANCE MELAN Photo: ©

Photo Compraison: British Shorthair vs. American Shorthair

Web Image of Bagira Lovely Panther CZ British Shorthair Silver Tabby
British Shorthair BAGIRA LOVELY PANTHER *CZ Photo: ©
American Shorthair Silver Tabby Photo: ©

Photo Compraison: Domestic Shorthair vs. American Shorthair

Domestic shorthair brown tabby Photo: ©
Image of American shorthair brown tabby round eyes broad head face
American shorthair brown tabby Photo: ©