Often referred to by cat parents as a house or alley cat, the Domestic Shorthair is a mixed breed with diverse ancestry. This cat is a popular pet throughout the world and makes a great addition to any family dynamic.
We discuss everything you need to know about this purrfect, imperfectly bred cat, beginning with its history. We also look at appearance, characteristics, health, care, and diet.
History of the Domestic Shorthair Cat
Just like their coats, the history of the Domestic Shorthair cat is colorful, but its origin is difficult to determine. This kitty is thought to be a descendant of the African Wildcat, and their story begins with how they became domesticated. The cats’ natural hunting abilities are most likely what gained them the invite into our homes. The cat deals with rodents while the human provides food and a roof makes for a pretty equal relationship.
The Domestication of Cats
Until recently, historians believed ancient Egyptians were the first to domesticate cats approximately 4,000 years ago. However, recent evidence of domestication dates back 9,500 years, after finding a cat buried with its human companion. Scientists speculate that our relationship with cats dates back 12,000 years as our Neolithic ancestors first began farming.
Cats in Egypt
Although it may not be the oldest relationship, Egyptians had an undeniable love for the feline population. Wealthy civilians often adorned them with beaded jewel collars and thought of their furry companions as protectors. Cats were regularly mummified when they passed away and placed in a tomb alongside their owner. People believed that mummification grants access to the afterlife, allowing them to spend eternity together.
Egypt is also home to the world’s oldest known pet cemetery, a 2000-year-old resting place for beloved pets. Usually, ancient burial grounds would contain the bodies of sacrificial animals that were strangulated or starved. This cemetery was different animals here were well looked after and had died of disease or old age. Out of the 585 pets found in this cemetery, 536 were cats.
Other ancient civilizations such as Rome and Japan also adopted cats to protect crops and other possessions from vermin. This coexistence helped reduce the spread of disease throughout communities as the rodent population was well controlled.
The Persecution of Cats
Over time more cultures gradually began to welcome cats over the threshold of their homes. However, during the Middle Ages, the cats’ reputation declined because the church associated them with witchcraft. As the church demonized the cats’ character throughout Europe, humans no longer wanted them inside homes. They were still used for eradicating vermin but were regularly tortured and killed by civilians.
Cats in the USA
In recent times, cats have regained their good reputation as vermin control and friend. They began accompanying travelers on ships to protect the food store from rodents. It’s widely believed that the first domestic feline entered America on ships with European settlers in the 16th century.
Today, 25 percent of Americans own at least one cat, making it the second most common pet in the U.S. It’s said that 95 percent of cats owned are Domestic Shorthairs, making it the most popular cat in America.
The domestic cat shouldn’t be confused with other cat breeds such as the American Shorthair or the British Shorthair. Although they’re similarly named British and American Shorthair are pedigree cats, whereas the Domestic Shorthair isn’t a recognized breed. Even though the Domestic Shorthair cat isn’t purebred, there’s still a category for them in many cat shows.
The Household Pet category allows the showing of mixed breeds and half pedigrees. Pet owners can also show pedigree cats that are unregistered or not up to show-standard. Many associations now have a Household Pet category including, The International Cat Association, American Cat Fanciers Association, and Cat Fanciers’ Association.
Typically Domestic Shorthairs in the U.S. are a medium-sized breed with a muscular body. However, their physical characteristics are dependent on environmental factors, and they differ throughout the world. Cats from a warmer climate usually have thinner coats and slender bodies. Cats from cooler regions tend to be sturdier with thick, plush coats. Despite the physical differences, all Domestic Shorthair cats tend to have a medium-length tail and round paws.
The Domestic Shorthair cat has a smooth, short coat with a diverse wardrobe that would make any fashion guru jealous. Due to having mixed ancestry, the pattern of their coats can vary dramatically. It comes in many styles including, tabby, calico, bi-color, torbie, and solid. Colors also vary this charming breed can sport all shades of orange, brown, black, white, cream, grey, or blue.
The tabby is the most common pattern of Domestic Shorthair cat, and it has five variations:
- Mackerel: vertical stripes running from their spine, looks like a fish skeleton, hence the name.
- Classic: marble patterns that often resemble a bullseye.
- Spotted: darker markings resemble spots or broken stripes.
- Patched: Patches of brown and orange with the tabby pattern running through them. Often referred to as tortoiseshell.
- Ticked: each hair has bands of light and dark coloring.
Some colors and patterns are more prevalent in males over females and vice versa. Orange cats are predominantly male because the gene that produces the orange pigment is on the X chromosome. Females have two X chromosomes, so to carry the orange it needs two copies of the gene. However, a male needs only one copy, making it easier to present.
To present the calico pattern, a cat must have two X chromosomes so it must be female. Male usually only has one X chromosome. However, one in 3000 calicos is male due to a genetic abnormality that creates an extra X chromosome. The male calico is always sterile and has a shorter life expectancy than the female.
Domestic Shorthair cats possess a round head with almond-shaped eyes. The most common eye colors in Domestic Shorthair cats are shades of green and yellow, but they can also have blue or brown. It is also possible for them to have odd-colored eyes, a genetic mutation known as heterochromia. A cat with heterochromia also tends to have solid white or some white fur.
On account of being a mixed breed, Domestic Shorthairs come in many shapes and sizes. A female can weigh anything between 6 and 12-pounds, whereas a male is generally larger, at 11 to 15-pounds
The Domestic Shorthair boasts individuality and can often develop a personality that reflects its owners. They’re rarely aggressive and make excellent playmates for dogs, children, and other cats. These balls of fun make great family pets and definitely keep humans on their toes. They also make great pets for seniors as they love a lap to sit and cuddle on, somewhere to re-charge.
Their innate hunting ability has developed into an exciting personality within the house. Full of energy and great fun to be around the Domestic Shorthair is the life and soul of any party. They love to play with toys and will chase anything that moves. They’re extremely active with high energy levels but will often take cat naps to re-energize. The Domestic Shorthair cats need approximately fifteen hours of sleep per day!
Domestic Shorthairs also loves to observe. I often catch my kitty perched on the couch, glaring through the window at the birds passing by.
Due to their genetic diversity, the Domestic Shorthair cat has no breed-specific health problems and is generally a healthy breed. However, domestic cats are prone to obesity because of their natural tendency to overeat. Excess weight can have a negative effect on your cat’s overall health and can prevent them from exercising the way they should. Overweight cats develop an increased risk of several diseases, including diabetes, chronic kidney disease, osteoarthritis, and some types of cancer.
Caring for Domestic Shorthairs
These beautiful cats are low-maintenance, making them a popular choice among first-time cat owners and seniors. There are several things you can do to promote a healthy lifestyle for your pet.
Firstly, Domestic Shorthair cats will need brushing at least once a week to rid their coat of loose hair. Their short fur rarely becomes matted, but you should always maintain a regular brushing schedule as it helps prevent hairballs. Grooming should be increased to at least twice a week during spring and fall.
Trim claws weekly if needed, some professionals can do this for you if you’d prefer. You could also provide a scratch post to help with claw care. If you notice any dirt in the ears or eyes wipe it out gently with a damp cotton ball. Check and brush your cat’s teeth weekly with a vet-recommended toothpaste to prevent plaque and tartar build-up.
Last but not least, every cat needs regular checkups with their vet to catch any health problems early.
Diet and Nutrition
Domestic Shorthair cats are natural predators and obligate carnivores. All cats retrieve key nutrients from meat proteins that they can’t obtain from plant-based foods. Therefore when choosing a food for your cat make sure the main ingredient is meat.
Always make sure the food you feed your beloved pet is labeled complete and balanced. A complete and balanced meal means they’re receiving all the nutrients they need in the correct ratios. Remember these cats often overeat, follow the guidelines on the packaging to make sure you’re not over-feeding your feline.
Kittens require more fat and protein in their diet than a healthy adult cat and more nutrition per pound of body weight. Most manufacturers produce food, especially kittens. Others produce foods for all life stages and provide details of the daily allowance for kittens.
How Much Does a Domestic Shorthair Cat Cost?
It isn’t unusual to find Domestic Shorthairs that are looking for homes free of charge. You’ll find many animal shelters looking to rehome these beautiful creatures and the going rate rarely exceeds 50 dollars.
What is the Average Lifespan of a Domestic Shorthair Cat?
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, their average lifespan is 12 to 14 years. However, due to advances in medical care and better quality nutrition, many cats exceed this age range. Regular physical and mental exercise can also help keep your Domestic Shorthair cat in optimal health.
Can Domestic Shorthair Cats Be Left Alone?
The Domestic Shorthair cat doesn’t usually mind if they’re left alone, particularly if this is part of a routine. Keep in mind that this cat loves to play, so be sure to leave ample toys in your absence.
Overall, an Excellent Companion!
The Domestic Shorthair is a robust breed and a great cat for first-time cat parents, old owners, and families. While they may not have a shiny pedigree certificate, they have great personalities and make excellent furry friends.
The diversity of the domestic cat means you get a huge choice when it comes to picking colors, patterns, and personality. There’s a kitty for everyone in this world!