British Shorthair - breed information and advice

Everything about the British Shorthair is larger than life, from its strong, chunky build and round, happy face to its generous disposition. Despite being very intelligent, this gentle breed is well suited to a calm, quiet life. A British Shorthair is also comfortable with children and other pets.
If you are the owner of a British Shorthair cat or are considering getting one, you can take a look at our cat insurance policies to ensure your pet will receive the care they need in the case of an illness or accident.

Breed information


Colour: British Shorthairs come in many different colours, including a silver tabby. The common choice is a handsome grey-blue, but the British Shorthair is bred in more than 100 colour and coat pattern combinations.

Coat: Short and dense, requiring little or no grooming.

Life span: Around 15 years, but British Shorthairs can live well into their late teens.

Mouth and gum disease

Like most breeds, British Shorthairs may suffer from gum and dental disease during their lifetime. Gum disease occurs when some (or all) of a tooth’s deep supporting structures become inflamed. This begins when food, bacteria and minerals accumulate along the gum line, leading to the build-up of a brown scale known as tartar. When this undermines the gum the condition is called gingivitis. Eventually, small spaces can form between the gums and the teeth creating pockets of space for bacteria to grow, resulting in what is known as periodontal disease. The bacteria from infected gums can spread around the body and damage the liver and kidneys. This condition can be prevented with basic routine care such as feeding cats dry food and brushing their teeth, helping them to lead a normal, pain-free life.


Mouth disorders are the fourth most common illnesses we see in British Shorthairs

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Hyperthyroidism is one of a number of hormonal disorders that can affect British Shorthairs. It occurs when the thyroid glands, which are located in the neck, produce too much thyroid hormone. This most commonly occurs as a result of a benign (non-cancerous) tumour of the thyroid gland, although a cancerous tumour known as a thyroid adenocarcinoma can also occur. Surgery, long-term medication, radioactive iodine therapy or diet changes can be used to effectively manage the condition, meaning the cat can live a normal and comfortable life.


In our experience, British Shorthairs are most likely to need treatment for hyperthyroidism

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Heart disease

Heart disease in cats refers to when the heart’s structures aren’t working as they should be. There are two categories of heart disease: congenital (meaning the cat is born with it) and acquired (meaning the disease develops later in life). Congenital heart diseases include defects in the wall of the heart, abnormal valves and blood vessels. British Shorthairs are prone to a disease called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which can lead to heart failure. Whilst this condition is not curable, it can be treated with lifelong medication.


We paid £1,559 to treat Nelly the British Shorthair for heart problems in 2016

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Kidney disease

Cats’ kidneys are responsible for filtering the waste products from their blood into their urine. British Shorthairs may be affected by kidney disease caused by infections, blockages, tumours or toxins (especially licking anti-freeze) as well as age related changes. Chronic kidney disease occurs when the kidney function deteriorates gradually over a period of time. Treatment depends on the cause and the extent of damage, but usually begins by flushing the kidneys using intravenous fluids, followed by special diets and medications. Unfortunately kidney disease is irreversible, but with the right support many cats can enjoy a reasonably normal life.


We paid £2,133 to treat Cali the British Shorthair for a kidney disorder in 2016

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Conditions that affect a cat’s bladder and urethra are collectively known as feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), which is more commonly referred to as cystitis. British Shorthairs can suffer from these conditions, which can be caused by stress, not urinating enough, infections and bladder stones or crystals. Cats suffering from cystitis make frequent, painful attempts to urinate, and blood is often found in the urine. Treatment depends on the cause, but cats diagnosed with cystitis will usually require pain relief, access to plenty of water, special diets and perhaps some help to reduce stress.


Cystitis is the most common urinary problem we see in British Shorthairs

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