Cats Exotic shorthair cat. Cat with balls of threads.

Published on June 24th, 2016 | by Debbie Martin


Cat Breeds Series: The Exotic Shorthair Cat

Cat breeders are like most other industries. If their customers consistently find fault with one of their products, then they’ll take steps to correct that problem. The exotic shorthair is a case in point. The Persian cat is an exceptionally luxuriant animal – famed the world over after its appearance in iconic Bond film ‘You Only Live Twice’.

One of the features which makes the Persian so distinctive is its long fur coat. But in practice, this feature isn’t for everyone – it necessitates extensive and costly grooming, and it means that you’ll inevitably find long strands of fur strewn across your property throughout the year.

Fortunately, there’s an alternative at hand for those who want the looks and temperament of the Persian, without the hassle of the long fur coat. That alternative comes in the form of the Exotic Shorthair – a breed which, in this article, we’ll examine more closely.

Profile: What’s an exotic shorthair?

An exotic shorthair is, as you might suspect, very similar to its close cousin, the Persian. It’s a very chunky animal, with heavy bones and a heavy musculature to support them. Its hard edges are blunted somewhat by its short, plush coat, and consequently it’s closer to a cuddly toy than it is to a wildcat.

The breed’s body is medium sized and low to the ground, with a broad chest and massive shoulders. Despite the animal’s name, its fur coat is actually slightly longer than most nominally short-haired breeds; compared to the flowing fur coat of the Persian, however, the breed is positively balding.

The exotic shorthair’s skull is massive and ovular, and sits atop a short, thick neck. The muzzle is short and round, and the cheeks large. The nose is short with a pronounced stop, while the jaw is broad. Set into the skull are two enormous eyes, whose colour corresponds to that of the animal’s fur coat.

The breed is, like most cats, slightly sexually dimorphic, with males weighing a few pounds more than females. Both breeds are capable of leading long lives, with most animals living until their mid-teens.

History: Where did the exotic shorthair come from?

As you might expect, this particular offshoot of the Persian has come about only relatively recently. It first came to exist in the states in the sixties, after imported silver Persians were crossed with native American shorthairs. The American Cat Fancier’s Association quickly recognised this new hybrid, and the breed was given championship status. Shortly afterwards, a number of other Persian-hybrids starting to crop up in competitions across the country, with Burmese, Shorthair and Russian Blue hybrids all making an appearance.

By the seventies, it was decided that the fledgling breed was too widely-defined, and out-crossings were limited to the original American Shorthair/Persian pairings. Eventually, this was narrowed still further, and by 1987 only Exotic Shorthairs and Persian couplings were recognised.

The same pattern was to follow on this side of the Atlantic; when the ESH first came to arrive in the UK, in the form of a descendant of one of the early Burmese/Persian crosses. The new breed was recognised by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) in 1986, but would not attain championship status until 1995. By the year 2000, the breed had been firmly established in the UK, and so the British Shorthair was deemed to no longer be a legitimate outcross.

 Personality: What’s a Persian like to own?

Just like Persians, the Exotic Shorthair is rather lethargic. It’s therefore perfect for those looking for an affectionate lapcat. The breed is gentle, and at its happiest when its around people. Most love to be picked up and stroked, and will return this sort of affection in kind.

The Exotic Shorthair loves to play – it will respond well when introduced with toys, and will find its own sources of amusement when it isn’t. They’re often found playing with discarded bits of cardboard, dripping taps and rubber balls – and so if you’re looking for a cat that’s easygoing and fun, the ESH makes for an ideal candidate.

As we’ve mentioned, one of the chief virtues of the breed is that their coats are far more manageable than those of their Persian cousins. Consequently, they’re popular among owners looking for an easy life. But this isn’t to say that grooming is not a concern at all: though the fur is short, it’s exceptionally dense, and will require the occasional groom in order to look its best.

During the hot months of late Spring and Summer, Exotic Shorthairs will moult a great deal. In order to guard against this, those loose hairs will need to be combed out.

The breed’s flat face can lead to it suffering a few practical health problems. Of these, the most superficial is the tendency for the tear ducts to overflow. This can be simply remedies by wiping the face clean. However, other conditions are not quite so easily fixed. The animal’s teeth might well be misaligned or overly close together, thanks to the animal’s small jaw.

Exotic Shorthairs share the Persian breed’s propensity toward Feline Polycystic Kidney Disease, or PKD. This disorder results in the tissue of an animal’s kidneys being gradually covered in cysts, which gradually inhibit the kidney’s ability to function. This can lead to a secondary infection with more severe consequences.

Around 40% of Persian cats suffer from this condition, and it’s likely that the figure is similar for the Exotic Shorthair. Fortunately, it’s possible to screen against PKD at the breeding stage, in order to ensure that the responsible genes aren’t passed on to the next generation. In this way, we can offer new kittens the best possible chance of being free of the disease.

Of course, the normal precautions apply here: be sure that you’re buying from a responsible breeder, and ask that they produce proof that they’ve done the appropriate screening. A quality breeder will be happy to provide this proof. Given the right precautions, your new cat will be able to enjoy a long and happy life – so be sure that you take them.

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About the Author

Debbie Martin has worked at Beeston Animal Health for over five years, having previously worked as a nurse in equine and small animal practice. Although generally involved with aspects of marketing these days and putting her psychology degree to good use, she still has a great depth of up to date knowledge in all creatures great and small. Debbie lives at home with her partner and two children and spends much of her spare time looking after her horses, dogs and cats or at the home farm with the cows, sheep and turkeys.

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