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Domestic shorthair cats: Everything you need to know

March 29, 2021

If your cat is a domestic shorthair, what does that mean? Short answer, your cat is a true original, and that’s something to celebrate. No two domestic shorthairs are alike, even if they come from the same litter. Yet, they’re the most popular cat in America, and the following will explain why.

Domestic shorthair cats at a glance

Origin: Affectionately known as the “mutts” of the feline world, their parentage and pedigree are mixed. So lineage is strictly cat-dependent.

Size: Males weigh 11-15 pounds, females are 6 to 12 pounds.

Life expectancy: A domestic shorthair cat can live 15-20 years.

Breed type: Mixed

Appearance: Domestic shorthairs can come in an endless variety of colors and markings, with eyes of hazel, amber, green or blue. Your cat may have a look that’s like no other!

Energy level: Medium

Fun fact: Domestic shorthairs are 80 million strong in the U.S., making them the most common type of cat.

Top job: The domestic shorthair flourished and expanded in the U.S. because they kept barns, homes and businesses free of rodents and vermin. But they also made great pets!

Bottom line: A domestic shorthair is the very epitome of a cat, and they make wonderful, loving companions.

Domestic shorthair history

Cats of various short-hair and long-haired varieties arrived with European settlers as working cats. They were taken on ships crossing the Atlantic to help control the rodent population onboard. Some of these were then taken inland because there was a need for cats in homes, as well as in barns and shops. Farmers and merchants alike had to protect the grain they were storing for seed, to sell and for feeding livestock.

House cats also had an important job. Think of those pantries stocked with loaves of bread, pies, flour, cornmeal, dried apples and salt pork, and how these would attract mice.

For centuries, cats and humans had a practical arrangement. In exchange for protecting the food supply, they got shelter and a reliable source of fresh protein.

Naturally, affection and companionship between humans and felines also took root. Just imagine the cozy cat, curled up in front of the hearth as the family sewed, read and sang to pass those long, dark evenings. Though food storage methods and building materials improved over the years, humans had ample space in their hearts for the family cat.

How are domestic shorthair and American shorthair different?

The domestic shorthair is simply a cat of an unknown breed. It has no pedigree, no “parentage,” no papers. An American shorthair, on the other hand, is a specific breed and pedigree but owes its existence to the domestic shorthair.

The American shorthair was selectively bred from the most desired aspects of domestic shorthairs, so they would have specific coats, colorings and markings. The American shorthair became an officially recognized breed in 1966.

Types of domestic shorthair cats

Because of their mixed parentage, domestic shorthair cats come in an endless variety of colors, markings and eye color. Here are a few types that are out there. Just keep in mind that terms like calico and tabby have nothing to do with the breed (though genetics is an influence). Rather, these terms describe the markings on the cat.

Domestic shorthair calico

These are cats of many colors, with patches of black, white, brown, gray and orange scattered around their coats. A fun fact about calico cats is nearly all of them are female, while the very few calico males are sterile.

Domestic short-haired tabby

A tabby cat comes down to those distinct marks that define the feline look.

Look for the capital M markings, where the tabby’s head striping converges into the shape of the letter.

mackerel tabby has rings around the tail and legs and a necklace of stripes on the chest. But the origin of the name comes from the stripe patterns on the torso that resemble the shape of a fish skeleton. (A nice reminder of a cat’s favorite dinner!) Not all mackerel tabbies have the fish pattern. Some have whorls that look like targets.

spotted tabby has broken stripes resembling spots.

ticked tabby has nothing to do with a disgruntled mood. Instead, it means the cat has striping on the head, feet and tail, but no striping on the body. Individual hairs may show distinct bands of coloration that are known as agouti.

Domestic shorthair tuxedo cat

Simply put, a tuxedo cat is a black and white cat. Most often, there’s black on the head, back and flanks, with white appearing on the face, chest and feet, almost as if they’re dapperly decked out in formalwear! Rumor has it that tuxedo cats are more intelligent than all other cats, but that’s anecdotal.

Living with a domestic shorthair cat


One upside to living with a domestic shorthair is that, compared to pedigree cats, they tend to have fewer health issues. Like any pet, it’s important to watch their weight and their diet intake. Obesity can create multiple health issues for cats, especially in their elder years.

Coat and dander

When it comes to a domestic shorthair cat, pet parents are drawn to their easy-to-maintain coats that require little brushing and fewer noticeable hairs on the furniture and clothing.

Given the shortness of their hair length, you may wonder if domestic shorthair cats are hypoallergenic. The short answer is not really. Their skin can still produce the proteins that set off coughs, sniffles and watery eyes. But one possible upside is their hair can hold fewer of these skin proteins, so being around them may be less irritating to allergy sufferers, especially if you’re on top of regular brushings and vacuuming.

Bottom line, all cats produce allergens; but some produce more than others. Your best bet before taking one home is spending one-on-one time with the animal to see how your allergies respond.

[Allergic? Learn how you and your feline can co-exist]


The personality of the domestic shorthair can vary just as much as their colors and markings. A few grow up to become aloof, diving under the bed whenever a visitor comes over. Others are purring cuddle-bugs who never know a stranger. Given the centuries of living side-by-side with humans, most domestic shorthair cats are reliably friendly four-legged family members.


Cats are famous for the hours of shut-eye they log each day, roughly twice the amount of humans. But keep in mind, these felines were kept for centuries for hunting and catching vermin. Not to mention, it wasn’t that long ago when letting cats come and go from the house was common practice. While they do need their beauty rest and make pretty docile pets, their need for exploration and physical activity is baked into their personalities.

[Read on to learn about how much sleep a cat needs]

For a healthy happy cat, provide plenty of enrichment to stimulate their minds and a means to exercise. Some enjoy using feline-specific running wheels. Be sure to set aside time to encourage play. Experiment with cat toys and game ideas to discover what your four-pawed friend enjoys most. Some enjoy stalking a dot of light from a laser pointer, and others can’t get enough of batting a lure on a string.

[Learn more about spending quality time with your cat]

A long happy life with your shorthair domestic cat

The paradox about the shorthair domestic cat is that while they’re most common in the U.S., they’re quite the individuals, with none being quite like any of the others.

NutriSource Pure Vita Limited Ingredient cat diets are the purrfect choice for any pet parent who wants to help their feline friend look and feel their best. Every bag and can is packed with Good 4 Life, a unique blend of supplements that offers your cat all the minerals and nutrients they need to build a healthy body from the inside out.

Good for Life is just one of the ways that NutriSource is a family like no other. Find NutriSource at your local, independent pet supply retailer.