Your British Shorthair
Caring for Your Feline Companion
British Shorthairs: What a Unique Breed!
Your cat is special! He/She senses your moods, is curious about your day, and has purred her way into your heart. Chances are that you chose them because you like British Shorthairs (sometimes called “Brits”) and you expected them to have certain traits that would fit your lifestyle, like:
Has a quiet or soft voice
Excellent companion and independent
Has a short, easy-to-care-for coat
Even-tempered – adapts to a wide variety of environments
However, no cat is perfect! You may have also noticed these characteristics:
Can become overweight easily if not exercised regularly
May resist being picked up and carried
Is it all worth it? Of course! He/She’s full of personality, and you love them for it! He/She is quiet, social, and adaptable, making them an excellent family companion.
The National cat of the British Isles, British Shorthairs come from the domestic shorthaired cats introduced to the islands by Roman invaders. Nearly lost during World War II, the Brit was rejuvenated through careful crossbreeding and was offically recognized as a distinct breed in 1980. Affectionate and sociable, Shorthairs enjoy human companionship and get along well with children and other pets. They are quiet, calm, and adaptable. Do not expect an acrobat, however, for British Shorthairs can be clumsy and shy away jumping and climbing.
Your British Shorthair’s Health
We know that because you care so much about your cat, you want to take great care of him/her. That is why we have summarized the health concerns we will be discussing with you over the life of your Shorthair. By knowing about the health concerns common among British Shorthairs, and hopefully prevent some predictable risks in your pet.
Many diseases and health conditions are genetic, meaning they are related to your pet’s breed. The conditions we will describe here have a significant rate of incidence or a strong impact upon this breed particularly, according to a general consensus among feline genetic researchers and veterinary practitioners. This does not mean your cat will have these problems, only that she may be more at risk than other cats. We will describe the most common issues seen in British Shorthairs to give you an idea of what may come up in her future. Of course, we can’t cover every possibility here, so always check with us if you notice any unusual signs or symptoms.
This guide contains general health information important to all felines as well as information on genetic predispositions for British Shorthairs. The information here can help you and your pet’s healthcare team plan for your pet’s unique medical needs together. At the end of the booklet, we have also included a description of what you can do at home to keep your Brit looking and feeling her best. We hope this information will help you know what to watch for, and we will all feel better knowing that we’re taking the best possible care of your friend.
General Health Information for your British Shorthair Weight Management
Obesity is a major disease that contributes to a surprisingly large number of illnesses and deaths in cats.
This revelation is more well-known and well-understood today than in the last few decades, but too many owners are still ignoring the dangers of extra weight on their pets. Excess weight is one of the most influential factors in the development of arthritis, diabetes, and other life-threatening diseases. Everyone knows—many firsthand from personal experience—how even shedding just a few pounds can result in improved mobility and increased overall motivation to be active. And the same is true for your pet.
Research suggests that carrying excess weight may shorten a pet’s life by as much as two years, and can cause the onset of arthritis two years sooner. Diabetes, an inherited disease, has a much higher chance of developing in overweight pets, and may never become a problem for a healthy-weight cat. The more obese a cat becomes, the more likely it will become diabetic. Hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver, is another potentially fatal disease in overweight pets; hepatic lipidosis can develop in as few as 48 hours when an overweight cat stops eating for any reason.
So how can we help our pets stay trim? Understanding your cat’s dietary habits is key. The average cat prefers to eat about 10-15 times a day, just a few nibbles at a time. This method, free-feeding, works well for most cats, but boredom may increase the number of trips your cat makes to the food bowl. By keeping your cat playfully active and engaged, you’ll help your pet stay healthy and have some fun at the same time! A string tied to a stick with something crinkly or fuzzy on the other end of the string, and a little imagination—you and your cat will both be entertained. Food puzzles, like kibbles put in a paper bag or under an overturned basket or box, may help to motivate cats with more food-based interests to romp and tumble.
For really tough cases of overeating, you will have to take a firm stance, and regulate your cat’s food intake. Instead of filling your cat’s bowl to the top, follow the feeding guide on the food package and be sure to feed a high-quality adult cat diet as recommended by your vet. Replace your cat’s habits of eating when bored with extra playtime and affection. Cats typically adjust their desires for personal interaction by the amount of affection offered to them, so in other words, ignoring your cat means your cat will ignore you. By the same token, loving on and playing with your cat a lot will cause your cat to desire that time with you. A more active cat means a healthier, happier pet—and owner!
Dental disease is one of the most common chronic problems in pets who don’t have their teeth brushed regularly. Unfortunately, most cats don’t take very good care of their own teeth, and this probably includes your Shorthair. Without extra help and care from you, your cat is likely to develop potentially serious dental problems. Dental disease starts with food residue, which hardens into tartar that builds up on the visible parts of the teeth, and eventually leads to infection of the gums and tooth roots. Protecting your cat against dental disease from the start by removing food residue regularly may help prevent or delay the need for advanced treatment of dental disease. This treatment can be stressful for your cat and expensive for you, so preventive care is beneficial all around. In severe cases of chronic dental infection, your pet may even lose teeth or sustain damage to internal organs. And, if nothing else, your cat will be a more pleasant companion not knocking everyone over with stinky cat breath! We’ll show you how to keep your cat’s pearly whites clean at home, and help you schedule regular routine dental exams.
Inflammation of the gum tissue surrounding the molar teeth. Daily tooth brushing will help prevent dental disease.
Like all cats, British Shorthairs are susceptible to bacterial and viral infections such as panleukopenia, calicivirus, rhinotracheitis, and rabies, which are preventable through vaccination. The risk of your cat contracting these diseases is high, so the corresponding vaccines are called “core” vaccines, which are highly recommended for all cats. In addition, vaccines are available to offer protection from other dangerous diseases like feline leukemia virus (FeLV). In making vaccination recommendations for your cat, your vet will consider the prevalence of these diseases in our area, your cat’s age, and any other risk factors specific to his/her lifestyle.
All kinds of worms and bugs can invade your Brit’s body, inside and out. Everything from fleas and ticks to ear mites can infest her skin and ears. Hookworms, roundworms, heartworms, and whipworms can get into her system in a number of ways: drinking unclean water, walking on contaminated soil, or being bitten by an infected mosquito. Some of these parasites can be transmitted to you or a family member and are a serious concern for everyone. For your feline friend, these parasites can cause pain, discomfort, and even death, so it’s important that we test for them on a regular basis. Many types of parasites can be detected with a fecal exam, We also recommend preventive medication as necessary to keep him/her healthy.
Polycystic Kidney Disease
Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is caused by a defective gene. The disease was first recognized in Persians, and is seen occasionally in other breeds, including British Shorthairs. Affected kittens are born with miniscule cysts inside the kidneys and sometimes the liver that slowly enlarge over time, eventually destroying the affected organ. Symptoms usually become apparent around seven years of age on average. These symptoms include weight loss, vomiting, excessive thirst, and poor overall health. There is no cure for PKD, although special diets and medication can slow the progress of the resulting organ failure; diagnosing PKD as early as possible may allow effective support of kidney and liver function for years. Routine annual urine or blood testing is therefore recommended to monitor for early organ dysfunction in all adult cats. If PKD is indicated, an ultrasound exam of the abdomen may be performed to visualize the cysts and assess the current damage. A genetic test for PKD is also available, and responsible breeders recommend that cats who carry the PKD gene should not be used for breeding. Simple DNA Test can be done at Langfords Vets
Although we hate to think of the worst happening to our pets, when disaster strikes, it’s best to be prepared. One of the most effective life-saving treatments available in emergency medicine today is the use of blood transfusions. If your cat is ever critically ill or injured and in need of a blood transfusion, the quicker the procedure is started, the better the pet’s chance of survival.
Just like people, individual cats have different blood types. Most domestic cats have type A blood, but purebred cats, like your British Shorthair often have a different blood type, usually type B or very rarely, type AB. Determining your cat’s blood type is essential before starting a transfusion, so knowing your cat’s type ahead of time can save crucial minutes. Blood typing is recommended for all cats, but is especially important for purebreds. This test can be done as part of a routine wellness blood testing or simple DNA test at Langfords, and the results can be added to your pet’s microchip record as well for fast action even if you aren’t there.
British Shorthair Autoimmune Lymphoproliferative Syndrome (ALPS)
British Shorthair ALPS is a non-neoplastic, lymphoproliferative disease characterised by an
accumulation of immune cells in the lymph nodes and spleen, which results in these tissues becoming dramatically enlarged. The disease presents at an early age (6-8 weeks) and progresses rapidly (2-3 weeks) when the kittens show abdominal distension, anaemia, lethargy and weight loss. Affected kittens either die or are euthanised within a short time (4 weeks) of presentation. A simple DNA test can be done at Langford
GCCF Rules – Section 1 BAER or OAE Testing
1g. Before any progeny may be registered from any breed of white cat, male or female, this cat must have had a BAER or OAE certificate of freedom from unilateral or bilateral deafness submitted to the GCCF Office. White cats without such certification will be registered on the non-active register until such time as the required certificate is sent and an application for transfer to the active register is made. Cats should be microchipped when tested with the number recorded on the test result and the cat’s own veterinary records. (Added 24.02.2016, Effective 01.06.2016) Note: Vendors must advise buyers/potential buyers in writing that white cats may be deaf from soon after birth in one or both ears. (Added 19.6.19)
Inherited Deafness in White cats
In cats, inherited congenital (present from birth) deafness is seen almost exclusively in white coated individuals. The deafness is caused by degeneration of the auditory apparatus of the inner ear and may affect one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral).
Breeding studies have defined the relationship between deafness in white cats and blue eye colour. The gene responsible is an autosomal dominant gene termed W (for White). This gene appears to be pleiotropic – ie, it has more than one effect, being responsible for the white coat colour and also blue eyes and deafness. However, while the gene has complete penetrance for white coat colour (all cats that carry the gene will have a white coat), it has incomplete penetrance for blue eye colour and for deafness (but these two are strongly linked). Thus deafness is strongly linked to the white coat colour and blue eye colour, but not all white cats or white cats with blue eyes are necessarily deaf. The variable penetrance of deafness and eye colour may be caused by interplay with other genes and/or environmental factors.
What is the risk of Deafness in white cats
The risk of deafness in relation to coat colour and eye colour is shown in the figure below. If deafness occurs, it may be either unilateral or bilateral.
Overall, deaf cats with white coat colour and one or both blue eyes, make up around about 1-1.5% of the total cat population. However, the prevalence of white cats does vary in different geographies.
If a white cat has 2 blue eyes, it is 3-5 times more likely to be deaf than a cat with 2 non-blue eyes, and a cat with 1 blue eye is about twice as likely to be deaf as a cat with 2 non-blue eyes. In addition, longhaired white cats are 3 times more likely to be bilaterally deaf. In a feral situation deaf white cats experience strong negative natural selection pressure as:
They are deaf
They are photophobic (intolerant of bright light because of the blue eyes)
They have reduced vision in low light conditions
However, among pet cats it is much more common to find white cats, probably simply due to selective breeding (human preference and intervention). Many cat breeds are known to have the white coat gene and can, therefore, produce deaf white individuals. The GCCF now insists on white cats registered on the active register being checked for deafness (e.g. using BAER testing – brainstem auditory evoked response … this is a simple non-invasive test that can be performed at specialist centres to determine accurately whether deafness is present).