The European Shorthair is considered by some the ancestor of all cats; one of the most popular and oldest cat breeds found in Europe. You might also hear them being referred to as a common "house cat".

Origins of the European Shorthair

There has been much confusion and debate as to the origins of the European Shorthair. Some reports state the breed originated from Ancient Rome, while others claim they hail from Sweden from as far back as 500BC.

Depending on which country you're in will depend on whether this breed is officially recognised or not. For example, The International Cat Association (TICA), the world's largest genetic registry of pedigreed cats, does not recognise the European as an official breed. On the other hand, the Fédération Internationale Féline (FIFe), a leading international cat fancier society, does. Why is this?

Many of the shorthair breeds, including the European, British and American, all share similar ancestors. At one point in time, the British Shorthair and European Shorthair names were used interchangeably, with the latter often falling under 'British Shorthair' references in books and classifications. However, the European was never subjected to specific breed standards, while the British Shorthair was bred to develop specific traits. Many of these traits are visibly different to the European.

FIFe officially recognised The European Shorthair in 1949 and again reviewed its breed standards in 2012. Today, these cats remain one of the most popular cat breeds throughout Europe and in many other parts of the world.

Physical characteristics

The European is above-average in height and weight - males can reach up to 8kg (17.6 pounds) while females usually reach about 5.5kg (12 pounds).

Europeans are known to be robust cats with a well developed chest and muscular physique. The neck is medium-long in length and also muscular. Legs are strong, average in length, and taper slightly downward to strong, rounded paws. Thicker at the base, the tail gently narrows to a rounded tip.

A European's coat comes in a range of colours and patterns, although the main colours centre around black, blue, red and cream. Tabby-patterned Europeans are the most common variety, although it's not difficult to find tortoiseshell and solid-coloured varieties. The hair is short, thick and straight, and shiny from regular self-care.

If you're a cat expert, you'll notice the slightly rounded face with well developed cheeks. Both the forehead and skull are also rounded. However, the head is still longer than it is wide. The ears sit upright and are set well apart. They are medium in size (as tall as they are wide at the base) and are slightly rounded at the tip. They may also include a small tuft at the point. Eyes are large and rounded, slightly slanted and typically come in amber, green or blue. Odd-coloured eyes are also not uncommon.

The average lifespan is between 12-20 years.


Intelligent and exceptional hunters, European Shorthairs were traditionally used as hunting cats around stockyards and in the fields, to wield off mice and other small rodents and insects. While loyal and affectionate, they also maintained an independent, instinctive lifestyle.

Over time, they were bred with other cat breeds to become more playful, interactive and affectionate. These traits have largely carried through to present day European Shorthairs.

Today's European has a gentle and loyal demeanour, with an active and playful streak. They are well suited to domestic life, ideally with access to the outdoors so they can channel their instinctive hunting traits. When indoors, they will require a good amount of entertainment and stimulation. Games and cat puzzles can be a great way to satisfy their active minds.

Maintenance of their coat is almost always done by themselves. As 'working' cats in a former life, they were used to their manual and often dirty work. Cleaning was therefore a necessity, more so than other more docile, house-bound breeds.

Do you have a European Shorthair?

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