Most cats have short hair, whether they are large or small, wild or domestic. This is an evolutionary development that makes sense for a natural predator relying on stealth and the occasional burst of speed. A hunting cat is more efficient in a short coat because it can glide unhampered through dense terrain and move freely for a lightning pounce in a tight corner.
Developing the shorthair
The first cats to be domesticated, possibly over 4,000 years ago, had short hair, and their sleek-coated look has been popular ever since. In a short coat, colors and patterns are clearly defined and the feline form appears to full advantage. Dozens of shorthaired breeds have been developed, but there are three main groups: British, American, and Oriental Shorthairs.
The first two are essentially ordinary domestic cats refined by decades of breeding programs. They are sturdy, round-headed cats, with short, dense, double-layered coats. The strikingly different Oriental group has little to do with the East, being created in Europe through crosses with the Siamese. They have short, close-lying, fine coats with no woolly undercoat.
Other much-loved shorthaired cats include: the Burmese; the plush-furred Russian Blue, which has a very short undercoat that lifts the top guard hairs away from the body; and the Exotic Shorthair, which combines unmistakably Persian looks with a shorter, more manageable coat.
Short hair is taken to extremes in several hairless breeds, including the Sphynx and the Peterbald. These cats are usually not totally hairless—most have a fine covering of body hair with the feel of suede. Another variety of short hair is seen in rexed cats, which have wavy or crimped coats. Among the best known of these are the Devon Rex and the Cornish Rex.
A great advantage for owners of shorthaired breeds is that the coat requires little grooming to keep it in good condition, while parasites and injuries are easy to see and treat.
However, keeping a shorthaired cat does not guarantee hair-free carpets and sofas. Some breeds shed heavily, especially during seasonal loss of thick undercoats, and even single-coated varieties such as the Orientals always lose a certain amount of hair.