What To Know About the Exotic Shorthair

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on July 25, 2022
7 min read

Exotic shorthairs are a type of purebred cat. They’re closely related to Persians. In fact, the main difference between the two breeds is the length of their coats. As the name suggests, exotic shorthairs have much shorter coats than Persians. 

These cats are adorable, friendly pets that are perfect for a wide variety of homes. Read on to determine whether or not this cat is the best pet for you. 

Body size. The exotic shorthair size is average for a cat. They’re a medium-sized breed. The males are typically larger than the females. These cats can have a range of healthy weights. Talk to your veterinarian if you’re worried that your cat is too far under or overweight

Body shape. Exotic shorthairs have heavily boned bodies. They have deep chests and well-rounded ribs. Their legs are sturdy, straight, and well-muscled. The legs end in well-rounded paws. The overall impression is of a square frame. 

Other exotic shorthair characteristics include broad, rounded heads with low-set ears. Their heads should be medium to large in size when compared to their bodies. Their ears should be small with rounded tips. They’re usually set far apart. 

These cats have distinct, flattened noses that are about as broad as they are long. This feature heavily contributes to the "squished" look of their faces. 

They have short, thick necks. Their tails are short too and should be straight and well-proportioned with respect to their bodies.  

Lifespan. The exotic shorthair lifespan is normal for a cat breed. They live an average of eight to 11 years. This means that you should be prepared to spend about a decade with your pet, especially if you adopt them when they’re still a kitten. 

Coat. The coat is the most unique aspect of the exotic shorthair breed. This is the main way that they differ from Persians. Their coats are short, soft, and incredibly dense. The animals are quite plush. They often look much larger than they actually are because of the way that their coats stand out from their bodies.  

They can come in a wide array of colors and patterns. Colors include: 

  • Cream
  • Black
  • Blue
  • Lilac
  • Silver
  • Brown
  • Tortoiseshell
  • Seal
  • White 
  • Red

Examples of potential patterns include: 

  • Bicolor
  • Tricolor
  • Tabby
  • Himalayan — just like a long-haired Himalayan, this version of the exotic shorthair has a light body, darker points near its ear tips and other regions, and blue eyes

Eyes. Exotic shorthairs have large, round eyes. They should be set reasonably far apart on the skull. The eyes should convey a sweet, gentle expression. The color can vary rather widely with their coats. Ideally, the color will match their coats nicely. The breed standard prefers deeper, more brilliant tones.  

Personality. The exotic shorthair personality is very similar to that of a Persian. They’re quiet, gentle, and become deeply attached to their owners. 

These cats are very sweet and affectionate, especially after they’ve had a chance to get to know you. They don’t usually have any problem with strangers as long as they’re secure in their environment. In general, they get along well with everyone. 

Exotic shorthairs can also be lively and inquisitive — usually more so than their Persian relatives. 

Grooming. Exotic shorthairs are much easier to groom than their long-haired relatives. These pets are ideal for people who love the personalities of the long-haired breeds but don’t want to manage all of their grooming needs. 

You should brush or comb their hair on a regular basis to remove dead pieces and keep your furniture tidier. 

You should also check their ears regularly for any debris or signs of infection, like wax build-up and bad smells. 

Brush their teeth regularly with a cat-safe toothpaste. 

You can also regularly wash their faces to prevent tear staining. Use a damp cloth to clean around your cat’s large eyes or discoloration can form over time. 

Feeding. You should consult your veterinarian for the most accurate feeding advice for your particular pet. In general, you need to make sure that you’re tailoring your cat’s diet to their stage of life and activity level. Cats at different ages have unique nutritional needs. Cats that are less active don’t need as much food as energetic ones. 

Make sure that your pet has access to clean, fresh water at all times. Some cats may struggle to get enough to drink. To get your cat to drink more water you can add ice cubes to their water bowl or use a flowing fountain. 

Exercise and mental stimulation. This breed is more active than some of its close relatives. You need to make sure that your pet gets enough exercise and stimulation on a daily basis. 

You can leave toys out so they can play on their own. Most cats also like it when you engage with them and get them running around after a particular toy. Some can even learn how to fetch. 

You should make sure that you provide your pet with a scratching post so they can satisfy their natural scratching instinct. With a little daily time and attention, you can easily make sure that your cat is adequately physically and mentally stimulated. 

Veterinary visits, medications, and immunizations. Your veterinarian is the best person to determine all of the vaccinations that your pet needs, but all cats should get a core set. 

This includes vaccinations for:

You should also discuss non-core vaccinations with your veterinarian to see if they’re right for your pet. For cats, these can include vaccinations for problems like feline leukemia. 

All cats are susceptible to flea infestations. Oral and skin-based applications are available from your veterinarian or other distributors. You should follow the directions for these very specifically. Use them at any time of year that your cat needs them. 

Heartworms are less common in cats than in dogs. Unfortunately, there isn’t a treatment for heartworms in cats. This means that your best bet is prevention. Have your veterinarian check your cat for signs of heartworms on an annual basis. Also have your cat take a preventative that your veterinarian recommends. 

In general, exotic shorthairs are healthy cats that live long lives. The main problems associated with this breed involve their brachycephalic features. This refers to the fact that they have flattened faces — a trait that comes from their Persian background. Exotic shorthair health problems that brachycephalic features can cause include: 

  • Jaw deformities. Extreme cases of flattened features can make it hard for your cat to eat and breathe. It can also increase the chances of your cat developing dental disease. 
  • Breathing issues. These are mostly caused by small nostrils and elongated soft palates. Your veterinarian will need to determine whether or not the problems are severe enough to require intervention. 
  • Eye problems. The tear ducts in these cats are badly formed. This means that their eyes water nearly constantly. This increases your cat’s susceptibility to eye diseases. 

Treatment for all of these issues could require steps as simple as monitoring your pet or as complicated as surgery. The exact treatment depends on how severe your cats’ problems are. Your veterinarian will need to determine how to manage these problems on a case-by-case basis. 

The other health concerns associated with this breed have to do with their status as a type of purebred. Purebred cats have an increased risk of harboring unknown genetic problems that breeders haven’t discovered yet. 

At present, the main health concern to keep in mind for your exotic shorthair is a condition called polycystic kidney disease (PKD). This disease is common in Persians and could easily be inherited by your exotic kitten. You can screen for this condition with a DNA test. It’s a very serious problem that can lead to kidney failure. 

To ensure that your cat stays in their best health, you should have your veterinarian examine them on an annual basis. 

There are a few details to keep in mind before making an exotic shorthair part of your family. 

One consideration is that exotic shorthairs are capable of having longhaired kittens. This fact is particularly important if you plan on breeding your cat. The long-haired trait is recessive in this breed. This means that your cat needs two copies of the longhaired gene in order to have long hair. 

Some exotic shorthairs can harbor a version of the longhaired gene and pass it on to their kittens. This means that there’s a one-in-four chance of your shorthaired cat having a longhaired kitten — provided both parents have a hidden copy of the longhaired trait. 

Some organizations, like The International Cat Association (TICA), recognize these long-haired kittens as Persians, but others do not. Other organizations recognize these kittens as their own breed — called exotic longhairs. 

Another consideration is that these cats have very soft voices. Unlike some breeds, these cats will not loudly yowl for your attention. Instead, they’ll occasionally express themselves with soft chirps and gentle mews. 

The exotic shorthair breed got its start when American shorthair breeders began crossing their cats to Persians. The initial crosses were meant to acquire the silvery Persian coat color and green eyes in a shorthaired cat breed. 

The exotic shorthairs' history begins with early crosses that were done in secret. Owners would try to qualify these hybrids as traditional American shorthairs in shows. This led to a number of controversies that ended with the creation of a new breed — the exotic shorthair. 

The Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA), for example, recognized these cats as a distinct breed in 1966. They’ve been eligible for TICA championship competitions since 1979. 

The original intention was to call the new breed Sterlings for their silvery coats. Instead, multiple colors were added to the breed during the creation process and the original name was abandoned. 

Some breeders chose to cross their initial American shorthair-Persian hybrids to Burmese cats. This provided both the stocky body type and the gene for short hair. Other breeders used Russian blues for the needed shorthair trait. Russian blues also provided dense double coats.