British Longhair

British Longhair cat breed

Are you looking for a long-haired cat capable of adapting comfortably to life in a human household? The British Longhair is just such a cat, often known as the “Highlander”, and the semi long-haired variety of the British Shorthair. It has a friendly, balanced nature and a fairly low activity drive.

The history of the British Longhair is intrinsically linked to that of the British Shorthair. Both varieties follow the same breed standard, the only difference between them being that the British Longhair has long, soft fur as a result of being crossed with Persian cats.

Temperament

The British Longhair combines the characteristics of the British Shorthair and the Persian breeds. This breed is calm and balanced, making it in most cases an ideal pet for life in a house or flat. As with most cats, this breed likes to be the centre of attention, loving attention from its owners and regular fuss and play.

Exhaustive playing is particularly important for pets that live in a house, although outdoor cats also enjoy playtime with their owners. The British Longhair is a fast-learning cat that loves to be put through its paces mentally. You should be sure to offer your cat various toys and play opportunities, ranging from classic toy mice and balls to interactive intelligence toys. These toys are not only available for animals such as dogs but for cats as well. For example, your cat will love having to work for its food every mealtime!

The assumption that cats cannot be trained is only partially true. Certainly, cats cannot be taught in the same way as dogs can, but they learn very quickly, which can have important consequences. For example, you should not let your cat beg around the dinner table, particularly if your cat is going to be spending a large proportion of its time indoors with little exercise, as this will quickly lead to your cat gaining an unhealthy amount of weight.

Appearance

Similarly to its short-haired cousin, the Highlander has a stocky body, which should ideally be muscular rather than fat. Its legs are rather short and its chest is strong and wide. Its head is perfectly round with a short nose, in contrast to many other long-haired cats, whose heads are short and wide with a slight indentation. Also like the British Shorthair, the Longhair variety has small, round ears and large, round, dark eyes, as well as a fluffy coat that gives it a teddy bear appearance. Females weigh between 4-6kg, with males weighing up to 8kg. This breed is also fairly compact, as with breeds such as the Maine Coon, although it often appears larger due to its thick fur.

The most characteristic feature of the Highlander is its thick, semi-long fur, which has been inherited from the breeding of its Persian ancestors with the British Shorthair. This long hair was a random, unexpected feature, which resulted in the British Longhair being treated as an unwanted by-product by collectors and being excluded from the breed. In fact, to this day nearly all large breeding organisations refuse to recognise the British Longhair as its own independent breed. Many short-haired cats carry a recessive gene for long hair, which is why a long-haired British Shorthair can often emerge from breeding two parents that both have short hair.

The British Longhair’s coat is not as long as that of a Persian cat, affording it the label “semi long-haired”. A thick undercoat means that the Highlander’s coat sticks out slightly from its body and appears particularly plush.

As the British Longhair is so closely linked to the British Shorthair, its possible colourings and markings are also similar. There are more than 300 colour variations, meaning there is something for every taste! The silver variety is particularly popular.

History

The British Longhair came from the breeding of British Shorthair cats with Persians, which was originally designed to enlarge the Shorthair gene pool following the world wars. The long-haired gene is recessive, meaning that it is hidden within the gene pool of the breed and long-haired cats often only emerge after several generations. However, the breed standard demands short hair for the British Shorthair, meaning that long-haired varieties have often been excluded from breeding, sterilised and re-homed as pets. Many short-haired cats carry the recessive gene, meaning that even today the breeding of two short-haired British Shorthairs can result in a long-haired kitten in the litter.

Meanwhile, the British Longhair has itself been recognised as its own breed by many breeding associations. The only difference in the breeding standards is the issue of coat length. However, British Longhairs may be bigger or smaller and vary in fur length; this all depends on the personal preference of the individual breeder.

Coat colour


Like the British Shorthair, the Highlander can come in both single- and multi-coloured varieties. The colour patterns vary from classic black, chocolate, cinnamon and red, to so-called “dilutions”, such as blue, lilac, fawn and cream. Black-white and three coloured cats are also common amongst long-haired house cats. Many are also “shaded”, with just the tips showing the specific colour, which makes for a beautiful effect in the Highlander’s long fur.

Of the more than 300 colour varieties, the most important and popular have been summarised below:

Colour-point: just the tips of the body are coloured in this variety, including face, ears, legs, tail and, for tomcats, the genital area.

Chinchilla: the British Shorthair Chinchilla has very interesting colouring, with around an eighth of the hair in the same base colour as the black variety, and the rest silver-white.

Tabby: this means more than just tiger-striped! Depending on the appearance of the colour, a Tabby variety can be “mackrel”, “classic”, “blotched”, “spotted” or “ticked”.

Tortie: this three-coloured British Longhair is also known as “tortoiseshell”. Due to its genetic background, British Longhair Torties are, as a rule, always female.

Torbie: these cats are a colour combination of Tortie and Tabby.

Two-toned: each colour combines with white. “Harlequin” has just 1/6 of the fur coloured, “van” has a high white proportion, and “bicolour” has an equal combination of white and coloured.

Care

Long fur requires more care than shorter cat fur. However, this does not mean that coat care has to cost more. In order to avoid matted or knotted undercoat, simply brush or comb your long-haired cat weekly, or more often if your cat is moulting or has particularly long fur.

To avoid difficult brushing situations and the build up of knots, get your cat used to being groomed from when it is just a kitten. There is a wide range of brushes and combs on the market, offering every variety to be sure you can find something that works for both you and your cat. Start with a very soft brush that does not pull on fine kitten skin and potentially cause injury. After each grooming session, be sure to reward your cat with small treats. Once regular fur care has become part of the routine and is no longer a problem for cat or owner, you can begin using more effective brushes and combs.

 

Cats are extremely clean animals and generally take care of their own fur – your cat’s tongue is the most effective cleaning tool you will find! However, this also means that your cat is likely to swallow large amounts of fur during care and, although it will not swallow more hair than a shorter haired breed, your long-haired cat’s hairs are much longer and can, therefore, have a greater impact. In order to support natural excretion of these swallowed hairs, you can add cat grass or a digestive treat to your cat’s diet, being careful to choose those with high-quality ingredients, no added sugar and no unnecessary vegetable by-products.

Health

Although the Highlander is a fairly low-maintenance cat, it is prone to the same typical illnesses as its short-haired relatives. For example, obesity and weight gain can be a real problem for these domestic animals. The best remedy for this is regular exercise, so get involved and enjoy an active game with your feline!

As a result, the British Longhair increasingly suffers from polycystic kidney disease. This hereditary illness occurs more frequently amongst short-haired and Persian cats so, as a combination of these two breeds, the British Longhair is equally susceptible. Renal cysts can develop very early in your cat’s life and can be easily detected by ultrasound scans. A cardiac disease known as HCM or hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is also particularly common amongst the British Longhair. Regular cardiac ultrasound is recommended amongst breeding animals, helping to recognise the disease in its early stages and allowing affected animals to be excluded from breeding. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy cannot be cured, but early diagnosis can allow for treatment options that ensure your cat can still live a long and happy life!

Nutrition

The British Longhair does not have any vastly different dietary requirements from other cat breeds. The best food to choose is a high-quality wet or dry dish with a high proportion of meat and plenty of protein and, naturally, it is important to ensure fresh drinking water is always available. Vegetable substances or by-products should only appear near the end of the ingredients list in your cat’s food.

In order to help your cat remove swallowed hairs from its system, you should also choose a dish with additional benefits, such as dry foods specifically for long-haired cats, or treats that support the natural removal of hairballs. Cat grass is also a great alternative for pets that have no access to the great outdoors!

If your veterinarian discovers your cat has HCM or renal cysts, you can also adapt your cat’s diet to support its treatment. Your vet will be able to make reliable, more specific recommendations.

We wish you a wonderful life with your friendly British Longhair!

Breed

The British Longhair is a relatively young breed that has not yet been recognised by all breeding associations. Clubs that do recognise it generally allow mating with the British Shorthair. There are also genetic tests now available to ascertain whether your short-haired cat has a recessive long-haired gene, so that these cats can be specifically used for long-haired breeding.

As such a young breed, the British Longhair often presents great variation in size, weight and fur length. Each breeder will have different priorities and place more important in other variations of breeding cat. A uniform breed appearance is, therefore, often the result of several years of targeted breeding.

Finding the right breeder

The various hereditary diseases that can occur in the British Longhair emphasise just how important it is to select a serious, approved breeder for your cat. Both HCM and renal cysts are inheritable, and polycystic kidney disease is dominantly inherited. This means that a cat with cysts will always pass this on to its offspring.

A serious breeder will always consider the health of his or her breeding animals and litters to be of the utmost importance, scheduling regular healthcare appointments and checkups, particularly concerning common hereditary diseases. Medical history and documents of the parent animals should be available for you to review.

Never trust an unprofessional breeder offering cheap pedigree cats without papers. Without the control of a breeding club, this often results in poor mating choices, which can disproportionately increase the risk of hereditary disease. Cat breeding is an expensive and time-consuming hobby, which means that any breeder willing to give away their animals for a cheap price will be making up the difference by cutting back on essentials such as a premium quality food or necessary vaccinations, as well as potentially skipping preliminary examinations and not leaving a sensible time between breeding periods.

Pedigree pets will always be expensive, but they are worth the cost if you want a cat that is not only beautiful, but also well-socialised and healthy.

Animal protection centres and rescue shelters are also a good alternative, as you are bound to find many cats – both short- and long-haired – that are just waiting to go to their perfect forever home!

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