Oriental Shorthair information and care

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Two oriental shorthair cats portrait
Two Oriental Shorthair Cats Portrait

The Oriental Shorthair is a svelte cat with elegant features and a coat that comes in a rainbow of colors, with up to 300 color combinations possible. Part of the Siamese family of cat breeds (which also includes the Siamese, Balinese, and Oriental Longhair), these cats are intelligent, athletic, and vocal.

The Oriental Shorthair is often included on lists of cat breeds that are ‘hypoallergenic.’ While no breed of cat is truly hypoallergenic, this breed does produce less of the Fel D1 protein that is responsible for triggering cat allergies.

Breed Overview


8 to 10 pounds


About a foot and a half long


Short and smooth

Coat Color:

Many different colors possible; including solids, shaded, smoke, and tabby color combinations.

Eye Color:

Green, blue, gold, yellow; odd-eyes are possible

Life Expectancy:

10 to 15 years

Spotted tabby oriental shorthair
Spotted Tabby Oriental Shorthair
Blue Oriental shorthair
Blue Oriental Shorthair
Black oriental shorthair in chair
Black Oriental Shorthair In Chair

Characteristics of the Oriental Shorthair

Affection LevelHigh
Exercise NeedsMedium
Energy LevelHigh
Tendency to VocalizeHigh
Amount of SheddingMedium
Black Oriental Shorthair In Chair

History of the Oriental Shorthair

The Oriental Shorthair resulted from the crossbreeding of a number of other cat breeds. In the wake of World War II, many domestic cat breeds were in jeopardy. To revive the Siamese, breeders in England began introducing Russian Blue, Abyssinian, and British Shorthairs into their lines. The result was non-pointed kittens that were eventually bred back to Siamese cats. Those subsequent crosses produced Siamese-pointed kittens that would carry on the breed, along with unique and elegant color combinations that became the foundation for the breed we know as the Oriental.

brown and black long fur cat
brown and black long fur cat

At first, each non-pointed color received a unique breed distinction, but it was soon realized that the gene pool of these cats would result in an vast amount of color combinations. To simplify things, all non-pointed kittens became known as Orientals.

The Oriental was introduced to the United States in the 1970’s and quickly gained championship status from the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) in 1977. Initially the breed was only a short-haired variety, but further crossbreeding in the United States led to both the Oriental Shorthair and Oriental Longhair breed varieties. The Oriental Longhair received championship status from the CFA in 1995.

Crossbreeding in the United States also further expanded the cat’s coat color combinations, leading to the approximate 300 varieties of colors and patterns existing today. The Oriental is sometimes referred to as the “rainbow cat” for its colorful coat.

white and black coated cat
white and black coated cat

Oriental Shorthair Care

Considered an excellent pet, the Oriental Shorthair is outgoing and fun to interact and observe. They are gregarious by nature, and unlike many other breeds of cat, can become withdrawn when left alone for extended periods.

These cats are considered to be very interactive and enjoy playing with human family members or other cats or even dogs. It’s often recommended that you make sure your Oriental has a furry friend to keep company with. Many Oriental owners report that their cat often greets them at the door when they return home and will begin to vocalize with various meows and chirps.

It should be noted that vocalization is a key part of the Oriental Shorthair’s personality, a trait shared between cats of the Siamese family. These cats often express excitement, interest, despair, or other emotions with a wide range of vocal sounds.

focused photo of a silver tabby cat
focused photo of a silver tabby cat

Unlike other breeds of cat that may be stranger-shy, most Orientals enjoy meeting new people and will eagerly ask for attention by hopping into the lap of a visitor. Occasionally, this breed becomes fixated on one person and might be more evasive about interacting with other people but this is more of the exception versus the rule.

These cats can be taught tricks, are often adept at walking on a harness when trained at an early age and may even enjoy playing fetch. They also have an incredible vertical and often enjoy perching themselves on high spots (like the top of a refrigerator or cabinets) to keep an eye on activity down below.

A smooth, silky coat that lies close to the body accents the breed’s angular face, wide-set ears, and long legs. The coat is low-maintenance, with the Oriental Shorthair doing an excellent job of self-grooming. However, your cat might appreciate an occasional brushing to remove any loose hair and stimulate the skin.

selective focus photography of spinx on brown sofa
selective focus photography of spinx on brown sofa

Common Health Problems

With a genetic history closely intertwined with the Siamese, Oriental Shorthairs are predisposed to the same health problems as their pointed relatives. In general, however, the breed is generally considered to be healthy.

Health conditions that have been observed in Oriental Shorthairs include:

silver tabby cat
silver tabby cat

Diet and Nutrition

Keeping your Oriental Shorthair healthy requires feeding a high-quality cat food. Don’t let their vocal nature sweet talk you into too many treats! The long, svelte frame of the Oriental shouldn’t become flabby or overweight for the long-term health of your cat.

Do Cats Think Their owners are cats
  • Outgoing and friendly

  • Good with strangers

  • Tends to vocalize a lot

  • More need to perch on high spots

orange tabby cat lying on brown wooden floor
orange tabby cat lying on brown wooden floor

Where to Adopt or Buy

The Oriental Shorthair gained rapid popularity after being imported to the United States, and today the breed enjoys a healthy fan base thanks to its myriad of colors. These cats are sometimes even nicknamed ‘Ornamentals’ due to their wide range of colorful coats. Because of this popularity, there are many Oriental Shorthair breeders.

You should also considering open your home to an Oriental from a cat rescue. Both regional and national groups exist to find a new home for displaced Oriental Shorthair and Longhair cats.

Some resources to check out as you search for an Oriental Shorthair include:

white cat lying on gray textile
white cat lying on gray textile
macro photography of black and white kitten on textile
macro photography of black and white kitten on textile

More Cat Breeds and Further Research

The more you know about the Oriental Shorthair, the more you’ll understand about this unique and outgoing member of the feline world. If you’re evaluating whether this cat is the right one for you, reach out to breeders, cat owners, and get more information on the breed’s unique disposition and needs.

Other closely related breeds you might be interested in learning about include: