Guide to Cat Breeds (See Full List)

Exotic Shorthair

Exotic Shorthair

Ancestry: American Shorthairs (ASH) and Persians
Place of Origin: United States
Date of Origin: 1950s
Accepted by: All North American cat associations (championship)


The Exotic is a medium to large breed with short, thick legs and a muscular, heavily boned, cobby body. The head is massive and round with a wide skull set on a short, thick neck. The eyes are large, round, and set far apart. The nose is short, snub and broad with a break centered between the eyes. Ears are small and rounded at the tip, set far apart and low on the head. When viewed in profile, the prominence of the eyes is apparent and the forehead, nose, and chin appear to be in vertical alignment.

The tail is thick and short but in proportion to the body. Adult males weigh 7 to 14 pounds; adult females weigh 6 to 10 pounds. Type is more important than size. Balance and refinement are essential—all parts should come together in a harmonious whole, with neither too much nor too little consideration given to any feature.

The fur is soft, dense, plush, full of life, and stands out from the body due to the undercoat. Like the Persian, it has a thick undercoat (referred to as “double-coated”), and while considered a shorthaired breed, the coat is slightly longer than that of most shorthaired cats. The CFA standard calls it medium in length; the length depends on the proper undercoat . The tail brush is very full. The dense coat and round body leads to what is sometimes called "the teddy bear look."

Exotics are available in a rainbow of hues too numerous to mention, including the pointed pattern and colors. Eye color depends upon coat color. Outcrossing is allowed with the Persian and Himalayan in most associations. However, in CFA it’s not quite as simple as that. For litters born after April 15, 2009, litters may be from Exotic Shorthair to Exotic Shorthair matings, Exotic Shorthair to Exotic Longhair matings, or Exotic Shorthair to Persian matings. As of 2012, Exotic Longhair to Exotic Longhair and Exotic Longhair to Persian matings are registerable.


This Persian in his pajamas, as the Exotic is sometimes called, wasn’t created to give fanciers a break from grooming. During late 1950s and early 1960s, some American Shorthair breeders began to crossbreed Persians with their American Shorthairs (then called Domestic Shorthairs) to improve the conformation and to introduce the Persian’s spectacular silver color into their breed. As a result, the American Shorthair began to take on Persian characteristics. Their faces became rounder and broader, their noses shorter, their ears smaller and their bodies more boxy and compact in design. Their hair became longer, softer and denser, too.

The Persian was not an allowable outcross for the ASH, of course; breeders were drawing outside the bloodlines without letting anyone in on their secret. They were rewarded for these illegitimate pairings, however, because the hybrids did well in the cat shows.

Other American Shorthair breeders were appalled at the changes. They had worked very hard to get the ASH the respect it deserved, and they didn't want to see their breed transformed into a shorthaired Persian. The breed standard was revised to disqualify any cat showing evidence of hybridization--but they allowed the striking silver color to remain.

The as-yet unnamed ASH/Persian hybrids might have quietly vanished if it wasn’t for Jane Martinke, a CFA judge and American Shorthair breeder. She was the first to see the potential of these handsome hybrids, and in 1966 she proposed to the CFA board of directors that these cats be recognized as a new breed.

At first, the suggested name was Sterling for the recently introduced silver color. They finally settled on Exotic Shorthair, because silver wasn’t a color previously found in the American Shorthair, thereby making them "exotic." Some fanciers felt the name was confusing to those who were not familiar with the breed, but even so the name stuck. In 1967, the Exotic Shorthair was accepted for CFA championship. In 1993, CFA shortened the name to Exotic, although many of the other associations still call the breed Exotic Shorthair.

In those early days, Exotic breeders had their work cut out for them because many Persian breeders opposed the new breed. Few would allow their cats to be used in Exotic breeding programs. Breeders who bred both Persians and Exotics had an easier time of it, since they already had access to good Persian stock, but progress was slow. However, the Exotic and its breeders outlasted their opponents. Today the Exotic is the most popular shorthaired breed, and the second most popular breed overall (the Persian is first), according to CFA’s 2012 registration totals.

Initially, Exotic breeders used Burmese and Russian Blues in addition to American Shorthairs to introduce the dominant shorthair gene. Breeders used these shorthaired breeds just long enough to get the shorthair gene into the bloodlines. After it was introduced, crossing back to shorthairs was unnecessary and made it more difficult to achieve the prized Persian type. In 1987 CFA closed the Exotic to shorthair outcrosses altogether, leaving the Persian as CFA’s only allowable outcross.

This left Exotic breeders with a problem. One of the frustrating difficulties is that Exotic kittens with long hair can be born if both shorthaired parents carry the longhair recessive gene. Because the Exotic was and still is periodically bred to Persians to keep the desired body and head type, many Exotics do possess one copy of the recessive longhair gene and one copy of the dominant shorthair gene. Such heterozygous Exotics will have short hair but can pass the gene for long hair onto their offspring. The gene can be passed for generations without showing up in the offspring's physical appearance. But when two heterozygous Exotics are mated, on average litters will include one longhaired kitten, two heterozygous shorthairs and one homozygous shorthair, which possesses two copies of the shorthair gene.

Since Exotics are regarded as hybrids and Persians are not, these longhaired kittens are still considered Exotics--a longhaired version of a shorthaired Persian, the oxymoron of the cat fancy. In the beginning, this was a major problem for Exotic Shorthair breeders because the longhairs they produced could not be registered or shown as either Exotics or Persians. They could be used in Exotic breeding programs, but the show ring was closed to them.

In 2010, however, CFA changed these rules. Now, Exotic Longhairs that meet Persian color descriptions are eligible to compete in Persian color classes. The Exotic Shorthair parentage is indicated by special registration prefixes. The longhair division for Exotics was created for scoring purposes, and national and regional points accumulated by Exotic Longhairs shown in Persian color classes count toward Exotic Longhair breed and color class wins, not toward Persian wins. This is fair for the Persians being shown, since they aren’t completing against show Exotic Longhairs, and it gives the Exotic breeders a way of exhibiting and earning points for outstanding examples of Exotic Longhairs.

In AACE, ACFA, CCA, CFF, and UFO, the Exotic Shorthair and the Exotic Longhair are accepted for championship competition as separate breeds, with crossbreeding allowed. ACFA recognizes the variety under the name Longhair Exotic; in CCA, the two breeds are judged separately but share a single breed standard under the name “Exotic.” In TICA, the Exotic Shorthair, Persian, and Himalayan share a single standard and are part of the Persian Breed Group; these breeds may be bred with one another and are judged according to their appearance and hair length. This way, good-quality longhaired Exotics can be shown for championship, and breeders don’t have to worry about what to do with the longhaired kittens who will continue to be born.


With an Exotic, you can spend more time playing with your feline friend instead of grooming him; compared to the Persian, the Exotic is easy to groom. However, Exotics do require more grooming than many other shorthaired breeds because they have as much hair as Persians do—it’s just shorter. Also like the Persian, they have a rich, full undercoat. Figure on a grooming session with a good quality steel comb at least twice a week to keep your Exotic free from mats. Breeders recommend a bath once a month as well. Exotics whose eyes run need their faces washed daily with a warm, wet washcloth. Tear stain remover, made especially for cats to clean the discoloration under the eyes, can be purchased at pet supply stores, catalogs, and web sites.

The Exotic is essentially a shorthaired Persian, and is still crossed with Persians, so it’s no surprise that the breed has some of the same health issues as the Persian. These include sinus and breathing problems caused by the foreshortened face, snub nose, abridged sinus cavities, and constantly running eyes due to short tear ducts. Some Exotics need their faces washed daily or twice-daily to control excess tearing. Also, some lines are prone to plaque, tartar buildup, and gingivitis. Gingivitis can lead to the dental disease periodontitis (an inflammatory disease affecting the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth), which can cause tissue, tooth, and bone loss. Untreated, periodontal disease can undermine a cat’s overall health. The Exotic needs dental exams during their annual veterinary checkups, and periodic teeth cleaning as recommended by your veterinarian. If your Exotic will tolerate it, regular tooth cleaning using cat toothpaste and a cat toothbrush or a soft child's size toothbrush will help reduce plaque and tartar. Gauze pads wrapped around your finger work just as well and are easier to control.

Some Exotic lines have inherited the life-threatening disease polycystic kidney disease (PKD), which can cause death by renal failure. Since symptoms are mild until later in life, untested breeding cats have often already passed on the dominant gene to their offspring. According to the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in California, an estimated 37 percent of all Persians have PKD, and since the Persian is the Exotic’s only outcross, the disease has been transmitted to the Exotic. Fortunately, a PKD genetic test is available from the school's Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, which allows breeders to screen out affected breeding stock. Leslie A. Lyons, Ph.D., Assistant Professor with the Department of Population Health and Reproduction, recommends PKD testing for Persians, Exotics, Himalayans, American Shorthairs, British Shorthairs, Scottish Folds, and any breed that uses these breeds as outcrosses. A sample is taken at home with a simple cheek swab, and mailed back to the laboratory for testing. No visit to a veterinarian is necessary, since the lab will send a kit and instructions for taking the sample.

In addition, some lines have inherited the heart disease feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). The disease can develop at any age, but is more common in older cats—cats who have already had the opportunity to pass the disease along to offspring. The symptoms of HCM can be so subtle that the first visible symptom is often sudden death. HCM is the most common feline heart disease, and is known in other breeds and in random-bred cats as well.

This is not to say your Exotic will develop all or any of these conditions and diseases. However, it’s wise to ask your potential breeder how carefully she screens her breeding stock. Be sure to talk to your breeder about these and any other health concerns you have, and buy from a breeder who tests for PKD and screens for HCM, and provides a written health guarantee.

Did you know?

The Exotic is sometimes called the lazy person’s Persian, because the breed has the body type and laidback lifestyle of the Persian but lacks the long, easily matted fur. If you’re yearning for a Persian but don’t want to spend time every day grooming your cat, the Exotic may be for you.


The Exotic’s personality is very similar to the Persian’s: devoted, sweet and affectionate. Exotics usually choose one human in the household as their preferred person and follow them around like small, plush lapdogs. They are loyal cats and want to be involved in every aspect of their people’s lives.

As a rule, this breed has the attributes of the Persian—dignified, quiet, sensitive, enjoys pampering—but they are also a bit more fun-loving and athletic. They tend to be playful without being mischievous and active without being hyper. Some of them learn to fetch. Like Persians, their calm, trusting temperaments make them ideal house cats, and breeders recommend them as indoor-only pets.

Although not usually chosen as Jeopardy contestants, Exotics are nevertheless thought to be smarter than Persians, probably because of the American Shorthair influence. That dash of American Shorthair flavoring is important, because it gives the Exotic its easier-care coat and a temperament that’s a tad livelier than its placid Persian cousin. Exotics love to play in between long naps, particularly when their favorite humans join the fun. As with any breed, however, some Exotics may set a faster or slower pace than their brothers and sisters.

Breed Characteristics

Size:Medium to large.
Coat Length(s):Short hair.
Body Type:Cobby.
Grooming Requirement:Twice a week.
Activity Level:Low.
Usually Good With:Everyone.
Time Alone:4 to 8 hours per day.
Attention:Needs lots of attention.
Handling:Easy to handle.