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All About the American Wirehair Cat

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American Wirehair.

We don’t tend to think of a pot scrubber pad as a desirable texture for a cat coat, but that’s just what the American Wirehair’s crimped and springy coat is said to resemble. Among the rarest of the 40-plus pedigreed felines, these wiry-coated cats have a calm, affectionate personality beneath that prickly fur.

What is an American Wirehair like to live with?

An American Wirehair walking.

An American Wirehair walking. Photography ©Tetsu Yamazaki.

Their rarity means that American Wirehairs are more commonly seen in show rings than pet households. That’s a shame, because the cats with the coat like soft steel wool have traits that make them well-loved among people familiar with them. Moderately active, loving and quiet, they tend to be tolerant cats whose report card reads “plays well with others.” With appropriate early socialization, introductions and supervision, they can be friendly with kids, dogs, other cats and human guests, whom they are usually happy to greet at the door.

Avoid the American Wirehair if you think felines should be soft and furry or you believe his coat won’t elicit allergies. Some people with allergies may respond well to wirehaired cats, but everyone (cats, too) is an individual, and there’s no guarantee that this cat will be hypoallergenic.

The American Wirehair’s unusual features

While the American Wirehair’s coat is meant to be coarse and hard, the texture varies from cat to cat. Some have softer ringlets that become wavy or even straight as the kitten matures.

For the show ring, breeders seek cats that are, well, let’s say hardwired — whiskers and all. And it’s not always easy to get. Not all of the kittens in a litter will be wirehaired at birth, and even if wiring develops with maturity, it might not have the correct amount of coarseness. Of course, that doesn’t affect an American Wirehair kitten’s ability to be a great companion. American Wirehairs bear a close resemblance to American Shorthairs, but one difference is their high cheekbones, which accentuate the face, and, of course, those curly whiskers.

With the exceptions of chocolate, lavender or the Himalayan pattern, American Wirehairs can be any color or pattern, including solids, tabbies, smokes, cameos and calicos.

American Wirehair history

American Wirehair closeup.

When did the American Wirehair first come about? Photography ©Tetsu Yamazaki.

The result of a spontaneous genetic mutation, the first of these rare and unusual cats was born in 1966 to a cat with a normal coat on a farm in upstate New York. A male, he was sold to a local cat breeder who started a breeding program with him (calling him Council Rock Farm Adam of Hi-Fi) and a female cat with a normal coat. At first it was thought that they must be related to Cornish or Devon Rex cats, which also have uniquely textured coats. Genetic testing found that the wirehaired cats were instead similar to American Shorthairs, to which they are still outcrossed to maintain genetic diversity.

Interested breeders in the United States, Canada and Germany continued to develop the new breed. By 1978, the Cat Fanciers’ Association gave the American Wirehair full recognition as a breed, followed by TICA in 1979. Other associations that recognize the American Wirehair include the American Cat Fanciers’ Association, the Canadian Cat Association and the World Cat Federation.

Thumbnail: Photography ©Tetsu Yamazaki.

About the author

Kim Campbell Thornton has been writing about cats and dogs for more than 30 years. She is the award-winning author of more than two dozen books and hundreds of articles on pet care, health and behavior.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in Catster magazine. Have you seen the new Catster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting area of your vet’s office? Click here to subscribe to Catster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home. 

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