Published on June 23, 2011
This cat’s coat may be wired, but his personality is not. The American Wirehair tends to be a calm and tolerant cat who takes life as it comes. His favorite hobby is bird-watching from a sunny windowsill, and his hunting ability will stand you in good stead if insects enter the house.
If the American Wirehair is well socialized as a kitten, he should be happy to meet and interact with your guests. This six to 11-pound cat can be a good choice for families with older children who will treat him respectfully, but younger children and toddlers should be supervised so they don’t manhandle him. He is also perfectly capable of getting along with cat-friendly dogs in the household.
You may hear that the American Wirehair coat is hypoallergenic because of its texture, but that is not correct. Allergies are not caused by a particular coat type but by dander, the dead skin cells that are shed by all cats (and people, for that matter). There is no scientific evidence that any breed or cross breed is more or less allergenic than any other cat. Some people with allergies may react less severely to particular cats, but no reputable breeder will guarantee that her cats are hypoallergenic.
The American Wirehair is well suited to any home with people who will love him and give his unusual coat a weekly combing. Keep him indoors to protect him from cars, diseases spread by other cats and attacks from other animals.
Other Quick Facts
- This cat’s coat may look high-maintenance, but it requires almost no brushing or combing except during the spring, when old growth sheds.
- The American Wirehair has a crimped coat with a thick, coarse texture. It can come in just about any color or pattern.
- The American Wirehair is closely related to the American Shorthair and the two breeds are frequently crossed.
The History of the American Wirehair
The American Wirehair is the product of a spontaneous natural mutation, a not uncommon occurrence in the world of cats. The first known wirehaired cat made his appearance in the mid-1960s in upstate New York. A cat breeder named Joan O’Shea took an interest in this twist of nature. She named him Council Rock Farm Adam of Hi-Fi and bred him to a neighboring cat that may also have carried the gene for wiry hair. The result was a litter of kittens with wiry coats. A second breeding established that the gene for a wire coat was dominant, and consultation with British cat geneticists, who examined hair samples from the cats, determined that they were unrelated to the Cornish or Devon Rex breeds. A breed was born!
The cats were most similar in type to the American Shorthair, and that breed was used to further develop the American Wirehair. The two breeds are alike in appearance and personality, differing only in coat type. The American Shorthair has a hard coat, while the American Wirehair has a hard, dense, springy coat with twisted down, awn and guard hairs. The awn hairs are hooked at the tip.
American Wirehair Temperament and Personality
The affectionate and friendly American Wirehair is adaptable to the needs of his family, making him a potentially excellent companion for everyone from singles to seniors. He can also be a good playmate for children, being both playful and tolerant. Just make sure children treat him with the gentle respect he deserves.Some American Wirehairs are lap cats and some aren’t, but all are happy to spend time with you. When he wants attention, he may give you a little “Hey, look at me!” love bite. Males tend to have a laidback personality, while females are more likely to be involved in supervising household goings-on.
American Wirehairs are good at entertaining themselves, but they also appreciate interactive play that involves “hunting” the lure at the end of a fishing-pole toy, batting at a big peacock feather or figuring out how to release treats from a puzzle toy. They’re smart, trainable, and willing to learn things — like using a scratching post in place of your couch. A windowseat where they can birdwatch will be much appreciated.
Since they are social cats, American Wirehairs may also enjoy the company of other animals, including dogs. But they’re not terribly talkative; their expressions communicate their needs instead. Perhaps their best attribute is patience, which no doubt contributes to their success as hunters.
What You Need to Know About American Wirehair Health
All cats have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit diseases. Any breeder who claims that her breed has no health or genetic problems is either lying or is not knowledgeable about the breed. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on kittens, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her kittens are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons.
The American Wirehair is generally healthy, but because he can be crossed with the American Shorthair, he may develop some of the problems that affect that breed, including hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the most common form of heart disease in cats. It causes thickening (hypertrophy) of the heart muscle. An echocardiogram can confirm whether a cat has HCM. Avoid breeders who claim to have HCM-free lines. No one can guarantee that their cats will never develop HCM. American Wirehairs that will be bred should be screened for HCM, and cats identified with HCM should be removed from breeding programs. Do not buy a kitten whose parents have not been tested for this disease.
It is always wise to buy from a breeder who provides a written health guarantee.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new kitten into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping an American Wirehair at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to protect his overall health. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier cat for life.
The Basics of American Wirehair Grooming
With this coat, the less grooming the better. Brushing or combing can damage it, so unless he is shedding heavily, leave it alone. Regular bathing helps to remove dead hair, however, as well as a greasy feel that the coat sometimes develops. If you introduce bathing to the American Wirehair when he is a kitten and make it a pleasant experience, he's likely to be more accepting of it. The only other care he needs is weekly nail trimming, regular teeth brushing with a vet-approved pet toothpaste, and occasional ear cleaning with cotton balls and ear cleaning solution recommended by your vet.
Choosing an American Wirehair Breeder
You want your American Wirehair to be happy and healthy, so do your homework before you bring him home. For reputable breeder recommendations, check out these websites: Cat Fanciers Association, Fanciers Breed Referral List, and The International Cat Association.
A reputable breeder will abide by a code of ethics that prohibits sales to pet stores and wholesalers and outlines the breeder’s responsibilities to their cats and to buyers. Choose a breeder who has performed the health certifications necessary to screen out genetic health problems to the extent that is possible, as well as one who raises kittens in the home. Kittens who are isolated can become fearful and skittish and may be difficult to socialize later in life.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include kittens always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any kitten, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your feline friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and unhealthy catteries can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick kitten, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy kittens. Put at least as much effort into researching your kitten as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Once you find the right breeder, be patient. American Wirehairs are uncommon and most breeders have waiting lists — even for pet-quality kittens. If you want a particular pattern or color, it’s not uncommon to have to wait six months or more for a kitten to become available. Many breeders won't release kittens to new homes until they’re between 12 and 16 weeks of age.
Before you decide to buy a kitten, consider whether an adult American Wirehair may better suit your lifestyle. Kittens are loads of fun, but they’re also a lot of work and can be destructive until they reach the more sedate adult years. If you’re interested in acquiring an older cat, ask breeders about purchasing a retired show or breeding cat who needs a new home.
Adopting a Cat from American Wirehair Rescue or a Shelter
A breeder isn’t the only source for an adult cat. Pedigreed American Wirehairs aren’t usually found in shelters, but their domestic shorthair cousins are readily available. If you’d prefer to have a pedigreed cat, contact local shelters, peruse the listings on Petfinder or ask breeders if they know of any American Wirehairs in need of a new home. Sometimes breeders like to place cats in pet homes once their show or breeding careers are over.
Regardless of how you acquire your American Wirehair, make sure that you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group. In states with “pet lemon laws,” confirm that you and the person you get the cat from both understand your rights and recourses.
Once you’ve found a good American Wirehair match, take your kitten or adult to a veterinarian as soon as possible to detect problems quickly, as well as set up a preventative regimen to help prevent future health issues.