One of the most remarkable traits of the Domestic Longhair cat is that they are typical cats with long hair. In other words, Domestic Longhairs are breed-less. They are a product of willy-nilly cat pairings; a typical Felis silvestris catus, but with flowing locks, arrived on the scene without the guiding hand of Homo sapiens.
Please do not get them confused with their purebred American cousins, the American Longhair cat. The American Longhair cat has a distinct family tree that people pruned, making it much easier to trace their lineage. The lineage of a Domestic Longhair cat, on the other hand, is shrouded in mystery.
But that doesn’t mean these highly-varied, longhaired, mixed-breed kitties aren’t unique. They have plenty to help them stand out from the crowd. That’s a fact that has made them the second most popular housecat in the United States, the most popular being their partners in genetic-diversity, the Domestic Shorthair.
The majestic Norwegian Forest cat is classified as a Domestic Longhair cat.
Getting to know the history of the Domestic Longhaired means getting to know their genes. The gene carrying the long hair trait in cats is recessive. That means the result of a shorthaired cat mating with a longhaired will only be shorthaired kittens. However, if the shorthaired offspring were to mate with each other, a handful of longhaired kittens might be born.
The ultimate origin of the Domestic Longhair is based on speculation. Still, it’s thought that the recessive gene for long hair was naturally selected in cat populations hanging out in colder climates. In the northern reaches of Russia, Iran, and Turkey, longhaired cats’ luxurious coats offered excellent protection from the weather.
There is a precedent for this. The meme-able and reclusive internet darling called the Pallas cat lives in the wild in Central Asia and sports long, fluffy hair (and an adorable grumpy face). People once thought that Pallas cats bred with domestic cats to create longhairs, but this idea was later refuted.
While humans would eventually breed longhaired cats to have traits like those seen in today’s modern Persians and Russian Blues, the scrappy Domestic Longhair persisted. They were first documented in Italy around the middle of the 16th century. It’s thought that their presence in Europe during that time was likely due to soldiers who returned from the Crusades with longhaired cats. It turns out it’s a good thing they did.
As the plague swept across Europe in the mid-1600s, Domestic Longhairs proved useful. Because of their fine mousing skills, they helped control the rat population that carried the disease-spreading fleas. Whereas the church had once banned them, the cats worked their way back into a beneficial relationship with people.
Domestic Longhairs would later make it to the shores of America as ship’s cats. Some of these cats may have differentiated, becoming the much-loved Maine Coon breed. Others continued to splash around in their vast gene pool, creating the fantastic longhaired varieties seen on our shores today.
One of the most famous Domestic Longhairs is a former London street cat turned political ambassador named Humphrey. This black and white phenom was found as a stray next to the British Prime Minister’s private residence, 10 Downing Street, when he was just one-year-old.
He must have charmed the governing elite. Shortly after being found, Humphrey was promoted from area stray to “Mouser to the Cabinet Office.” The title was apparently well-earned. Humphrey was said to be really good at his job, and the British government paid for his food for the equivalent of $200 a year.
Humphrey attended to 10 Downing Street during three prime ministers’ residency, and he was loved by both the public and the press. But after a life of great renown and global politics, Humphrey was retired to a quiet country home where he lived to a ripe old age of 18.
After reading about Humphrey’s story, you may be wondering, “How long do Domestic Longhair cats live?” The average lifespan for these felines is around 12-18 years.
The mixed ancestry of Domestic Longhair cats means they present an entire rainbow’s worth of colors, as well as the physical traits and characteristics of a whole cat menagerie. The one thing that all Domestic Longhairs share, besides their somewhat generic name, is that long beautiful hair. Shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen, you get the drift.
The Domestic Longhairs’ long coat is generally two to six inches long. They can sometimes sport fancy neck ruffs, too. They may also have ear tufts, as well as tufts on the bottom of their paws. The latter is likely a holdover from cold climate ancestors who may have used the trait as a kind of snowshoe or even desert cats who used similar tufts to stay stable on the sand.
Variety is the name of the game for the color of these kitties. They present vast combinations of patterns and hues that, when matched with a spectacular variety of eye colors, combine to create a longhair cat for every type of person.
Here are some colors you might find a Domestic Longhair wearing:
The variety in their appearance is yet another reason why these cats are so unique—they can be found in practically any color or pattern a cat can be.
Body-types for the Domestic Longhair will be largely influenced by the breed traits in their diverse genetic pool that floats to the surface. These cats’ faces may be elongated or shortened, and their bodies can be muscular or sleek.
That said, their weight and length are generally in the mid-range of all cat breeds, so how big do Domestic Longhair cats get? The average Domestic Longhair cat weight is 8-15 pounds depending on sex, with a body length of around 18 inches and a tail length of approximately 12 inches.
One of the sought-after traits of these cats is that they are neither too aloof nor too needy. Some might be quieter than others. Some might be more affectionate. And while not extreme, the range of personalities is likely as diverse as those of your friends and family.
A personality trait Domestic Longhair cats do share is the desire to hunt. After all, the domestic cat’s mousing skills have often been credited as the reason humans have cohabitated with these fluffballs for so very long. Because of that, you can expect your average Domestic Longhair, particularly if they’re young, to enjoy some time stalking interactive toys.
The biggest issue with Domestic Longhair cats is their hair. Not all longhair cats are particularly good at grooming their coats. Unlike some longhair breeds with relatively trouble-free fuzzy coats, like the Maine Coon, many of these thick-coated felines require more than just their grooming abilities to keep them mat-free.
Expect to put in some regular grooming time every week to keep your longhaired kitty mat and hairball free. Although not always necessary, you may find that your cat’s long fur will benefit from daily brushing. If your cat does develop mats, a professional groomer specializing in felines may be the way to go. You don’t want to injure your cat or yourself when trying to fix a hairy problem.
If you ever find yourself having to bathe some Longhaired Domestic kittens, first read-up on tips on how to bathe a cat. You may find that some can be quite helpful when you are trying to wrangle a kitten.
Of course, keeping any cat healthy requires a veterinarian trip shortly after adoption. Your DVM will be able to give you a full checkup and help you with the nutritional and health needs of your cat. Not sure where to start? Check out this handy infographic on your kitty’s first vet visit.
Finally, keep in mind that our strategic partner The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®) suggests that all cats be kept indoors. This is the best method to protect them from injury, illness, or contagious pathogens associated with stray cats. And because Longhaired Domestic cats are known hunters, keeping them indoors will also protect the furry and feathered creatures around your home.
Thanks to their mixed breeding, there aren’t any health problems explicitly linked to Domestic Longhair cats. That said, health issues that affect cats in general, including arthritis, upper respiratory infection, and cancer, can still affect Domestic Longhair cats.
Here are the top health issues* for the Domestic Longhair:
To help your cat stay in good health, it’s recommended that you take your feline to see their veterinarian once a year or more often when an issue does arise. Even if your cat appears to be perfectly healthy, it is essential that you do not skip these yearly appointments. Cats can hide their health issues quite well, and it may take an examination from a professional to even notice if a new problem has developed.
The estimate is that 1 in 10 domestic cats in the U.S. is a Domestic Longhair. That’s a ton of fuzzy felines. And given their incredible population, it’s inevitable that you will see plenty of perfect Domestic Longhair felines in your local shelter.
The nice thing about the variety is that you can find the ideal feline soulmate for you. And once you find your cat, do not hesitate to get them spayed or neutered. The procedure can lengthen your pal’s life and protect them from possible health issues. Not to mention, it keeps your home free from unexpected furry litters.
Visit the ASPCA’s website to find a shelter in your area. Also, find out what you need to know about bringing home a new kitten from the adoption process to primary kitten care.
*Internal Claims Data, 2020
The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.