Last updated: February 18, 2017
The American Bobtail is a relatively new breed that was founded in North America in the 1960s. Although relatively unknown for many years, today they are a popular choice for families looking for a pedigreed cat due to their unique, wild appearance and fun, dog-like personalities.
The American Bobtail is a sturdy, medium-sized cat of surprising weight for its size. Females tend to be in the 7-11 lb. range with males in the 12-16 lb. range. They should appear somewhat long in body with a substantial amount of bone. American Bobtails should also be well-muscled and athletic in appearance. They come in a wide variety of colours with no particular colour or pattern excluded. They do often have a “wild” appearance though which is accentuated by the head shape and eyes. Their gait tends to be that of a hunter and has a rolling grace. They are slow to mature and cats may take three years to reach mature body size and weight.
They come in two coat types – a short, plush like coat that may resemble a rabbit’s fur in feel and texture and a medium-long, shaggy coat. On the short coated variety, the belly fur may be slightly longer. On the longer-coated type, the hair is often longer on the britches (back of legs), ruff (neck), belly, and tail and the cat ideally has longer mutton chops as well. Although little grooming is needed for short coated cats, the longer coats benefit from weekly brushing and occasional bathing.
The most distinctive feature of the American Bobtail is, of course, the tail. Cats should have a naturally occurring tail that is at least one inch in length but reaches no longer than the top of the hock. The variance in tail length is natural and several tail lengths may occur within a litter of kittens. Occasionally a cat is born with no tail. This is considered a fault by breeders and can sometimes have health consequences due to the shortness of the spine. The tail is ideally straight although it can also be kinked, curled or hooked.
A couple, John and Brenda Sanders, were travelling through an Indian Reserve in Arizona when they came upon a feral cat with a naturally bobbed tail. They named him Yodi and brought him home where he eventually had a litter with a non-pedigreed domestic shorthair cat producing a litter in which some of the cats had natural bobtails. According to breed history, Yodi is the breed founder and crosses between feral cats with bobbed tails and various domesticated cats always selecting for the bobbed tails are the initial breed source. Some claim there is bobcat blood within the breed but genetics make this unlikely.
The breed initially had white mittens and a white face but this colour pattern was difficult to breed and other colours and patterns were eventually added to foundation stock. Many of the original lines gradually died out as the breed was expanded to include other colours and patterns and few of Yodi’s descendants likely remain within the breed. Feral cats are no longer used within breeding programs and the personality of today’s American Bobtail is far from that of a typical feral cat.
The feral foundation cats were quite healthy and the American Bobtail is not prone to many health issues that are breed specific although the normal feline problems do exist within the breed. The only real area of particular concern is the tail. Sometimes kittens are born without a tail. These animals may have or develop spinal and neurological conditions as a result of the shortened spine. This can make them more expensive to insure if you intend to purchase pet insurance. Look for a comprehensive health guarantee when purchasing an American Bobtail kitten that was born with no tail that clearly indicates what the breeder is responsible for in the case that the cat develops health issues related to the lack of a tail.
Although the American Bobtail descends from feral cats, its personality is that of an affectionate and unaggressive pet. They make excellent family pets and can be very tolerant of children. As with all pets, it is important to ensure that cat and child treat one another with respect and care. Although they enjoy sitting in your lap and being cuddled, they are moderately active animals. They are not as active as breeds like the Somali or Abyssinian but certainly not as quiet and lazy as a Persian.
Where the feral origins do come through is in the breed’s love of hunting games. They will stalk, chase and hunt rodents, toys and insects quite happily. They are known for their ability to catch flying insects mid-flight when in the mood. The captured prey, whether toy or unlucky insect or rodent is often carried around proudly to show off their hunting prowess. American Bobtails are also known for their keen intellect and escape artist tendencies. They can figure out how to escape from closed rooms and even cages when the desire hits them.
Some compare their personality to that of a devoted dog and it is true that they will greet their owners at the door and love games like fetch. If you are willing to toss a toy for them, they will retrieve it until you are too tired to continue. They can also be taught to walk on a leash and are a breed that actually enjoys going for walks on lead with their owners. They are also quite fond of hide and seek. American Bobtails enjoy playing with all members of the family including children that might not otherwise have as much to do with the cat. They enjoy mentally challenging toys like many of the newer interactive toys that require the cat to solve a puzzle to get the treat. Because of their high intelligence, they are also ideal candidates for those interested in teaching their cat tricks through clicker training.
Although not demanding of attention, they do enjoy cuddling on the couch as well. They are not as vocal as some purebred cats. Their vocal sounds are often compared to chirps, trills, and clicks which are sounds more often associated with birds.
Generally patient with children, they are also quite adaptable to other pets in the home. Although birds are often not a great choice for homes with cats, dogs and other cats are generally greeted with enthusiasm for a new playmate. Their love of games makes them a good choice for a home with a playful dog provided that the dog respects the cat and is not overly rough.