Last updated: February 18, 2017
Nicknamed the “patent leather kid with the copper penny eyes” and the “parlor panther”, the Bombay was bred to resemble a black panther with bright copper eyes and it does. With a pitch black, glossy coat, the Bombay makes a striking addition to any home with his exotic looks. His playful demeanor only adds to the fun of owning a parlor panther.
This is a medium sized cat, generally weighing 6 – 11 lbs. He looks small but is heavier than expected when you pick him up. His coat is a deep, dark black with a glossy sheen to it. The coat may not appear as dark or glossy in young cats but it should gain its full glory by the time your cat reaches two years of age. It is short, sleek, and requires little to no maintenance. It does not shed a great deal either. It clings to the body in a manner that allows you to watch the Bombay’s muscles ripple just like a wild panther as he crosses your living room.
The body should be compact with sturdy bones and well-muscled. The head is round and medium in size. It features large, round eyes that are anywhere from a rich gold to bright copper in colour. Copper is preferred in the breed standard. The ears are wide set and slightly rounded, tilting slightly forward in an alert but sweet expression.
The Bombay descends from the Burmese and either the domestic shorthair or American Shorthair depending on whether you are in America or Britain, respectively. In body type, size, and shape it should resemble its Burmese ancestors.
Nikki Horner had always wanted a black panther of her own, only in a domesticated package that was suitable to her home. She began experimenting with the creation of a new breed in 1953. Her goal was to produce a cat that resembled the wild Indian panthers. Although her initial attempts were not overly successful, she persisted and ultimately developed the Bombay by combining black American Shorthairs with sable Burmese. She christened the breed Bombay, after the Indian capital. Eventually, the rest of the cat fancy fell in love with the mischievous cats and their striking looks and they were accepted for championship status. Other breeders added their own touches to the breed, most notably Herb and Suzanne Zwecker, whose cats are behind many of today’s Bombay lines.
In the United Kingdom, the breed developed along similar lines although it was black domestic shorthairs that were crossed with sable Burmese.
The black gene is dominant and black cats can carry the sable genes from the Burmese gene pool of their ancestors. This means that in a litter from two Bombays, you will occasionally get a sable kitten. Although it cannot be registered as a Bombay, some registries will allow it to be registered as a Burmese as the two standards are very similar. Despite the colour, a sable kitten out of two Bombay parents is likely to have the joyous personality that is typical of the Bombay and will make a good pet for those not intent on showing and breeding.
Many registries allow Bombays to be outcrossed with sable Burmese, or, less commonly, black American Shorthairs to help maintain genetic diversity within the breed. Because of the divergent characteristics of the American Shorthair in terms of body type, it is much rarer to see an outcrossing to them. The breeder of the litter should be able to give you pictures of both parents and allow you to meet at least one of them so that you can get a good idea about their appearance and temperament.
The Bombay generally lives 12 – 16 years on average but can live well into their teens. For the most part, they are healthy cats but there are some health issues associated with the breed. Their close degree of relation to the Burmese means that the occasional kitten is born with a craniofacial abnormality, also known as Burmese head defect. In these cases, the head is severely deformed and the kitten must be euthanized. Although pet owners will not have to deal with the problem, people seeking cats for breeding should carefully research the lines and avoid ones that have produced this abnormality.
The Bombay also suffers from a slightly higher than normal incidence of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a heart defect that can be fatal. Breeding cats should be tested for this issue and breeders should be able to provide proof of testing of the parents to kitten purchasers. Responsible breeders also provide a written guarantee detailing what they will do and provide should the cat develop HCM.
The Bombay has been likened to a dog, a cat, and a monkey all rolled into one delightful package. They are clever, active cats that love to play and spend time with their family. They are extremely devoted to the art of snuggling and cuddling and will gladly follow their owners around or lie on their owner’s shoulders as they walk around. If they can be on you, they will be. This means though that they can be lonely in homes where they are left alone for extended periods of time. They will do better with someone home or another pet to pass the time with.
They do well with dogs and children. They are good with other felines provided that the other cat is willing to accept that the Bombay is the boss. They do have domineering tendencies when it comes to other cats.
Anyone willing to play with them is welcome and any object can easily become a toy whether it’s a paper bag or an expensive puzzle toy. They are relatively active but not as demanding as some breeds are. Although they can be vocal and will converse, they are not as insistently talkative as some other breeds. When they get tired they prefer to curl up on you or snuggle under the bed covers, where their warm little bodies will provide your own personal furnace.
They are reasonably good with children and can make an excellent choice as a family pet. For those interested in teaching their cat tricks like walking on a leash, fetch, and other games, the Bombay is a game participant and quick learner. If you would prefer to just curl up on the couch with them and watch television, they are just as happy being on your lap.
They combine the easy going demeanor of the American Shorthair with the loving Burmese’s naturally curious nature. For those who wish a strikingly beautiful cat combined with an active companion that enjoys their owner’s company, the Bombay can be the perfect choice among the many breeds of purebred cat.