Last updated: February 18, 2017
The Japanese Bobtail symbolizes good luck in his native land and is one of the oldest natural breeds. His unusual tail is as individual as a person’s fingerprint and no two are identical.
This is a small to medium sized cat, typically weighing five to ten pounds. The body is slender but muscular and athletic. The bone is slender but not delicate. The hind legs are longer than the forelegs but are generally deeply angulated making the cat’s back appear level. The hind legs give the Japanese Bobtail incredible jumping abilities and a great deal of agility.
The head is a gently curved triangle although it actually appears long and chiseled. The eyes may be any colour including odd eyed (one eye is a different colour from the other). They are large, oval, wide, and very alert. The ears are wide set at a right angle to the skull. They are relatively large and very expressive. At rest, they tilt slightly forward adding to the overall alertness of this breed’s expression.
There are two coat varieties in the Japanese Bobtail. There is the medium length and longhaired length. It is silky in texture with little to no undercoat. Occasional brushing is enough to keep it glossy and healthy at either length. All colours are acceptable including solids, bi-colours and tricolours. The Japanese consider the tricolour (usually black, orange, and white or calico), which they call mi-ke (pronounced mee-kay) to be particularly lucky.
The most notable trait of the Japanese Bobtail is, of course, his tail. No two tails are identical. It is naturally abbreviated usually to about three to four inches from the base of the spine. There is always at least some tail, this is not a tailless cat. It may be kinked, curved, angled, or any combination of the three. It tends to look a bit like a pom-pom. In the longhairs, it is almost chrysanthemum like. The bones are often fused and it should be handled gently to avoid causing any pain to the cat.
The Japanese Bobtail has appeared in Japanese paintings and literature for over one thousand years in both the long and short-coated versions and they figure into many regional legends and stories, often referred to as a beckoning cat. It is not known if the cats actually originated in Japan. Cats originally came to the islands from China and Korea in the 6th century but it is unknown if the mutation occurred prior to their arrival or after.
The Japanese Bobtail has served many roles in Japanese culture, not only as a symbol of good luck but also as a savior of the silk industry. About four centuries ago, the Japanese government ordered all cats set free so that they could protect the silkworms and their cocoons from a growing rodent population. Prior to that the Japanese Bobtail had been kept mainly as a temple cat and treasured pet. After the decree, they became working cats that were found on farms and the streets. Until the cat fancy and cat shows came into prominence, this is where they remained.
In 1967, Elizabeth Freret saw her first Japanese Bobtail at a pet show and was entranced. She began working on importing some cats from Japan to Maryland to start a breeding program. A year later she found an American named Judy Crawford that was living in Japan and willing to ship her three Japanese Bobtails. When Crawford returned to the United States she brought more Japanese Bobtails with her and began working with Freret on a breeding program for these unique cats. At about the same time, Lynn Beck imported some cats from Tokyo. Initially the North American’s focussed mainly on the short-coated cats. The shorthaired cats were first registered in North America in 1969. Although the longhaired cats have been around just as long, they were not officially recognized for registration until 1991.
Today, the Japanese Bobtail remains popular and ceramic cats can be found in front of Japanese homes and businesses around the world as a symbol of good luck and prosperity.
This is a healthy natural breed that usually lives into their teens. There are no diseases that they are known to be more prone to and they offer a special advantage to those who like the short tail look. Unlike the Manx gene which is lethal when it doubles up and can cause a variety of spinal issues, the gene that leads to the short tail of the Japanese Bobtail is harmless. It is a recessive gene and all Japanese Bobtails have two copies of the gene. When bred together, two Japanese Bobtails will produce nothing but Japanese Bobtails.
The Japanese Bobtail is a lively, playful cat. They are high energy animals that spend a lot of time playing and jumping about. They are not a good choice for those who want a cat that likes to frequently curl up in your lap for a nap. It’s not that they aren’t affectionate, they are, but they don’t slow down very often and prefer to play with you rather than sleep on you.
They love to splash in water, carry toys, chase things and solve puzzle games. They are extremely athletic and love to explore the highest places in the home. They are likely to find their way to the highest shelves and cabinets and breakables should be locked away behind closed doors. When you are around they want to be involved in everything you are doing. It’s a real paws on approach.
This is a talkative feline and their voice has been described as being song like. They make a variety of sounds including chirps and meows. Expect the Japanese Bobtail to follow you from room to room, greet you at the door, and ride your shoulders about the house.
They adapt well to most households and love to play with children and other pets. Their background as hunters is evident in their manner though and they are not a good choice for homes with birds and rodents as pets. They will gladly play with other cats and cat-friendly dogs but can keep themselves occupied as well.
They are a great choice for most households and do not mind being left alone during the day although it is advisable to have toys available to for them to play with. You do not want them getting into too much mischief and they are more than capable of doing exactly that.