The Japanese Bobtail is an ancient breed that has existed for centuries in Japan. Cats with short, stubby and/or kinked tails are fairly common on the Asian continent and may share a conformational genetic mutation with the Japanese Bobtail. The most recognizable characteristic of this breed of course is its short, fluffy tail, which typically is carried closely curled upon its rear end, especially when it is resting. The tail is usually about 3 or 4 inches in length and has longer hair than that on the rest of the body, giving it a "pom-pom" appearance that masks the actual deformity of its bone structure. The Japanese Bobtail's tail is usually flexible only at its base, because the few vertebral bones of the tail are fused. When the Bobtail walks, its tail may be held more upright and erect, rather than tight and curled.
This breed has a delicate, triangular-shaped head, a long nose, well-defined cheekbones and recessed, slanted eyes that do not protrude beyond its forehead. Its ears are large, rounded and widely-spaced. Its body is medium in size and well-muscled, tending to be clean in bone structure and slightly more slender than it is stocky. The overall impression of a Japanese Bobtail is one of gentle, curving, pleasing lines. It should not appear coarse or cobby. The coat of most Japanese Bobtails is short to medium in length, soft and silky, with little undercoat. Of course, the long-haired variety has longer fur. Bobtails come in a wide range of colors. The patterned varieties have historically been the most popular, especially the black, red and white tri-colored tortoiseshell called the van-patterned Tortie and White, also known as the Mi-Ki. This breed requires little regular grooming and is known to be especially easy to care for and to handle.
Cats with kinked, bobbed or otherwise deformed tails are well-documented in Asia. The Japanese Bobtail is a very ancient breed, thought to descend from cats with particular genetic mutations that were brought to Japan from China more than one thousand years ago. Ancient paintings and writings about this breed date back several thousands of years. There is a well-known depiction of a Japanese Bobtail on the Gotojuki temple in Tokyo, which was build between the mid-1600s and mid-1800s, during the Edo period.
Legend has it that many hundreds of years ago, a Japanese cat was warming itself in front of a blazing fire when its tail accidentally became lit. It reportedly ran out of the house and around the city, spreading sparks and fire wherever it went. This, in turn, is said to have caused all of the fragile wooden houses to burn to ashes. The legend goes on to say that the Japanese Emperor at the time decreed that all domestic cats be punished for the one cat's misfortune, ordering that their tails must be chopped off. While this story is undoubtedly untrue, the exact origin of the Bobtail's unusual tail is still a mystery. It is widely believed that some random genetic mutation is responsible. However, unlike the mutation causing absent or bobbed tails in the Manx breed, the genetic makeup of the Japanese Bobtail is such that if two Japanese Bobtails are mated, all resulting offspring will exhibit the characteristic bobbed tail.
Japanese fanciers began to develop a separate, long-haired variety of the Bobtail in 1954, although the long-haired Bobtails had unofficially been recognized long before then, especially in northern Japan. The International Cat Association officially recognized the long-haired variety in 1991.
This breed was first brought to the United States in the late 1960s. There are conflicting reports of exactly how this happened. One suggests that an American living in Japan after the end of World War II returned home with up to 38 Japanese Bobtails in 1968, in hopes of developing a successful American breeding line of these unusual animals. Another report is that an American cat show judge who was visiting Japan became enamored with the breed in 1963, importing three Bobtails to the United States five years later, with others following. In either case, the Japanese Bobtail first came to the attention of American cat fanciers sometime in the 1960s. The Cat Fanciers' Association accepted the breed for registration in May of 1971 and awarded it full championship status in 1976.
The Japanese Bobtail is still considered to be a traditional Japanese symbol of household good luck. Those who are fortunate enough to live with these endearing cats are lucky, indeed.
This is a healthy feline breed, with an average life expectancy between 15 and 18 years.
The Japanese Bobtail is a highly personable cat that loves to be in the company of people. It can be more vocal than many felines, but its voice is softer and more melodious than that of the Siamese and most other exotic oriental shorthairs. The Bobtail makes a bright, affectionate, well-behaved companion both for people and for other pets. Like many other purebred cats, it does not thrive being kept isolated or alone for long periods of time, nor does it do well living in the out-of-doors. The Japanese Bobtail needs to be an intimate, well-integrated part of the family and certainly is deserving of that level of attention and commitment from its owners. The Bobtail is highly adaptable and enjoys a bustling, stimulating living atmosphere. This is the perfect cat breed for homes with lots of children.
Japanese Bobtails are athletic, agile and strong. They also are inquisitive and quite playful, providing hours of non-stop entertainment for their human family-members. Bobtail homes should have plenty of toys, scratching posts and climbing structures to fulfill this cat's need for play. It enjoys interacting with other pets and with people, but seems equally content to occupy itself with playful solo adventures.
Bobtails enjoy roughhousing and are especially fond of retrieving and playing fetch. They are also known to enjoy perching on their owner's shoulders, catching a free ride around the house. This sociable breed is treasured for its intelligence and friendly, outgoing disposition.