Cat Breed Profile: Japanese Bobtail

April 1, 2016

Cat Breed Profile: Japanese Bobtail Blog Square

By Julia Williams

One of the oldest naturally occurring cat breeds, the rare Japanese Bobtail is a people-friendly feline with an uncommon trait – a stubby tail that looks more like a fluffy pom-pom or a rabbit’s tail. If you want a happy, playful, outgoing and affectionate cat who loves interacting with your family and will get along well with other pets in the home, the Japanese Bobtail is a perfect fit.

Breed History

The Japanese Bobtail is native to the islands of Japan, but the breed’s birthplace is thought to actually be China. Written records and ancient paintings indicate that the cat arrived in Japan at least 1,000 years ago, but how and why are somewhat of a mystery. One proposed theory is that the Emperor of China gave the cats as gifts to the Emperor of Japan in the 7th century. Another says they came to Japan with the Buddhist monks to keep rats out of the paper scrolls.

The first Japanese Bobtails were imported to the United States in 1968. The shorthaired Japanese Bobtail was accepted for championship status in the Cat Fanciers’ Association in 1976, the longhaired in 1993.

The Tail

It is interesting to note that the Japanese Bobtail’s most unusual feature – its “stumpy” tail – is unique to each individual cat. In other words, like our human fingerprints, no two tails of this breed will ever be alike. The shorter-than-normal tail is the result of a natural genetic mutation. Unlike the Manx cat’s gene, the Bobtail gene is not associated with skeletal disorders and only affects the number of vertebrae in the tail.

This breed’s tail has one or more curves, kinks or angles, and may be flexible or rigid. In show cats, the tail should be no longer than 3 inches. Most kittens with two bobtailed parents will possess the trait, but kittens with only one bobtailed parent are far less likely to have bobtails.


As mentioned above, this extroverted kitty adores being with people. The Japanese Bobtail loves giving and receiving attention, isn’t shy about meeting strangers, and likes to follow you around the house to “snoopervise” whatever you are doing. This is a very energetic and intelligent feline who is easily trained to play fetch with you, perform fun tricks or walk on a leash. Their easygoing nature makes them good travel companions and cat show participants. They are also naturally adept at the sport of Feline Agility and can run the course in record time.

Japanese Bobtail cats get along well with kids, other cats and even the family dog. Contrary to a typical feline, this kitty doesn’t seem to mind water and some owners say he even likes to play in it! Japanese Bobtails are fairly talkative kitties with a wide range of tones and vocalizations. Their soft voice is said to sound almost songlike.

Physical Characteristics

Another unique feature of this breed is that their hind legs are slightly longer than the front legs, which gives the back legs a muscular appearance. The Japanese Bobtail’s head is triangular, with upright ears, high cheekbones and oval eyes that lend an oriental look to the face. Size wise, they are considered small to medium, generally weighing between 5 to 10 pounds.

Coat Color and Maintenance

Japanese Bobtails come in a wide array of solid colors as well as bi-colors and calico. The most popular coat color for a female Japanese Bobtail is the calico or mi-ke (it’s pronounced mee-kay and means “three fur”). The cats can have a tabby pattern as well.

The Japanese Bobtail has a soft and silky coat that can be either short or long. Because they do not have an undercoat, matting is not a problem and the coat is easy to maintain with just regular brushing.

Folklore, Trivia and Pop Culture

Cats are prominent in Japanese art and folklore. Most cat lovers are familiar with the legend of the Maneki Neko (beckoning cat). The adorable kitty with one paw raised is considered to be a good luck talisman and is frequently found at the entrance of Japanese restaurants and other places of business. What is less well known is that the Maneki Neko is a Japanese Bobtail cat.

The popular Hello Kitty character is also said to resemble a Japanese Bobtail, although this is a hotly debated topic in some circles.  In The Cat Returns, a 2002 Japanese animated fantasy film, the character of Muta was based upon a stray Japanese Bobtail that would often visit the studio. Also in 2002, the Disney animated film Big Hero 6 features a Japanese Bobtail cat in a minor role.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

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