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Japanese BobtailJapanese Bobtail

Country of origin: Japan 
Breed standards: CFA, FIFe

The Japanese Bobtail is a breed of cat with an unusual 'bobbed' tail more closely resembling the tail of a rabbit than that of an ordinary feline. The short tail is a cat body type genetic mutation caused by the expression of a recessive gene. Thus, so long as both parents are bobtails, all kittens born to a litter will have bobtails as well. Unlike the Manx and other cat breeds, where genetic disorders are common to tailless or stumpy-tails, no such problem exists with the Japanese Bobtail.

The Japanese Bobtail is a small domestic cat native to Japan and Southeast Asia, though it is now found throughout the world. The breed has been known in Japan for centuries, and there are many stories, as well as pieces of ancient art, featuring it.
Japanese bobtails may have almost any color, but "Mi-ke" (lit. "three fur", composed of white, black and brown coloring) or bi-colors are especially favoured by the Japanese. Much like any other breed, the colors may be arranged in any number of patterns, with van and calico being common among purebred cats, though other colorations are also accepted.


There is a legend in Japan about why the Japanese Bobtail lost its tail. It states that a cat was warming itself too close to a fire, and set its tail on fire. It then ran through the town, burning many buildings to the ground. As punishment, the Emperor decreed that all cats should have their tails cut off.
Bobtails could have also surged after the legend of the bakeneko, or nekomata, a cat that when its tail grew too much, became a double-tail, and the cat would get powers like talking, walking on its back legs, and shapeshifting. The nekomata could cause massive disturbances and even resurrect dead people. Japanese people may have started cutting their cat's tails to avoid them becoming a bakeneko.

Another legend relating to Japanese Bobtails is the following story: At the beginning of Edo period (17th century), there was a rundown temple in Setagaya, western part of Tokyo. The priest of the temple kept a pet cat, named Tama, and he sometimes complained to Tama about his poor situation, "Tama, I'm keeping you in spite of my poverty. So couldn't you do something for this temple?"
One day, Naotaka Ii who was the lord of Hikone district (western part of Japan near Kyoto) was caught a shower near the temple on his way home from hunting. While avoiding the rain under a big tree in front of the temple, Naotaka noticed that a cat was inviting him to the temple gate. As soon as he left the tree beckoned by the cat's gesture, the tree was struck by lighting. The cat that was proved to be Tama saved Naotaka’s life.
Following the incident, Naotaka became closer to the priest of the temple. The rundown temple was appointed to be the Ii's family temple, and changed it's name to Goutokuji. Goutokuji became prosperous backed up by the Ii clan after that. Tama saved Naotaka from lighting, and saved the temple from its poverty at the same time.
After it's death, Tama was buried at Goutokuji's cat cemetery with all due respect, and Manekineko was invented commemorating Tama.

Breed Standard

The standard described below is a general description of the breed standard - for exact details of the standard applicable to each registration authority please see the links after the description.

  • Head: The head should form an equilateral triangle. (Not including ears)
  • Ears: Large, upright, set wide apart but at right angles to the head and looking as if alert.
  • Muzzle: Fairly broad and round neither pointed nor blunt.
  • Eyes: Large, oval rather than round. They should not bulge out beyond the cheekbone or the *forehead.
  • Body: Medium in size, males larger than females. Long torso, lean and elegant, showing well *developed muscular strength. Also balance is very very important.
  • Neck: Not too long and not too short, in proportion to the length of the body.
  • Legs: Long, slender, and high. The hind legs longer than the forelegs.
  • Paws: Oval. Toes: five in front and four behind.
  • Coat (Shorthair): Medium length, soft and silk.
  • Coat (Longhair): Length medium-long to long, texture soft and silky gradually lengthening toward the rump.
  • Tail: The tail must be clearly visible and is made up of one or more curves.


Japanese Bobtails usually have litters of three to four kittens with newborns that are unusually large compared to other breeds. They are active earlier, and walk earlier. Affectionate and generally sweet-tempered, they enjoy supervising household chores and baby-sitting. They are active, intelligent, talkative cats with a well-defined sense of family life. Their soft voices are capable of nearly a whole scale of tones; some people say they sing. Since they adore human companionship they almost always speak when spoken to, and sometimes carry on "conversations" with their owners. Because of their human-oriented personality they are easy to teach tricks and enjoy learning things like walking on a harness and lead, and playing fetch.

A similar breed of cat is in development in the United States as breeders attempt to perfect the "American Bobtail Cat" that would have a tail half the length of other breeds, though there has not been definitive progress in getting a new breed recognized yet.

Ocular heterochromia

While rare, Japanese Bobtails, especially predominantly white specimens, are more likely than other breeds to express heterochromia, or differing iris colors. One eye will be blue while the other is yellow (though in Japan, blue is referred to as silver while yellow is referred to as gold). This trait is popular and kittens displaying this "odd-eye" feature are usually more expensive.

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