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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.
The earliest written evidence of cats in Japan indicates that they arrived from China or Korea at least 1,000 years ago. In 1602, Japanese authorities decreed that all cats should be set free to help deal with rodents threatening the silk-worms. Buying or selling cats was illegal, and from then on, bobtailed cats lived on farms and in the streets. So, the Japanese Bobtails are the “street cats” of Japan.
The Maneki Neko, or beckoning cat, which is a Japanese Bobtail seated with one paw raised, is considered to be a good-luck charm. A maneki-neko statue is often found in the front of stores. Look around the next Japanese restaurant you visit you’ll likely spot one. In 1968 the late Elizabeth Freret imported the first three Japanese Bobtails to the United States from Japan. In 2001 the first registered litter of Bobtails in the UK were bred under the “Solstans” prefix.
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.
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.
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.
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. Because of their human-oriented personality they are easy to teach tricks and enjoy learning things like walking on a harness and lead.
While rare, Japanese Bobtails, especially predominantly white specimens, are more likely than other breeds to express heterochromia, or differing iris colours. 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.
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.