Female Japanese Bobtail
|Domestic cat (Felis catus)|
The Japanese Bobtail is a breed of domestic cat with an unusual "bobbed" tail more closely resembling the tail of a rabbit than that of other cats. The variety is native to Japan and Southeast Asia, though it is now found throughout the world. The breed has been known in Japan for centuries, and it frequently appears in traditional folklore and art.
As in most other breeds, Japanese Bobtails may have almost any color (or colors, arranged in any number of patterns). Predominantly-white calicoes (三毛 mi-ke?, literally 'triple-hair') are especially favored by the Japanese and by cat fanciers, and strongly represented in folklore, though other colorations are also accepted by breed standards.
One theory of short-tailed cats in Japan indicates that they arrived from the Asian continent 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 nation's silkworm population and associated industry. At that time, buying or selling cats was illegal, and from then on, bobtailed cats lived on farms and in the streets. Japanese Bobtails thus became the "street cats" of Japan.
Around 1701, in Kaempfer's Japan, the first book written by a Westerner about the flora, fauna, and landscape of Japan, German doctor Engelbert Kaempfer wrote, "there is only one breed of cat that is kept. It has large patches of yellow, black and white fur; its short tail looks like it has been bent and broken. It has no mind to hunt for rats and mice but just wants to be carried and stroked by women."
In 1968, Elizabeth Freret is the first known person to have imported the Japanese Bobtail to the Western Hemisphere from Japan. The short hair Japanese Bobtail was accepted for Championship status in the Cat Fanciers' Association in 1976. Recognition for the long hair variety followed in 1993. As of 2013, there are a number of Japanese Bobtail breeders, most of which are based in North America with a few in Europe and at least one in Japan; yet the breed remains rare.
The Bobtail cats are considered to be a lucky breed and to own one promises prosperity and happiness. The tricoloured, Mi-Ke (pronounced 'mee kay') is known as the luckiest colour for this breed. There is a Japanese statue of a cat with its paw in the air called Maneki Neko (translates to 'beckoning cat') and is an artist interpretation of the bobtail. These statues are common in many Japanese shops as they are thought to attract good people.
- The standard described below is a generalized summary - links for each registration authority standard are provided in the breed infobox at the top of the article.
The Japanese Bobtail is a recognised breed by all major registering bodies, with the exception of the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF, the domestic registry of the United Kingdom.
- 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 (usually 6-9 pounds), males larger than females. Long torso, lean and elegant, showing well developed muscular strength. Balance is also 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 silky.
- 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 curved articulations.
While harlequin and van patterns (color on the crown of the head and the tail only) and solid white, are favored by many, any coat color or pattern of colors is permissible.
Japanese bobtail is very affectionate and great for a family setting. Due to their affectionate nature they make very good pets for children. They like to communicate with you with soft chirpy noises. This breed is highly attracted to water so you may find them running to get to running water or playing in their water dishes. They are very smart and enjoy being puzzled with rotating toys or chasing lasers or lures on fishing poles. They are very headstrong and don't like to change their minds on what they like or dislike. They are very busy and need a companion, preferable humans or other bobtails, however a dog will work to keep them entertained as well. This breed is known for their playful behaviour, they are always full of energy and mischief. This can be a down fall if someone is looking for a more relaxed cat that doesn't portray kitten like behaviours.
Since it is a short haired cat, generally this breed has a minimal to medium amount of shedding. The Japanese Bobtail has a very easy to groom coat with twice-weekly brushing or combing. This will need to be increased slightly in the spring and fall due to shedding seasons. The only other grooming the breed needs is regular nail trimming and ear cleaning if they look dirty. You should also brush your cats teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet tooth paste. Starting these grooming habits as a kitten will help ensure your cat will be accepting of these later on.
Just like any animal there can be a number of different health problems that could be related to the genetics. This being said, the Japanese Bobtails are generally healthy cats. The recessive gene paired with the shortened tails is not associated with any spinal or bone abnormalities. To be safe it is best to ask a breeder about any health problems that might be associated with the lineage of your specific cat.
The average lifespan for this breed is 9–15 years.
Cats are very particular about their bathroom hygiene so their litter boxes should be kept spotless. This can be done by cleaning it everyday. A clean litter box will also help to keep the Bobtails coat nice and clean.
They love to climb so it is best to provide them with indoor cat towers to allow them an outlet to their natural urges. This breed can be prone to obesity so the owners will want to keep a close eye on the diet. The best way to avoid this is to watch the diet and provide regular exercise.
It would be a good idea to keep the Bobtail as an indoor cat to protect it from diseases and being attacked by other cats, dogs or wild animals.
Breeding and genetics
The short tail is a cat body-type mutation caused by the expression of a recessive gene. Generally, all kittens born to two bobtail parents will have bobtails as well, but progeny of only one bobtailed parent are much less likely to possess the trait. Unlike the dominant Manx gene, the Bobtail gene is not associated with skeletal disorders. The Bobtail gene only affects the number of tail vertebrae present. This type of tail is not only unique to the breed but also to each individual cat, no two are exactly alike. For it to be considered a true bob tail cat the tail must not exceed three inches from the point of extension to the tailbone.
See also Cat body-type mutation#Tail types
Recent scientific studies on cat genetics led by researchers has indicated that the Japanese Bobtail breed ranks amongst one of the most genetically diverse of pedigree breeds. Compared with other breeds, Japanese Bobtails tend to have smaller litters with the kittens being proportionally larger at birth and developing at a faster rate. Kitten mortality rates are reported to be comparatively low.
Rarely, a Japanese Bobtail, especially a predominantly white specimen, may have heterochromia, or eyes of different colors. Regardless of breed, cats with this trait are known as odd-eyed cats. In this breed, one iris is blue ("silver" in Japanese breeding terms) while the other is yellow ("gold"). This trait is more common in this breed than in most others, with the notable exception of the Turkish Van. In the Japanese Bobtail, this trait is popular and kittens displaying it usually are more expensive.
Generally speaking, members of the breed are active, intelligent cats, with a strongly human-oriented nature, are easier to train to perform tricks than most breeds, and are more likely to enjoy learning human-mediated activities like walking on a harness and leash, and playing fetch. They are very attentive, alert felines that notice a lot. Considered an unusually "talkative" breed, they often interact vocally with people. Their soft voices are capable of nearly a whole scale of tones, leading to a folk belief that they can sing. Many owners also report a fondness for water, although this is not considered a breed-specific trait.
Folklore and legend
Cats feature prominently in Japanese folklore. As in many other traditions around the world, cats are frequently objects of fear and mistrust, with various supernatural abilities ascribed to them. But in some Japanese stories, the length of their tails is an important plot point, with the Japanese Bobtail seen as auspicious, while long-tailed cats may be suspected of being nekomata, a type of evil spirit.
The maneki neko ("beckoning cat" or "inviting cat"), an image of a Japanese Bobtail seated with one paw raised, is considered a good-luck charm among the Japanese around the world, who often keep a statue of this figure in the front of stores or homes (most often a stylized calico, though gold and black variants are also common). This stems from a legend that tells how a man (usually either a priest or member of the royal family) who owned one of these cats looked up one day to see his cat beckoning to him. Thinking the cat might have a message from the gods, he arose and went to it; no sooner had he done so than a branch large enough to kill a man fell where he had been sitting just moments before. Japanese Bobtails also feature prominently in traditional Japanese painting.
One legend of the origin of the breed's short tail, tells of a sleeping cat whose long tail caught fire; it then ran through town, spreading flames everywhere. With the capital in ashes, the Emperor decreed that all cats should have their tails cut short as a preventative measure.
While legends and superstitions may have favored the short-tailed breed, it seems likely that the Bobtail simply has a longer history in Japan than other recognizable breeds. It is also likely to have carried much prestige, having originated on the continent and arrived via Korea in the Asuka period (6th century CE), along with other prized articles of Chinese culture.
In popular culture
The manga character Hello Kitty resembles a Japanese Bobtail, and is an exemplar of contemporary kawaii ("cute") pop culture. The character Muta from The Cat Returns was based upon a stray Japanese Bobtail that would often visit Studio Ghibli. They also tend to appear in other anime produced in Japan.
In W Is for Wasted, by Sue Grafton (part of her alphabet mystery series), private investigator Kinsey Millhone and her landlord Henry Pitts acquire a Japanese bobtail and name him Ed. During a fight with a deranged murder suspect, Ed scratches the killer, thereby saving Kinsey from death by scalpel.
Mochi, Hiro Hamada's cat in the Disney film Big Hero 6, is also a Japanese Bobtail.
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Media related to Japanese Bobtail at Wikimedia Commons