American Bobtail: Cat Breed Profile, Characteristics & Care

Appearance, Personality, History, Care, & Helpful Information for Pet Owners

An American Bobtail cat laying on the floor

Jane-Khomi / iStock / Getty Images

A short tail and lynx-like features distinguish the American bobtail from other tabby cat breeds. Despite their wildcat looks, American bobtails are often referred to as the "golden retrievers of the feline world" because of their affectionate, docile personalities. What's more, they generally love to fetch toys and are easily leash trained.

These cats make great companions for single people as well as families with kids and other pets; they also adapt well to unusual living quarters like RVs, semi trucks, and sailboats.

Breed Overview

Personality: Affectionate, sociable, playful, adaptable, and intelligent

Weight: Up to 16 pounds

Length: Up to 30 inches

Coat Length: Short hair, long hair

Coat Colors: Any color, but breed standard favors "wild" colors

Coat Patterns: Any, but breed standard favors "wild" markings

Eye Color: Copper, gold, yellow, green, blue

Lifespan: Up to 15 years

Hypoallergenic: No

Origin: United States

American Bobtail Characteristics

American bobtails are ideal pets for just about anyone in any living situation. These sturdy, large cats adapt beautifully to family life with kids or other pets, but they also bond deeply with single humans. Because of their open, friendly temperaments—even with strangers—American bobtails are often employed as therapy cats.

They need only moderate amounts of exercise, so they can be happy living in smaller homes and have been known to enjoy mobile lifestyles alongside truckers, RVers, and even sailors!

Affection Level High
Friendliness Moderate to High
Kid-Friendly Moderate to High
Pet-Friendly High
Exercise Needs Moderate
Playfulness Moderate to High
Energy Level Moderate
Trainability High
Intelligence High
Tendency to Vocalize Moderate
Amount of Shedding Moderate to High

History of the American Bobtail

Because bobbed tails are the result of a natural—and harmless—genetic mutation in felines, these cats have naturally bred worldwide throughout history. It wasn't until the 1960s that the American bobtail became an officially developed and recognized breed.

Vacationers John and Brenda Sanders adopted a bobtailed cat while visiting Arizona and allowed him to mate with their female when they returned home to Iowa. The result? A litter of kittens with short tails and sweet personalities.

After the original American bobtail litter, other breeders followed suit, selectively breeding cats for shortened tails, sturdy bodies, "wild" markings, and super-sweet dispositions. Proponents of the breed broadcast the fact that pedigreed cats have never been used in bobtail breeding, so the gene pool is extremely diverse. Breeders simply adhere to the practice of breeding unregistered long-haired and short-haired domestic cats with desirable bobtail traits.

Since their development in the 1960s, American bobtails have been officially recognized by the International Cat Association (TICA), the Cat Fanciers; Association (CFA), and the American Cat Fanciers' Association (ACFA).

American Bobtail Care


American bobtails are relatively low-maintenance cats. You can expect to brush your bobtail once or twice per week to remove shed hair and skin and keep its coat shiny and healthy. Twice a year, bobtails will shed more than usual due to seasonal changes, and they may require more frequent brushing during these times.

In any breed of cat, poor dental hygiene can lead to periodontal disease, so it's important to brush your bobtail's teeth at least once per week. Supplementing with plaque-controlling treats can help maintain dental health, but should never be the only method of dental hygiene you use on your cat.


American bobtails are docile cats with moderate energy levels and minimal exercise requirements. They do appreciate a few minutes of daily playtime, though. Like dogs, bobtails love to play with toys, fetch small items like faux mice, and try their paws at puzzle games. Many American bobtails enjoy going on leisurely leashed walks, too.

Common Health Problems

American bobtails are hearty cats that have no breed-specific health conditions. Of course, that doesn't mean that every American bobtail will remain perfectly healthy throughout its life.

Bobtails with no tail may experience spinal issues leading to fecal incontinence. If you're buying a bobtail from a breeder, ensure they have a written health guarantee, which can offer some assurance against spinal issues.

In addition to spinal conditions, American bobtails may experience other common feline health issues like:

If you're concerned about health issues in your cat, be sure to talk to your vet about preventative measures you can take to ensure a long, healthy life.


The American bobtail breed can vary in appearance, but it generally boasts a relatively large, sturdy build that is well muscled and powerful-looking, It has a broad head, wide eyes, and alert ears.

The most prominent feature of this cat is its short tail, ranging in length from under an inch to a few inches long. According to the breed standard, the tail should be long enough to be visible above the back when held straight up.

The cat's hair may be short and dense or long and shaggy. Ideally, it is brownish or gray with tabby-type patterning that resembles a wild lynx or bobcat.

Diet and Nutrition

Your American bobtail's diet will depend on its age, activity levels, and general health, but in general, should be fed high-quality, high-protein food. If you'd like to add some variation to your bobtail's diet, you can try mixing some wet food in with its dry food a few times per week.

Obesity is a common problem in all breeds of cats, so it's important to follow feeding guidelines closely and give treats in moderation. If you're not sure how much to feed your bobtail, your vet will be able to provide some helpful guidelines.

Where to Adopt or Buy an American Bobtail

The American bobtail cat breed is relatively rare in the United States, making it difficult to find a reputable breeder. The American Cat Fanciers' Association maintains a breeder list that currently only contains two US breeders—one in North Dakota and the other in Wisconsin.

Check with other local cat breeders and online networks to track down breeders with established businesses and positive reviews. If you're not overly concerned with owning a registered breed, you might also explore adoption sites to find a bobtailed cat that captures your heart.

American Bobtail Overview

The American bobtail cat is a coveted breed among its enthusiasts for several great reasons. These genetically diverse and healthy cats have wonderful personalities and are adaptable to myriad living situations. They tend to get along with everyone and are so friendly with strangers that they make excellent candidates for therapy pets. As wildly beautiful as they are affectionate, bobtails are pretty much a perfect pet for anyone who craves a feline companion.

  • Friendly with everyone

  • Adaptable to most households—even mobile ones

  • Beautiful and relatively low maintenance

  • Rare; may be hard to find

  • Doesn't enjoy being alone for long

  • Extremely short tail (or no tail) can cause spinal problems

More Cat Breeds and Further Research

If you’re interested in similar breeds, check out:

Otherwise, check out all of our other cat breed profiles.

  • Are American bobtail cats friendly?

    Although these cats look wild, they are extremely friendly and sociable with just about everyone.

  • Do American bobtails have naturally short tails?

    Yes—their tails are short because of a natural (and harmless) genetic mutation.

  • How much does an American bobtail cost?

    You can expect to pay between $600 and $1.200 for a registered American bobtail from a reputable breeder.

The Spruce Pets uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Cats On Liveaboard Sailboats—A Complete Guide. Life of Sailing.

  2. American Bobtail Breed Standard. Cat Fanciers' Association.