American Bobtail: Cat Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

An orange American bobtail cat.

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Best known for their shortened tails and unique, wild appearances, American Bobtails are a somewhat uncommon breed in the United States. Despite their jungle cat looks, American Bobtails are often referred to as the "Golden Retrievers of the feline world," due to their sweet, affectionate, and docile personalities. What's more, American Bobtails are highly playful—many love to play fetch with their owners!—and are easily trained at leash walking.

American Bobtails are ideal pets for families with older kids, or other pets in the home, and their adaptable, friendly personalities make them suitable for any home type. American Bobtails are often employed as therapy cats, thanks to their sweet personalities and friendliness towards strangers, or as companions to long-distance truckers, as they travel extremely well.

American Bobtails are strong, muscular cats that don't have genetic predispositions to certain health conditions. According to Bobtail breeders, pedigreed cats haven't been used in the development of the American Bobtail, ensuring an extremely wide gene pool.

Breed Overview

Weight: Between 7 and 16 pounds

Length: Varies

Coat: Short to long, typically shaggy

Coat Color: Can come in any color or pattern

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

Life Expectancy: 13 to 15 years

Characteristics of the American Bobtail

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

History of the American Bobtail

Because the American Bobtail's shortened tails are the result of a natural—and harmless—genetic mutation, cats with bobtails have appeared throughout history. It wasn't until the 1960s that the American Bobtail became an official breed. Vacationers John and Brenda Sanders found a bobtailed cat while visiting Arizona and allowed him to mate with their female once they returned home to Iowa. The result? A litter of kittens with shortened tails and sweet personalities.

After the original American Bobtail litter, breeders selectively bred their cats for shortened tails, sturdy, muscular bodies, a "wild" or exotic appearance, and super sweet personalities. It's important to note that pedigreed cats were never used to produce litters of Bobtails, so their gene pool is extremely wide—breeders simply stuck to long-haired and short-haired domestic cats that had the traits they sought.

Since their development in the 1960s, American Bobtails have been officially recognized by the International Cat Association, the Cat Fanciers Association, and the American Cat Fanciers Association.

American Bobtail Care

Thanks to their varied origins, American Bobtails are relatively low-maintenance cats. You can expect to brush your Bobtail once or twice per week to remove dead hair and skin cells, and to keep his or her coat shiny and healthy.

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.

Many cats' ears are susceptible to injury and infection, so be sure to examine your cat's ears every week. Gently remove any dirt or debris with a dampened cotton pad or cloth. Cotton swabs can damage the delicate inner-ear structures, so avoid using them whenever possible. If your cat's ears are excessively dirty, inflamed, red, or smell funny, contact your vet as soon as possible.

Although American Bobtails are docile cats with lower energy levels, keeping his or her nails trimmed can help save your furniture—and your legs—from boredom-induced scratching. Plus, neatly trimmed nails will keep his or her paws healthy, too. You can expect to trim your cat's nails once every few weeks, but it's important to examine his or her paws weekly in case of injury or infection.

It's true that American Bobtails are lower energy and have lower exercise requirements, but be sure to dedicate a few minutes of each day to playtime. Like their doggy counterparts, the Golden Retriever, American Bobtails love to play with toys, play fetch, or complete puzzle games. If you take the time to leash train, many American Bobtails enjoy going on leashed walks, too.

Common Health Problems

Thanks to their massive gene pool, American Bobtails are generally healthy cats with no predispositions to inherited health conditions. That doesn't mean that every American Bobtail will never experience health problems, however.

It's important to note: American Bobtails with no tail may experience spinal issues that can lead to fecal incontinence. If you're buying a Bobtail from a breeder, make sure he or she has a written health guarantee, which can offer some assurance against these spinal issues.

In additional to spinal conditions, American Bobtails may experience other common 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, happy life.

Diet and Nutrition

Your American Bobtail's diet will depend largely on his or her 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 his or her 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.

More Cat Breeds and Further Research

As always, be sure to do your research before bringing an American Bobtail—or any pet—into your home. American Bobtails are generally low-maintenance, but require daily playtime and weekly grooming, and may be susceptible to certain conditions of the spinal cord.

If you'd like to learn about cats similar to the American Bobtail, be sure to check out: