Bombay: Cat Breed Profile

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

Bombay cat

Getty Images/MorganLeFaye

With its shimmering, jet-black coat, rounded head and brilliant golden eyes, the Bombay cat resembles a tiny panther, but the similarities stop there. The Bombay has no wild blood. The Bombay is as friendly as they come, making this cuddly lap cat the perfect blend of exotic looks and sweet personality.

The Bombay is a hybrid breed (a new breed that’s created by mixing two different breeds together). The Bombay is the result of breedings between the American Shorthair and the Burmese. 

Cats are known for being independent, but Bombay cats didn’t get the memo. Bombays crave human company, and they’re known to follow you around from room to room, twining themselves around your legs as you walk. If you work long hours away from home, or travel a lot, a Bombay might not be the best breed choice.  Because they are outgoing and social, Bombays will greet strangers with curious interest and are happy to play with kids as long as they are gentle.  Bombays even get along with friendly dogs and other cats, especially when raised together. 

Breed Overview

Weight: About 8 to 15 pounds

Length: About 13 to 20 inches

Coat: Fine and short, with a satin-like texture and a shimmering, patent leather sheen

Coat Color: Black

Eye Color: Ranging from gold to copper

Life Expectancy: 15 to 20 years

Characteristics of the Bombay Cat

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

History of the Bombay Cat

The Bombay as we know it in the U.S. was developed by a cat breeder by the name of Nikki Horner, who sought to create a cat breed that looked like a miniature panther. Although it took her many years, meticulous planned breedings between the Burmese and the American Shorthair cat eventually resulted in a breed that looked a lot like a Burmese, but with a jet-black coat. Horner chose the name Bombay as a nod to India’s black panther, her inspiration for creating the new breed. 

The Bombay inherited various traits from the two founding breeds. The Bombay’s body type is very similar to that of the Burmese, with a few differences. Though compact, stocky and muscular, the Bombay is slightly longer than the Burmese. The Bombay’s laidback personality is much like that of the American Shorthair, though the Bombay is also highly social and curious, like the Burmese. 

The Bombay was accepted for championship status with the Cat Fanciers Association in 1976. The International Cat Association accepted the Bombay in 1979. Today, the Bombay breed standards still permits outcrosses to either sable Burmese or black American Shorthairs.

Bombay Cat Care

The Bombay’s short, fine satiny coat couldn’t be easier to groom. Simply brush this cat's fur once a week or rub with a soft chamois cloth to bring out the coat’s patent-leather shine. The Bombay is a very clean cat that sheds very little. Occasional baths keep the coat looking and feeling soft and glossy. Trim the nails every two weeks or so, and peek inside your Bombay’s ears every week or two to make sure they are not red or excessively dirty. If anything about the ears looks amiss, schedule a veterinary appointment. If the ears look just a little dirty, you can clean them at home with a pet-safe ear cleaner and cotton ball and or square of gauze (don’t use a cotton swab, which can damage the ear drum). 

The Bombay cat is playful and curious. Bombay kittens have seemingly endless amounts of energy, but as Bombay cats age, they become more mellow, happy to cuddle up on your lap after a brief spot of exploration and play. Even adult Bombays are always up for a game or play session. Bombay cats especially like puzzle toys, which encourage cats to physically manipulate them to get to treats or food. Some even like to play fetch like a dog. Bombays are smart and quite trainable cats. Some Bombays are comfortable walking on a leash and harness.

Scratching is a natural behavior that’s good for all cats’ physical and mental health, but you want to show your cat the right places to scratch (not the couch!). Offer your Bombay a variety of acceptable surfaces for scratching, including vertical surfaces like scratching posts or cat trees, and horizontal surfaces like cardboard or sisal scratchers that lie on the floor.

Common Health Problems

Though the Bombay is generally a healthy and long-lived cat, a few genetically linked diseases are known to be present in the breed, including hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (which causes thickening of the heart walls and is the most common form of heart disease seen in cats), excessive eye tearing and potential breathing issues due to the breed’s shortened muzzle. Responsible Bombay breeders plan breedings carefully to avoid breeding cats with health issues. When searching for a cat breeder, ask if they offer a health guarantee for their kittens.

Diet and Nutrition

Obesity is a concern for all cats. Because the Bombay has a stocky build, it’s especially important to make sure your Bombay does not gain too much weight. Staying lean helps prevent weight-related health issues like diabetes and arthritis, as well as heart disease, which affects the Bombay at higher rates than other breeds. Free feeding (leaving food out all day) can lead to too much mindless snacking. Instead, serve measured amounts of food twice a day for adult cats (kittens should eat three to four smaller meals per day). Ask your breeder or veterinarian for a recommendation for a high-quality food for your Bombay.

Pros
  • Affectionate and spirited

  • Easy-care coat/low shedding

  • Friendly with people and other pets  

Cons
  • Rare/hard to find

  • Needs a lot of attention

  • Doesn’t do well if left alone

Where to Adopt or Buy a Bombay Cat

The Bombay is not as popular as some breeds. There are a handful of breeders in North America, so it might take a little searching to find a kitten if that's where you're looking. It is not unusual for Bombay breeders to also breed Burmese cats. The Cat Fanciers Association and the International Cat Association both maintain list of active breeders on their respective websites. You can also visit a cat show in your area to connect with reputable breeders and meet many different cat breeds in person. To locate a local cat show, do an internet search for “cat show near me.” Although you it’s not unheard of for a Bombay to end up in an animal shelter, more often, Bombays in need of rehoming are often placed into new homes by breeders. 

More Cat Breeds and Further Research

If you like the Bombay cat, you might also like these cat breeds:

Otherwise, check out all of our other cat breed articles to help you find the perfect cat for you and your family.