The Japanese bobtail is a petite yet outgoing cat companion. The most notable feature of the breed is the short tail, sometimes referred to as a “pom” by breed enthusiasts. Resulting from a natural gene mutation, it can be straight, bent, or kinked, but it most often resembles a bunny’s bushy tail.
These cats are good-natured and playful, making them ideal house pets. They are avid hunters (toys included) and intelligent enough to learn tricks. With a breed history stretching back thousands of years, the Japanese bobtail as we know it today is a common sight in Japan.
Personality: Affectionate, friendly, sociable, and playful
Weight: Up to 10 pounds
Length: Up to 14 inches long
Coat Length: Short or long hair
Coat Colors: White, black, chocolate, cream, red, lilac, and blue
Coat Patterns: Solid, bicolor, tricolor, tabby
Eye Color: Any shade, though blue and gold are common as well as odd-eyes
Lifespan: Up to 18 years
Japanese Bobtail Characteristics
Japanese bobtails are sociable and agreeable cats. They enjoy the company of human companions but also get along with other cats and dogs. They’re adaptable to a wide variety of home environments but should be kept as indoor pets for their safety and well-being.
Breed enthusiasts find Japanese bobtails to be quick learners. They are generally soft-spoken but will vocalize when spoken to. Most bobtails are playful, and some will fetch and carry toys in their mouths like canine retrievers.
|Tendency to Vocalize||High|
|Amount of Shedding||Medium|
History of the Japanese Bobtail
The Japanese bobtail is an ancient cat breed commonly traced to Japan. These cats are a common sight in the country today and played a pivotal role in Japan’s silk trade as far back as the 1600s.
However, the origin of the Japanese bobtail is shrouded in mystery. Many experts contend that this cat originated in China or Korea at least a thousand years ago. Some sources believe that the Emperor of China gifted these bobtail cats to the Emperor of Japan in the 7th century. Others suggest that Buddhist monks were the first to bring bobtail cats into Japan as a means of protecting rice paper scrolls from rats.
In either case, history suggests that the cats were released at the order of the Japanese emperor in the year 1602 to eradicate rodents that were threatening Japan’s silk trade. It was illegal to sell or keep the bobtails as pets, and as a result, these felines became common street cats in Japan.
The breed frequently appears in ancient paintings and is commonly represented in popular Japanese figurines of a white cat with one paw raised called "the Beckoning Cat.” Even a popular cartoon character, Hello Kitty, is believed to be a Japanese bobtail—though no official breed declaration has been made by Sarnio, the character’s creator.
The Japanese bobtail was first introduced to the United States in the 1960s. The cats gained attention for their interactive personalities and unique appearance. A woman named Elizabeth Freret is credited with importing the first Japanese bobtails in 1968. Within a decade, the shorthair variation of the breed was accepted by the Cat Fancier’s Association (CFA) for championship status. The long-haired variation of the Japanese bobtail received champion status in 1993, and today both breeds are CFA-recognized.
Japanese Bobtail Care
With no undercoat, the smooth, silky fur of the Japanese bobtail is easy to maintain. Both long and short hair varieties will benefit from a weekly brushing to remove loose hair and promote circulation and shine.
Like most cats, Japanese bobtails thrive in an environment with daily human companionship. They don't have high energy levels or exercise needs, but they enjoy games, including fetch, and can be taught many tricks. Of course, they also love to curl up for a cat nap on a warm lap.
Common Health Problems
There are very few health problems commonly associated with this cat breed. In general, the Japanese bobtail is considered to be very healthy and not overly prone to any particular disorder or disease.
The Japanese bobtail is sometimes confused with the Manx. However, you can distinguish the difference between the two breeds by looking at a cat’s body structure. Manx are typically more robust, with heavier bones and rounder features. The Japanese bobtail, on the other hand, has a more svelte frame and muscular appearance. The triangular head of the Japanese bobtail also helps to distinguish it from the rounder head of the Manx.
The Japanese bobtail may have either a short or long-haired coat in a wide array of colors, including solid, tabby, and bi-color. Tri-color Bobtails are also common and are referred to as "mi-ke." The mi-ke coat can be a typical calico (a tri-color combination of red, white, and brown) or many other color combinations including chocolate, lilac, and smoke colors.
Diet and Nutrition
Japanese bobtails don’t require any special diet or feeding regimens. What they do need, however, is quality cat food and a well-balanced diet. It’s important not to let one of the cat’s greatest enemies, obesity, creep into the picture through over-feeding or too many treats.
Where to Adopt or Buy a Japanese Bobtail
Adopting or buying a Japanese bobtail can be challenging. Breeders are still relatively rare in the United States, and these cats are known to have very small litters—usually just two to four kittens. If you have your heart set on a Japanese bobtail, expect to spend time on a waiting list and pay upwards of $1,000, depending on coat color and markings.
Start your search with these online resources;
Learn more about the Japanese bobtail through the National Breed Club, or by speaking with breeders and owners who are passionate about the breed.
Japanese Bobtail Overview
The Japanese bobtail is a small cat with a cute "bunny" tail that has long been revered in Japan. Today, the bobtail makes a great pet for single owners and families alike. It is friendly and adaptable, and it enjoys time spent with humans. The only trouble is finding one because the bobtail is a fairly rare cat breed.
Friendly and adaptable
Cute and petite with a fluffy "bunny" tail
Very healthy breed
Rare, hard to find
More Cat Breeds and Further Research
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Are Japanese bobtails friendly cats?
Yes—they are very friendly and enjoy the company of adults, kids, and other pets.
How much does a Japanese bobtail cost?
A kitten can cost more than $1,000 due to its rarity and low breeding rate.
Do Japanese bobtails have health problems.
This ancient, naturally developed breed is exceptionally healthy.
Japanese Bobtail. VCA Hospitals.