Kurilian Bobtail: Cat Breed Profile

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

Kurilian Bobtail cat

photo by Volchanskiy / Getty Images

The Kurilian Bobtail cat is a Russian cat breed known for its wild appearance and short pom-pom tail. The tail has two to 10 vertebrae and may be anywhere from about one-half inch to about 5 inches long. The tail kinks or curves in a variety of directions lending different looks to the tail, which are described by the breed standard as “snag”, “spiral” or “whisk.” Like fingerprints or snowflakes, no two Kurilian Bobtail tails are alike. 

A compact and hefty cat, the medium to large-sized Kurilian Bobtail has a solid build and substantial boning. The Kurilian Bobtail is what is known as a natural breed, meaning it initially developed on its own without human intervention. It comes in a variety of traditional solid or tabby colors, with or without white markings. 

The Kurilian Bobtail’s look might be similar to a wild cat, but this breed is exceedingly gentle and friendly. Active and outgoing, Kurilian Bobtails are charming companions that love to cuddle and play. Thanks to its exceptionally easy-going personality, the Kurilian Bobtail gets along with everyone, including gentle children. That laidback attitude extends to the animal kingdom as well; the Kurilian Bobtail typically co-exists peacefully with family pets including other cats and friendly dogs.

Breed Overview

Weight: About 8 to 15 pounds

Length: About 14 to 18 inches

Coat: Short or semi-long; silky and flat with moderate undercoat

Coat Color: A variety of traditional colors in solid or tabby, with or without white

Eye Color: Any color, including blue or odd-eyed

Life Expectancy: 15 to 20 years

Kurilian Bobtail Cat

Ekaterina Gorokhova / Getty Images

Kurilian Bobtail Cat

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Characteristics of the Kurilian Bobtail

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

photo by Volchanskiy / Getty Images

Kurilian Bobtail kitten

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Kurilian Bobtail kittens

Vagengeym_Elena / Getty Images

History of the Kurilian Bobtail

The Kurilian Bobtail hails from the Russian Kamchatka peninsula and Russia’s islands of Sakhalin and Kuril. Though no one knows for sure exactly how old the breed is, the Kurilian Bobtail developed naturally on the islands at least 200 years ago. The unique cat with a distinctive tail caught the eye of visiting explorers (possibly scientists or military personnel), and they brought some of the cats back with them to central Russia in the mid-1900s. Russians appreciated their fine hunting skills and put them to work dispatching rodents. The breed spread to Europe, but is largely unknown in North America.

The Kurilian Bobtail is recognized by the International Cat Association. In 2012, the breed was granted championship status by TICA, which allows cats to compete in cat shows for titles. 

Kurilian Bobtail Care

The Kurilian Bobtail comes in two coat varieties: short and long (which is described as semi-longhaired by the breed standard). In both coat types, the soft, silky hair lies flat and has a moderate undercoat. In the shorthaired variety, the tail coat is the same length as the hair on the body. Semi-longhaired Kurilians have a full and plumed tail. The Kurilian Bobtail’s silky coat resists matting so it is easy to care for, requiring weekly brushing with soft slicker brush to remove loose hair. The occasional bath will keep the coat feeling clean and soft. Shedding is low to moderate; brush more frequently to keep shedding to a minimum. Trim your Kurilian Bobtail’s nails every two weeks and check inside the ears weekly. If you see any redness or notice any odor, or if your cat is shaking its head or scratching at the ears, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. If the ears appear dirty, clean with a pet ear cleaner using a cotton ball and or gauze (never use a cotton swab to clean a cat’s ear). 

Kurilian Bobtails are highly intelligent and love learning new things. You might be surprised to learn that Kurilian Bobtails can easily be taught tricks. It’s also simple to teach your Kurilian Bobtail the house rules, though your cat may or may not choose to follow them. In general, the breed is easy to live with and fun to be around. 

Kurilian Bobtails are naturally quite active, but you can help your cat get enough exercise and indoor enrichment by providing places to climb and perch like cat trees and kitty condos, and engaging your cat in fun play by teasing with feather wands, tossing toy mice and playing with interactive toys. To allow your cat to enjoy scratching, which is a natural behavior, provide a variety of acceptable scratching surfaces. Some cats like to scratch vertically (as with scratching posts or cat trees) and other prefer to scratch horizontally (as with cardboard or sisal scratchers that lie on the ground).

Common Health Problems

Although some pedigreed cat breeds are prone to developing certain genetically-linked diseases, the Kurilian Bobtail is extremely healthy and currently has no known health concerns. Responsible breeders choose their breeding stock carefully and avoid breeding cats with any health issues. Many reputable breeders also offer a health guarantee of some kind.

Diet and Nutrition

Obesity is a concern among cats in general. Cats should not be overfed or allowed to become overweight. Keeping your Kurilian Bobtail at an ideal weight can reduce the incidence of certain health issues like diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis. Feed your Kurilian Bobtail measured amounts of food at regular meal times (twice a day for adult cats). Free-feeding (leaving food out all day), leads to mindless snacking, which can contribute to an overweight cat. Ask your breeder or veterinarian to recommend a healthy food for your Kurilian Bobtail cat.

Pros
  • Low-maintenance coat


  • Affectionate, friendly and outgoing 

  • Good with other pets, including dogs

Cons
  • Rare; hard to find 

  • Needs a lot of attention

  • Doesn’t do well if left alone

Where to Adopt or Buy a Kurilian Bobtail

If you’re thinking about buying a Kurilian Bobtail kitten, consider visiting a local cat show, where you can see many different cat breeds and connect with reputable breeders. To find a cat show in your area, do an internet search for “cat show near me." Reach out to breeders even if you’re hoping to rescue. Because the breed is so rare, it’s unlikely that you might find a Kurilian Bobtail at your local animal shelter. The International Cat Association maintains a list of active breeders on its website.

More Cat Breeds and Further Research

If you like the Kurilian Bobtail 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.