The origin of how the Japanese Bobtail cat has gotten to where it is today has been lost in the course of time. The presence of this breed can however be found in most parts of East Asia, indicating that its mutation had occurred a long time ago. It is indeed safe to say that the Japanese Bobtail is one the oldest cat breeds; rich in a history of legends and folklore. Suggestions have been made to indicate that the ancestors of the present Japanese Bobtail arrived in Japan at the beginning of the sixth century from Korea or China. During that time, cats were brought aboard ships that transport document, grains, silk and other valuable goods, in order to protect them from the damage inflicted by rodents. It is anyone’s guess on whether these cats had bobbed tails then as they were prized more for their skill as mousers.
The Japanese considered this breed to be spiritual creatures with the ability to bring good luck. This is especially so for Japanese Bobtail born with the particular pattern of red, black, and white markings. Such bobtailed cat is called mi-ke (pronounced mee-kay, which means “three fur”), or otherwise known as the “beckoning cat”. In Japan today, figurines of this beckoning cat with the tri-colored pattern, the bobbed tail and the raised beckoning paw abound. They appear as charms in many shops and restaurants for good luck, prosperity and happiness.
Besides the spiritual element, the Japanese Bobtail is also valued for its grace, beauty and cleanliness. According to stories, this breed had often lived in imperial palaces as well as Buddhist temples. It would have remained so if not for the Japanese silk industry that called for all cats to be set free about four centuries ago. This was done to protect the silkworms and their cocoons from the increase in the rodent populations. Owning, buying, or selling cats were then made illegal during that period. Consequently, the once pampered temple and house Japanese Bobtail became a street and farm cat instead. However, this has allowed natural selection to take place, and the years of survival on the streets and farms had gradually turned the Japanese Bobtail into a sturdy, bright and adaptable breed.
Japanese Bobtail first appeared in North America in 1967. Breeding of this breed was initiated by Elizabeth Freret, who was entranced by this breed’s beauty and personality, and drafted a year-long plan for the importation of Japanese Bobtails into the United States. Freret corresponded with Judy Crawford, an American living in Japan then, and who sent over a few Japanese Bobtails for the breeding program. When she returned home with a few more Japanese Bobtails, Crawford teamed up with Freret to promote and breed this cat type. Both of them wrote the first American breed standard and together with other fanciers, worked to get the breed recognized by the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA).
1969 marked the year where CFA accepted the breed for registration and years of efforts have seen it claiming the championship status in 1976. This status is also granted by The International Cat Association (TICA) and American Cat Fanciers Association (ACFA) in 1979. More Japanese Bobtails were imported in order to widen the gene pool and to keep it strong. With the concerted efforts of more breeders in advancing the Japanese Bobtail, the Japanese Bobtail has now been accepted by all associations.
Longhair Japanese Bobtail was not as popular as the shorthair variety. Those that occasionally occurred in the shorthaired litters were often sold as pets and there were no efforts made in promoting them. It was not until 1988, when breeder Gena Garton exhibited a longhair kitten born in her shorthair litters and started the Japanese Bobtail Longhair on the road to acceptance. Other breeders began to join in the wave. Their collected efforts in promoting the longhair variety came to fruition in 1991 when TICA recognized the longhair for the championship, with the CFA following two years later. Till date, the Japanese Bobtail Longhair is recognized by all the North American cat associations except the Cat Fanciers Federation (CFF).
Physical appearance and attributes
The Japanese Bobtail is a medium-sized cat, weighing 7 – 10 pounds for males and 5 – 7 pounds for females. This is a well-muscled breed with a straight and slender form rather than a massive build. This is evident in its long, lean and elegant body line. Enhancing the graceful lines are long, slender legs that are neither dainty nor fragile. Its hind legs are noticeably longer than the forelegs and are deeply angulated when it stands relaxed.
The unique head form is of an almost perfect equilateral triangle with gentle curving lines. It composes of high cheekbones and a noticeable indentation of the upper jaw (whisker break). The muzzle is fairly broad and is neither square nor pointed. It has a chin that is full and firm, and a well-defined nose that has a gentle dip below the eye level. The ears are large, but not flaring; they are upright with a slight forward tilt and set wide apart atop the head. Its oval eyes are large, alert and boast an array of colors that include Amber, Aqua, Blue, Copper, Green, Hazel, odd-eye (one eye blue and one yellow eye), orange and yellow. The eye color is appropriate to the color of the coat.
What makes this breed distinctive is its bobbed tail, which is also its definitive feature that marks it as Japanese Bobtail. Like the fingerprints of human, each tail is unique to every individual Japanese Bobtail. The flexibility, length, shape and the direction in which it is being carried vary from cat to cat. The extension of the tail bone is usually not more than three inches from the rump. It can compose of one or more curves, angles, kinks, or any combination of these. The tail should complement the cat’s appearance and may either be flexible or rigid. Even though the tail is bobbed, it should still be clearly visible. Prizing the individuality of each tail type, there are no standards that promote one tail type above the other. The exclusivity of the characteristics of such short tail is governed by a recessive gene that needs to be present in both parents. Thus, a Japanese Bobtail would need to inherit two copies of the gene (one from each parent) in order to possess the characteristic tail.
The Japanese Bobtail can come in both the shorthair and longhair variety. The longhair variety has medium-long to long coat that is soft and silky. Even though ruff is desirable, the coat over the shoulders may be shorter and close-lying to the body. There is a gradual increase in hair length from below the neck to the rump and becomes evidently longer on the tail and britches. The puffing out of the tail hair makes it appear like a miniature pom-pom. The toes and ears can also be adorned with fur tufts. The shorthair variety has soft, silky fur that is medium in length with no apparent undercoat and ruff. Japanese Bobtail can come in an array of colors, patterns and a combination of both, such a solid color, bi –color, tricolor/calico, tortoiseshell, tabby, ticking, smoke and shaded. The mi-ke coat pattern has still remained the most popular among the other varieties. The Japanese Bobtail is a living work of arts with its array of distinctive short pert tails, sculptured bodies, alert ears and soulful eyes. The overall balance of this breed is of utmost importance.
Personality and temperament
The Japanese Bobtail is not just a cat with appearance worth admiration, but it is also a breed with personalities and temperaments that make it an endearing cat. Determined and single-minded like samurai warriors during its hunting mission, it is nonetheless an adoring cat that would spend its affections on its favorite people.
A curious breed, it loves to stick its nose into everything. It is an ever-present companion and is more than willing to be involved in any household chores. Though it loves staying close by its loved ones, it does not cling on to them for dear life. Its level of activeness is comparable to that of the Abyssinian cat who is an exceptionally active breed. It will climb the height of tall perches and tall trees and knows how to enjoy a good game of fetch. The Japanese Bobtail is also vastly entertaining when playing its favorite toys and would greatly appreciate if its humans can join in the play of interactive toys.
Headstrong and opinionated, the Japanese Bobtail is not the easiest breed to train unless the trick appeals to its likings, such as the fetch game. It would be easier for it to learn to walk on a leash when it is the one leading. Its quick and bright nature is usually displayed in its mischief and is adept at opening doors and cupboards. This talkative cat is capable of a whole scale of tones. Its pleasant and chirpy vocal ranges often make it sound like it is singing and it tends to be more social than the average cat. This friendly and adaptable nature is also evident in its preference to gather in groups when living in a multi-cat household with other Bobtails.
Care and health issues
The Japanese Bobtail does not carry the same potential genetic health issues faced by the Manx or American Bobtail since the gene governing its bobbed tail is a recessive one. Thus, it is a generally hearty breed that can enjoy an average lifespan of between 14 – 16 years. However, it is still important to obtain a written health guarantee from qualified breeders when buying the cat. Grooming is fairly effortless for this breed since it has no undercoat, which would have increased the likelihood of matting. A weekly brushing would be enough to keep its beautiful coat healthy. The longhair variety would require slightly more effort on a twice-weekly brushing. Other basic grooming would include maintaining a good hygiene level through weekly nail trimming, ear cleaning and frequent teeth brushing. It is important to use vet-approved products and gentle cleansers for these grooming.
The ideal home
A home that can incorporate a safe and escape-proof outdoor garden would be best for the Japanese Bobtail. While this breed can also adapt to apartment living, boredom would need to be prevented. Include tall perches, cat trees and other interactive play in an adventure zone to encourage an active growth both physically and mentally. Japanese Bobtail would also require a significant amount of time for companionship and interaction. A sociable and playful breed, this cat can be suited to any homes with young children and other pets. The liveliness of the Japanese Bobtail would add much amusement to the home. It has an ever ready spring of affections and devotions for any who would love it the same.