Japanese Bobtail Cat Breed

The Japanese Bobtail is an ancient cat breed with high intelligence.
By: PawCulture Editors
Japanese Bobtail

About This Breed

The Japanese Bobtail is one of the most ancient of the cat breeds. It was considered so sacred in its native Japan that for centuries only nobles were allowed to have Japanese Bobtails as pets.

Physical Characteristics

The Japanese Bobtail is a medium-sized cat with a slender yet muscular build. Its head is triangular with high cheekbones, a long nose, and round to oval eyes. It has long legs with hind legs that are slightly longer than its front legs. The Japanese Bobtail’s most defining feature, however, is its stubby tail, which is the product of a naturally occurring genetic mutation. The famous tail is often described as resembling a rabbit’s tail.


Although the Japanese Bobtail can be seen in a variety of color patterns, the most popular pattern is the tricolor calico.


The Japanese Bobtail’s coat, which is said to be as soft as a rabbit fur, can be either short or long.

Personality and Temperament




The Japanese Bobtail is a friendly, affectionate and highly intelligent cat. This cat loves to be loved, and enjoys playing with children, and have been known to play in the water as well. It enjoys human companionship, and can even “converse” in chirping voices and a variety of tones, which has been called “singing” by some breeders.


The Bobtail is extremely active and playful, especially when it comes to jumping and prancing about.



Always attentive and loving, the Bobtail makes for a wonderful indoor companion. In fact, if it sees a distraught person, the Bobtail will offer a paw for comfort.


The Japanese Bobtail is a good self groomer, only requiring the occasional bath and brush. A born show cat, the Japanese Bobtail is bold, curious and alert. It requires regular activity and attention from its people.


The Japanese Bobtail is no more prone to a condition than any other cat breed.

History and Background

The origin of the Bobtail is riddled with ambiguity. Although not thought of as exclusively Japanese, this ancient breed originally appears to have developed in other regions of the Far East, including Malaysia, Thailand, and Burma.

There are many references to short-tailed cats in Japanese folklore, including the story of a cat whose tail caught fire from a spark from a nearby heart. The jittery cat ran hither and yon, and set fire to houses in the Imperial city. In the morning the city was razed to the ground and the Emperor, seething with anger, passed a decree that the tail of all cats was to be chopped short to prevent another mishap.

There is also the legend of Maneki Neko, the “beckoning cat” that attracted many passerby; so much so, in fact, that its figure is now considered a symbol of good fortune in storefronts and homes. The facade of the Gotokuji Temple near Tokyo also depicts a representation of the cat, which seems to raise one paw as a sign of welcome.

Domestic cats came into Japan from China and Korea around the 6th century, though it is not known whether these cats possessed the hallmark short tail of the Bobtail.

In the 17th century many Bobtails roved the streets and countryside of Japan. There are even paintings and woodcut prints from the era depicting tri-colored cats with short tails. Most often referred to in Japan as mi-ke, the cats are white with bold patches or red and black. They were revered by the Japanese, who provided them with luxurious and pampered lives in temples and palaces.

However, the fate of the cats would forever be changed when the Japanese silk industry was threatened. When mice began destroying precious silk worms and cocoons on which Japanese silk industry thrived upon, the government declared that all cats be set free to counter the menace. The Bobtail, then forced to fend for itself on the street, was relegated to a common domestic cat.

Though it is still considered a symbol of good fortune in Japan today, the Bobtail will probably never be perceived with the symbol of status as it once was.

The first Bobtails were imported to the United States in the early 1900s, though they would not become popular until 1968, when Elizabeth Freret imported three Bobtails from Japan. Along with other like-minded breeders, Freret began a breeding program.

In 1969, the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) accepted Japanese Bobtails for registra­tion. In 1971, Bobs were granted provi­sional status, and in 1976 gained Championship status in the CFA.

Today, all the major cat associations accept the Japanese Bobtail for Championship. Recently a long-haired variety of the breed has staged an appearance in the U.S. and been accepted. It is now widely accepted that this long-haired variety is as old as the short-haired variety.

Image: CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)