The Japanese Bobtail cat is a rare breed that has also endured something of an identity crisis. It can’t seem to decide if it’s a cat or a rabbit. These animals have short, bobbed tails, as their monikers suggest, and they’ve even been known to hop to get from one place to another, ran than walk or run. That sounds more like a bunny than a kitty.
Still, even with their dual personalities, they make for winning companions for owners who appreciate fascinating back stories in their household pets.
That back story began 1,000 years ago, when the cats are believed to have begun breeding. They’re native to Asia, specifically Japan, though they don’t pop up a lot in written history until 1602, when the Japanese government demanded that all owners set their cats set free from their home and onto the streets of the country to help take care of a rodent infestation.
The rodents were eating all of the country’s highly valued silk worms, and the freed cats helped to eradicate the mice and rats and spare the silk worms. Buying or selling these cats was illegal, and so Japanese Bobtails began thriving on the streets, fending for themselves and seeking out their own food.
It wasn’t until 1968 that Japanese Bobtails were imported to the Western Hemisphere, but there are still very few breeders worldwide.
The Japanese Bobtail has large ears that are set wide apart and a broad muzzle. Their heads are shaped like equilateral triangles, and they have large oval eyes. They have long, skinny legs and long torsos that show off their muscles. They have five toes on each front foot and four in the rear.
These cats come in both short- and long-hair varieties, and the textures of both are soft and silky. Their nearly non-existent tails have one of several slightly curved articulations. They come in any color or pattern of color, including mono-colored. Calicoes are most popular.
Legends and Folklore
Cats figure prominently in Japanese folklore, and the Japanese Bobtail is no different. Japanese storytellers seem to revere the animals, lifting them to a position of great respect in their tales. While long-tailed cats are often revealed to be evil spirits, short-tailed cats are often portrayed as good luck charms.
There are even tales about how the Japanese Bobtail got its short tail, including one that tells of a cat whose tail caught on fire while it was sleeping.
If you think you’ve never seen a Japanese Bobtail, think again. The popular Hello Kitty figure is based on a Japanese Bobtail, and it has become ubiquitous in Japan and abroad. And Muta, a character in “The Cat Returns,” is also based on a Japanese Bobtail.