Japanese Bobtails

GC, BW, RW Gulfcats Fujimaro
Photo by Helmi

GC, BW, RW Kurisumasu Jitto's Isan of Gulfcats
Photo by Nancy Degenkolb

A cat with a raised paw beckons from the doorway. The cat is ceramic and the traditional Japanese symbol of good luck. They are modeled after the famous and favored bobtailed cats of Japan. 

Intelligent, fun, playful, affectionate, spirited, beguiling, elegant, beautiful, exquisite. One could collect a seemingly endless number of descriptive words about the breed's personality and appearance and still not capture the full joy of the Japanese Bobtail. The breed's unique tail and gait, Asian appearance, delightful mischief making and showmanship are all part and parcel of the Japanese Bobtail - that, and much, much more.

Japanese Bobtails are strong and healthy cats. They usually have litters of three to four kittens that are extremely large for newborns. Compared to other breeds, they are active earlier, walk earlier and start getting into trouble earlier. This breed has a low kitten mortality rate and high disease resistance. Kittens are never born tailless, nor are they born with full tails. They are active, intelligent, talkative cats. Their soft voices are capable of nearly a whole scale of tones; some people say they sing. Since they adore human companionship they almost always speak when spoken to. 

They like to carry things in their mouths, and most enjoy a good game of fetch. Masters of the pounce, these cats love to ride on shoulders. They are good travelers. They don’t panic at shows or strange hotel rooms; they adjust to dogs and other animals, and are especially good with children. They are a hardy lot, as might be expected from a breed which for centuries was relegated to Japanese streets and farms in pursuit of vermin. Their health, soundness and upstanding nature make them ideal pets and superb show cats. 

The essential Japanese Bobtail is an active cat, medium to small in size (6-9 pounds), with a characteristic short pom-pom tail, who combines the reflexes and intelligence of a breed which has survived by its wits for centuries, with the elegance and grace so prized by the culture in which it evolved. Japanese Bobtails come in both shorthaired and semi-longhaired varieties. The tail is naturally short, and never cut or docked.

The prototypical Japanese Bobtail temperament is strong-willed, active, and energetic, but very affectionate to its family. They are stable, not high-strung, and not easily intimidated; this makes them an excellent cat for children (the kids and the cat will wear out at about the same time), but can also make them difficult to train to not do something. The Bobtail can easily learn to do something, such as go for walks on a leash, as long as it is made a fun game for the cat. 

In our experience, Japanese Bobtails get along well with other cats. Occasionally, two female Bobtails will both decide that they must be the dominant cat, and squabbles will erupt until one or the other (or the owner!) gives in. 

Male or female, JBT’s are famous for their entertaining antics and irresistible charm! They are very athletic, intelligent, outgoing, loving and unique! JBT’s are also very vocal, invariably talking back to their owners when spoken to. They love to carry things in their mouths, so playing fetch is a great past time with these cats. Some JBT’s even enjoy playing in water! They generally make good travelers, as well as adapting easily to other animals and children.

The Japanese bobtail is a charming personality, the kind of "loyal and comforting friend," says one bobtail owner, "that comes running to the door whenever its people return home, no matter how long they've been away. While some may wonder if bobtails might be uncoordinated because they lack a tail, this isn't so. They're athletic cats, excellent jumpers that are both agile and powerful, especially in the rear legs." 

If you’re looking for a furry door stop, this breed is not for you. Bobtails are energetic, playful cats; you’ll need no better excuse for neglecting your chores than watching the antics of your bobtail at play. However, their favorite games are those in which you take an active role. If you’ll be spending a lot of time away from home, provide a kitty companion to give your JBT an outlet for her energy.

Devoted and people oriented, JBT’s are ever-present companions that stop just short of being clingy. They want to be involved with your activities, whether it’s folding laundry, preparing dinner, or puttering on your computer. Bobtails also enjoy a good conversation and they produce a wide range of tones that fanciers describe as “singing.”

Because JBT’s are intelligent cats, they quickly learn new behaviors usually reserved for the canine crowd such as fetching and walking on a lead. Their intelligence can get them into mischief, however, since they are adept at opening cupboards and getting into off-limit rooms – and out of closed rooms as well. They can also be strong-willed and stubborn; once they get an idea into their heads, there’s no dissuading them. They are adept jumpers, too, so a tall cat tree is necessary to keep your JBT from scaling the bookcase or climbing the drapes. 
The Good Luck Cat of Japan

When visiting Japanese homes and shops, you will often find a tri-colored ceramic cat with raised paw near the front door. This is the Maneki-Neko, the traditional good luck cat of Japan, and represents the Mi-ke (calico) Japanese Bobtail.

As beautiful and graceful symbols of good fortune, bobtails remained the exclusive pets of the Imperial Family and other Japanese nobility, who used to walk the cats on a collar and lead. When the silk trade gained importance in the Japanese economy, however, the government decided that the noble bobtail cats should be set free to hunt the mice that threatened to destroy the silkworms and their cocoons, from which the precious silk was harvested. Depending on the source, this decree occurred at some point between the 13th and 17th centuries. The Japanese bobtail was now a street cat rather than a pampered pet, and it became widely known as the Kazoku Neko - the family cat of Japan. 

Even today Japanese bobtails are as likely to be found roaming the streets and alleys of Japan, or happily inhabiting one of the country's many temples, as in Japanese homes. Until recently, the breed was considered a common domestic in Japan, much like our American shorthair was considered a domestic here for many years, rather than a purebred cat. When Americans began including Japanese bobtails in their cat shows during the 1960s, the Japanese followed suit and established breeding programs. Whether purebred or not, the bobtail is still considered a popular symbol of Japanese society, and figurines of Maneki-Neko are available in many Japanese stores.

As simple and elegant as a Haiku, Japanese Bobtails are living works of art with their sculptured bodies, pert bobbed tails, alert ears, and large expressive eyes. But don’t expect them to sit around being admired, say fanciers; their active antics will keep you laughing. Affectionately known as JBTs or simply “bobs,” Japanese Bobtails are also loving companions. Fearless and fierce as samurai warriors when hunting a trespassing rodent, Japanese Bobtails become instant purr machines when caressed by human hands.

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