Japanese Bobtails


 CH Kiddlyn’s Billie Holiday of Gulfcats, CH Choneko Haidachi of Gulfcats & Kiddlyn's Dojo-San of Gulfcats, DM


Starting up in a new breed can be a perilous journey and I would like to express my thanks to the two long-time breeders who took a chance on us and allowed us to have the beautiful Japanese Bobtails that were our foundation cats.

Our first two Japanese Bobtails were Kiddlyn's Dojo-San of Gulfcats, DM, a black and white female, and CH Kiddlyn’s Billie Holiday of Gulfcats, a blue and white female. These two cats were from Linda Donaldson’s Kiddlyn Cattery, based in California. 

Our first JBT male, CH Choneko Haidachi of Gulfcats, a red & white male, came from Dee Hinkle’s Choneko Cattery here in Texas. The cross between “Dachi” and “Billie” produced our first JBT Regional Winner, GC, RW Gulfcats Elwood Blues.

With the help of established breeders Marianne Clark of Kurisumasu Cattery in Oregon and Lynn Search of Wyndchymes Cattery in North Carolina we have introduced welcome new blood to our breeding program.

From this small beginning we have established ourselves in the Japanese Bobtail community. We could not have done it without the help and guidance of these helpful and giving individuals. Domo Arigato to all.


From written records it seems certain that the domestic cat first arrived in Japan from China or Korea at least one thousand years ago. The Japanese Bobtail breed has certainly existed in Japan for many centuries; it is featured in many ancient prints and paintings. 

The Japanese Bobtail is a rare and ancient breed, found in Japan and across most of southeast Asia. The breed has been depicted in works of art that we know to be centuries old. The cat is much-cherished in its native land; many myths and legends (as well as historical stories) surround the breed. One of the more famous surrounds the maneki-neko, the beckoning cat, which is a stylized rendition of a Bobtail seated with one paw raised. Considered to be a good-luck charm, a maneki-neko statue is often found in store fronts. Look around the next Japanese restaurant you visit -- you'll likely spot one.

Many Japanese workplaces display the statute to welcome their customers and to bring success in their work. The statue can also be depicted in woodblock prints and silkscreens as well as paintings. The walls of Tokyo's Gotokuji Temple, constructed in 1697, are adorned with paintings of bobtail cats, and two longhair bobtails are featured in a 15th-century painting that hangs in the Freer Gallery of Art in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC. 

Although the JBT has been in North America for only three decades or so, it is one of the oldest cat breeds with a history as rich with legends and folklore as its mother country. Bobtailed, tricolored cats can be found in Japanese woodcuttings and silkscreen paintings dating from the 1600s. These tricolored cats are called “mi-ke” (mee-kay), meaning “three fur” in Japanese. 

The Japanese Bobtail has long been an integral part of Japanese culture and fine art. Maneki Nekos were particularly popular in the Edo period (1603-1867). Chi Kanoliu (1874), Toyokuni (1786-1864), not to mention the most famous Japanese artist of all, Hiroshige, all used the Bobtail in their work. Shosan and Hiromi, early in this century, produced exquisite woodblock prints that included Bobtails. Earlier examples undoubtedly exist but aren't currently known. 

Woodcuts and paintings of cats similar to the Japanese Bobtail suggest that the bobtail cat arrived in Japan around the 6th century. Although, some breed historians believe that the Japanese Bobtail arrived in the country around the 10th century, during the reign of Emperor Ichijo, who was the owner of five Japanese Bobtails. 

At this time, Emperor Ichijo decreed that cats were forbidden to work. Unfortunately, Japan's silk industry began to suffer. Since there were no cats to hunt, mice began to destroy the silkworms and cocoons. Silk manufactures placed statues of cats around the cocoons to frighten the mice. When this failed, the Emperor ordered all cats out to hunt. The Japanese bobtail became a street cat and was known as the ‘Kazoku Neko’ or family cat. Today, many Japanese Bobtail cats still run free in the streets of Japan!

In Tokyo, there is a temple called the Goutokuji, which is dedicated to cats. It is believed that the temple is protected by Maneki-Neko, a folklore cat. The legend of Maneki-neko can be traced back to when the Goutokuji was a Buddhist monastery. Maneki Neko, which means beckoning cat, is the incarnation of the Goddess of Mercy. The statue of Maneki Neko is depicted as a mi-ke Japanese Bobtail. The altar in the Goutokuji is surrounded by Maneki Neko statues. The monastery was low on money and food but the monks at the temple always made sure their cat named Tama, a mi-ke or tri-colored Japanese Bobtail, always had food. One day Lord Naotaka Ii was passing by the monastery when he noticed Tama sitting at the front gate beckoning to him. Naotaka followed Tama into the temple just as a bolt of lightening struck the place where he had been standing. The cat saved the Lord’s life and in return the Lord rescued the monastery from poverty. The monastery was then renamed Goutokuji. 

Since Tama had saved his life, Lord Naotaka took the temple as his family’s own, which brought the temple prosperity. A representation of Maneki Neko, one paw raised, appears on the facade of the Gotokuji Temple near Tokyo, which was built in 1697. Today, figurines of Maneki-Neko can be purchased in Japanese stores and many businesses display them to insure success. These small statues clearly show the tricolored pattern and the bobbed tail of the JBT.

There is a myth in Japan about why the Japanese Bobtail lost its tail. The myth states that a cat was warming itself too close to a fire, and set its tail on fire. It then ran through the town, burning many buildings to the ground. As punishment, the Emperor decreed that all cats should have their tails cut off.

The Bobtail's appearance in fine art notwithstanding, the breed derives from street and farm cats, cats who worked to protect silk (worms), rice and other crops from vermin. Exactly when or where the mutation that created the bobbed tail occurred is probably lost forever. Mention should be made that bobbed-tailed cats are seen in most of the Orient, indicating that the event probably happened in pre-historic times. The Bobtail exhibits a high level of intelligence. Their street smart personality comes through in today's cats. Cleverness in escaping or getting food on the street is evident in the show cat in their being able to charm a judge into just the right ribbon colors! The breed that probably most closely resembles the Bobtail in personality must surely be the Abyssinian. 



The Japanese Bobtail is a natural breed and does indeed come from Japan; all CFA registered cats can be traced back to the original imports. Any color except the Siamese pattern or Abyssinian type agouti is permitted; the most popular colors are the mi-ke and those colors that can be used to create it: white, black, red, black and white, red and white, and tortoiseshell. Vividly contrasting colors and bold dramatic markings are preferred on the bi-colors. Bright colors, especially the calico (called mi-ke, meaning "three-fur", by the Japanese) are most preferred, but the Japanese Bobtail can come in any color.

The most popular color for a female Japanese Bobtail is calico, known to the Japanese as mi-ke (pronounced "mee-kay"). Red and white, and black and white, are common colors for both sexes. Solid-colored cats without white markings (black, blue, red, cream, tortoiseshell, solid white), tabbies (brown tabby, red tabby, blue tabby, cream tabby, patched tabby or patterned mi-ke) and dilutes (blues, creams, blue-creams, dilute mi-kes) exist, but are harder to find. Many Japanese Bobtails with a lot of white are either blue-eyed or odd-eyed (one blue and one gold eye); this is a flashy and popular color, and such kittens are generally more expensive. Smokes and silvers have recently turned up in the North American gene pool, but can be hard to find. In some associations, all colors and patterns are allowed. Preference is given to bold, dramatic markings and vividly contrasting colors. 

While rare, Japanese Bobtails, especially predominantly white specimens, are more likely than other breeds to express heterochromia, or differing iris colors. One eye will be blue while the other is yellow (though in Japan, blue is referred to as silver while yellow is referred to as gold). This trait is popular and kittens displaying this "odd-eye" feature are usually more expensive.

As the Bobtail is an Asian breed, some registries allow the pointed (Siamese) and sepia (Burmese) colors, and some do not. Since imports from Japan can still be registered, the gene pool is still open to native cats.


The tail is unique not only to the breed, but to each individual cat. Like our finger prints, no two tails are ever alike. The tail must be clearly visible and is composed of one or more curves, angles, or kinks or any combination thereof. The furthest extension of the tail bone from the body should be no longer than three inches. The direction in which the tail is carried is not important. The tail may be flexible or rigid and should be of a size and shape that harmonizes with the rest of the cat. It should be very gently handled as it is sensitive - some parts are usually fused. It's delightful to see that most Bobtails will indeed wiggle their little bunny tails, a trick that always elicits a smile.

The genetic factor which created the Japanese Bobtail is completely different from the Manx, a naturally tailless cat. Unlike the Manx, it is due to recessive genes and breeds true. The two breeds are not related in any way. Not only are their tails different, but the body types are completely opposite. 

Although kinked tails are commonplace in the East, Kimura also noted that tail length in free-roaming Japanese cats "varies very much" and, interestingly enough, "most Japanese cat fanciers pay very little attention to the ordinary Japanese cat." 

While its tail is its calling card, the Japanese bobtail is not a breed wherein the caudal appendage wags the cat. Indeed, when cat registries in their infinite wisdom assign point values to the various parts of the bobtail's anatomy, color weighs as heavily as tail does (generally 20 points). Head, too, is allotted 20 points, while overall body conformation is worth even more. 

Named for its inimitable posterior, the Japanese bobtail is distinguished by its curled tail, which is unparalleled not only to the breed but to each individual cat. In this world of scientific breeding, where all manner of genetic derivations are becoming increasingly common in cat breeding, the Japanese bobtail is no Johnny-come-lately. The breed has been sporting its distinctive tail for at least a thousand years.

In Japan, where the breed is a centuries-old mainstay, few give second-thought to the abbreviated appendage, but here in the United States the cat's posterior still generates raised eyebrows, making this friendly, beautiful cat a distinctive and treasured gift from the Orient. 


The head structure of the Japanese Bobtail is like that of no other breed. The head is in fact an equilateral triangle (not including the ears), but the long, high, chiseled cheekbones accentuate the length of the head. The ears are large, tipped forward slightly as though listening, and set on the corners of the head so that the outer edges of the ears are parallel to each other. The eyes are large, and are set at an Oriental slant which makes the cat unmistakably a Japanese Bobtail -- even if you don't glance at the tail. The profile should be a gentle curve, and the chin should be firm and in line with the nose and upper lip. The muzzle should neither be square nor pointed, and there should be a definite break between the muzzle and the cheekbones. Definite whisker pads accentuate the look.

The Japanese Bobtail is classified as a semi-foreign breed, which means that the body should be long, firmly muscular, with a narrow chest, but some depth to the flank (not tubular like the Siamese and Oriental Shorthair). The legs are also long, so that the cat presents a square appearance (unlike the Maine Coon, which has a long body but medium legs presenting a rectangular appearance) when viewed from the side. The legs are refined without appearing delicate, and the hind legs are somewhat longer than the front legs, but deeply angulated at rest so that the back is carried level. The paws are small, neat, and oval.

The Japanese Bobtail coat should feel soft and silky to the touch, not hard. The shorthair variety should appear flat, not fluffy, although the hairs are actually medium in length. Keep the porcelain statue appearance in mind. The semi-longhairs should have belly shag and definite britches on the hind legs, and something of a ruff as well, at least in the winter. While the semi-longhairs are subject to seasonal shedding, the tail should leave no doubt as to whether you are looking at a shorthair or a longhair, in any season. Both types of coat are actually quite water-resistant, such that the most difficult part of show grooming a Japanese Bobtail is getting them wet during their bath! With Japanese Bobtails, you can choose your coat length - either soft short hair or silky long hair! Both varieties shed very little. The long hair doesn't have an undercoat so they will always remain silky!

Japanese Bobtails are very healthy and hardy little cats. Females usually weigh between 5 - 7 lbs, while males weigh 7 - 10 lbs. Their bodies tend to be slender, but muscular. You very seldom see a fat JBT. Kittens usually come in litters of three to four and are typically larger than newborns of other breeds. Japanese bobtail kittens are often more active much earlier in life than kittens of other breeds.


The bobtail remained a secret of Japan for centuries. The first documented Japanese bobtail was imported into the United States from Japan in 1908, but the breed remained largely unknown in the United States until the 1940s, when American GIs serving in the force that occupied Japan following World War II began to bring them home in large numbers.

A formal breeding program was not developed in America until 1968. That year American Judy Crawford, who had been living in Japan for 15 years and who had been breeding Japanese bobtails for most of that time, sent a pair to Elizabeth Freret in the United States. The pair consisted of a tortoiseshell and white female called Madame Butterfly and a red and white male called Richard.

In 1968 the late Elizabeth Freret imported the first three Japanese Bobtails to the United States from Japan. In 1971 they were given provisional status in The Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) and were accepted for championship competition in 1976. 

Americans, for their part, discovered the Japanese bobtail when cat show judges from the United States began officiating on occasion as guest judges at shows in Japan in the 1960s. The first recorded importation of Japanese bobtails to the United States occurred in August 1968. The following year the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) granted registration status to the breed. In 1971 bobtails were advanced to provisional status in CFA, and as of May 1, 1976, they were eligible to compete in championship classes. These days the bobtail -- in both short and longhair varieties -- enjoys championship status in virtually every cat-registering body in North America. 

It is no wonder that the breed caught the eye of influential cat fanciers in the early 1960s. Elizabeth Freret, a well-known Abyssinian breeder as well as a sharp attorney, joined forces with CFA Judges Lynn Beck, Don Thompson and Virginia Wolfe, and their efforts were key to the eventual recognition of the Bobtail. Their place in the history of our breed is secured. Those of us who are now such strong supporters of the breed are forever indebted to them. 

When Elizabeth Freret, Lynn Beck, Virginia Wolfe and the original breeders in this country sought CFA acceptance, they wisely realized the necessity of distinguishing the tailess Manx from the Bobtail. Manx breeder Barbara St. Georges enjoys pointing that out frequently when finalling a Bobtail. Many street/farm cats in Japan were and are very large and cobby. Some have thick coats - especially in Japan's northern climes. This type was omitted from American breeding stock. Today's Bobtail female should weigh about six pounds, males about eight pounds. Such cats exhibit a more refined, racier appearance - so much so that many feel that the standard favors the female. 

The Japanese, and other inhabitants of the Far East, may be known for their placid, inscrutable demeanors, but the Japanese bobtails defy these cultural stereotypes. They're typically bold cats that adjust well to new situations, people and animals. This amiable disposition is a definite attribute in the show ring - in 1999 a Japanese bobtail named Nobu, after a character in Arthur Golden's bestseller Memoirs of a Geisha, won the best in show trophy at the prestigious International Cat Show held in New York's Madison Square Garden. 

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