Kittens are cute enough with tails, but there’s something about a little powder-puff bob on the rump that ramps up the cute factor even more. The genetic mutation of bobbed tails is seen throughout the globe, and the American bobtail and Japanese bobtail cats, from very different native lands, have some things in common.
Just like fingerprints, no two tails of either breed are alike and both can have curves, angles or kinks. The American bobtail has a stubby tail that is longer than his Japanese counterpart, averaging 1 to 4 inches. The Japanese bobbed tail resembles a tufted pompom and is no longer than 3 inches, and usually shorter. The American’s is flexible, while that of the Japanese can be flexible or rigid.
Other Physical Differences
Considered a medium to large breed, American bobtail males can reach 15 pounds or more, while the Japanese version tends to stay under 10 pounds. While both are muscular and proficient high-jumpers, the Japanese is longer than the American, with an elegant, slender body, while the American is a more solid cat as befits his background as a natural hunting breed. Their coats also differ in texture – the American bobtail has an all-weather, double coat, which appears a bit shaggy in the long-haired version. The Japanese is prized for its smooth and silky single coat, which rarely tangles.
The charming, wildcat look-alike American bobtail has been dubbed the golden retriever of cats because of his dog-like devotion to the entire family, including other cats and dogs. He communicates with you with chirps and trills more than meows, and he is said to wag his tail like a dog when happy. He doesn’t even mind being carried around on your shoulder. He isn’t difficult to leash train and will play fetch for hours on end.
The Japanese bobtail is a busier cat. This world-class pouncer is active and loves to splash in water, which is why you might find his favorite toy in the water bowl. Also good family pets, they have a large vocabulary and don’t mind using it. These explorers at heart will find a way into every nook and cranny, and you might find them gazing down at you from atop the cupboards.
The Tale of the Tail
The American bobtail gene is dominant genetically, meaning that only one parent has to carry the gene for it to be possible to produce a bobtailed kitten. In the Japanese bobtail, the gene is recessive, so both parents must have it for the kittens to be bobtailed. A Japanese bobtail kitten will never be completely tailless, nor will it ever have a full-length tail. Due to the randomness of the gene in an American bobtail, kittens can be born with a rumpy (no tail), a stumpy (about an inch long), or longer, and all lengths are acceptable in the breed standard, as long as it isn’t longer than the hock.
Leslie Darling has been a writer since 2003, writing regularly for "Mississippi Magazine" and "South Mississippi Living," specializing in food and wine, animals and pets, and all things Southern. She is a graduate of the University of New Orleans.