What Causes a Cat to Have an Unusually Short Tail?

As Lada Gaga sings, "Baby, I was born this way."
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Because cats communicate with their tails -- they hold them up when happy and flick them when mad -- it seems only logical to assume that all cats should have long tails. Not all do. Some have short tails, but that doesn’t mean those cats are short on emotions.


The shortest tail a cat can have is no tail, which is what Manx cats sport -- or rather, don’t sport. The Manx cat probably originated several hundred years ago on the Isle of Man, which is off England’s coast. Cats who rode on trade ships of the day mated with island cats who had the gene for no tail. The tailless gene is dominant. Cats who carry it can have long, full-length tails, but their tails could also be short stubs or nonexistent. One Manx litter can contain kittens with all three types of tails.

Japanese Bobtail

The Japanese bobtail, a short-tailed cat from Japan, has been around for centuries. Although all bobtails have short tails, no two are alike. Their tails are as unique as a human’s fingerprints, according to the Cat Fanciers’ Association. A Japanese bobtail’s tail is visible, and it could be curved, angled or kinked. Whatever shape it’s in, the tail isn’t longer than 3 inches. This breed came to the United States in 1968.

American Bobtail

The American bobtail, though he looks like a wild bobcat, is really a domesticated kitty. This powerful, large breed has a naturally short tail. His tail, while short, should be straight without any curves or kinks in it. Each American bobtail’s tail is different and is usually between 2 and 4 inches long, but some tails are a little shorter or longer than average. Both truck drivers and psychotherapists have been known to use American bobtails as work buddies, according to the Cat Fanciers’ Association. American bobtails enjoy riding in big rigs if they are introduced to the lifestyle at an early age, and therapists like them because this breed is sensitive to distressed people.


A cat who sustains an injury to her tail can have nerve damage. The tail might have been slammed in a door, bitten during a fight or run over by a car. If the tail doesn’t recover and the cat can no longer move it, or if she no longer has any feelings in it, a veterinarian might decide to amputate. Vets sometimes recommend that option when cats can’t lift their tails and are constantly soiling them during urination. Vets might also suggest amputation if the weight of the dead tail is damaging other nerves.

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