The same genetic mutation that causes some Manx kittens to be born tailless also contributes to spinal problems in the breed. Unfortunately, issues with walking and fecal and urinary incontinence result from spinal deformities. You sure don't want the lovely aroma of cat urine lingering in your house.
Originally from the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea, the mutation might have originated when the island's domestic cats mated with felines from the trading ships that frequented the port. According to the Cat Fanciers Association, the tailless gene is dominant, but Manx kittens can be born with full tails, short tails, a slight tail -- the rumpy riser -- or tail-free. The latter are referred to as rumpies. The breed's hindquarters are higher and larger than the front end, so a Manx cat's rump exceeds his shoulder's height.
The hereditary spinal problems in the breed are collectively known as Manx Syndrome. The most common is spina bifida, occurring when the spinal cord is exposed at birth. While some Manx kittens with spina bifida exhibit only a peculiar gait, others are unable to urinate or defecate normally. Other indications of Manx syndrome include a malformed pelvis; short, fused or missing vertebrae; and rear leg paralysis.
Unless you're a breeder, you probably won't have to deal with incontinence in your Manx cat. That's because Manx Syndrome is evident early in the kitten's life and these babies are generally euthanized. According to the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, there is no effective treatment for the condition, although surgery might benefit some animals. If you're a breeder and end up with kittens affected by Manx Syndrome, speak to your vet about their prognosis. If you chose to care for a kitten with Manx Syndrome rather than put it down, remember that not only will the cat be unable to control its excretory functions, but will need constant cleaning to avoid skin scald and infection from urine and feces.
Other Elimination Issues
Besides urinary and/or fecal incontinence, Manx cats might suffer from other elimination issues. Megacolon, which literally means "big colon," results when the colon becomes flaccid, losing mobility. The primary symptom of megacolon is chronic constipation. According to Manhattan Cat Specialists, megacolon might occur in Manx cats with the sacral spinal cord deformity. While some cats respond well to high-fiber dietary changes, others must undergo surgery to remove the majority of their colon. Fortunately, this surgery is usually successful and most cats respond well.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.