The Japanese Bobtail is a breed of cat with an unusual 'bobbed' tail more closely resembling the tail of a rabbit than that of an ordinary feline. The short tail is caused by the expression of a recessive gene. Thus, so long as both parents are bobtails, all kittens born to a litter will have bobtails as well.
The bobtail is a small oriental cat native to Japan and Southeast Asia. The breed has been known in Japan for centuries, and there are many legends and myths, as well as pieces of ancient art, featuring it. The Maneki Neko, or 'beckoning cat' is a bobtail.
Japanese bobtails may have almost any colour, but calico (called "Mi-ke", meaning "three-fur") or bi-colours are especially favoured by the Japanese.
Exactly when and where the Japanese Bobtail developed is not known. It’s clear, however, that the breed has been bobbing around the Far East for at least several centuries, and perhaps much longer, since early Japanese folklore contains numerous references to short-tailed cats. One well-known tale tells of a small, short-tailed female cat named Maneki-Neko that was said to have beckoned to passersby and that was associated with good fortune. A representation of Maneki-Neko, with one paw raised in welcome, appears on the facade of the Gotokuji Temple near Tokyo.
While historical records do not explain the origin of the Japanese Bobtail, Japanese folklore does. A well-known legend tells of a sleeping cat whose tail caught on fire from a spark from the nearby hearth. The frightened cat ran through the streets of the Imperial City, lighting all the houses on fire. By morning, the city was destroyed and the Emperor, angry at the destruction of the city, decreed that all cats must have their tails cut short to prevent another such disaster from occurring.
Domestic cats were introduced into Japan from China and Korea in the early sixth century, but whether these cats had bobbed tails is unclear. The bobbed tail was definitely common by the early seventeenth century, since tricolored cats with pom-pom tails have been portrayed in numerous Japanese woodcut prints and painted silkscreen paintings of that period. Tricolored cats, mostly white with patches of red and black, are called Mi-Ke (pronounced mee-kay). Bobtails of this pattern are considered good luck. The Japanese revered these cats for their grace and beauty, and the cats were prized and kept in the temples and homes of the Imperial Japanese families for many years.
Bobs make outstanding companions. They’re curious, bold, intelligent, and alert, and easily adjust to new people, situations, and animals, making them easy cats to show. Bobtails are active, but not annoyingly so. Their play is interactive and endearing. They want to be involved with their human companions and are more than willing to lend a paw when you need it (and even when you don’t). Bobtails also enjoy a good conversation; they have chirping voices that produce a wide range of tones—some breeders describe this as “singing.”