Japanese Bobtail cat standing against an orange background

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Japanese Bobtail cats are beloved by cat-lovers for their fluffy, pom-pom tails and adventurous personality. They thrive in family settings or multi-pet households and enjoy being around people and activity. Unlike many other cat breeds, Japanese Bobtails dislike being left alone for extended periods of time.

Whether you're considering getting a Japanese Bobtail cat or simply want to learn more about them, there is much to discover about what makes this breed unique. In this blog post, we will delve into their history, physical and behavioral characteristics, as well as common health issues, and provide tips on how to care for them. Continue reading to uncover more about these captivating cats.

History & Origin Of Japanese Bobtail Cats

Japanese Bobtails have a rich history that dates back centuries. The earliest written records suggest that they were introduced to China or Korea approximately 1,000 years ago, but it was in Japan where they truly flourished and captured the hearts of many as cherished pets.

However, in 1602, Japan faced a significant challenge when the rodent population reached alarming levels, posing a threat to the silk industry that heavily relied on silk worms. In response, authorities implemented a measure to address the issue by ordering the release of all cats onto the streets in an attempt to control the overwhelming rodent population. This drastic measure included making it illegal to buy and sell cats. Unfortunately, this decision had a profound impact on Japanese Bobtail cats, as they were commonly kept as pets during that time. Consequently, it marked the end of their role as cherished companions in Japanese society.1

Following World War II, Japanese Bobtail cats were brought back to the United States by US soldiers. However, their popularity didn't surge until 1968, when a breeder named Elizabeth Freret imported three Japanese Bobtails directly from Japan. This pivotal moment played a significant role in introducing and establishing the breed in the US.2

The short-haired variety of Japanese Bobtails gained recognition and achieved championship status from the UK's Cat Fanciers Association in 1976. Notably, it was a testament to the breed's unique qualities and appeal. Later, in 1993, the long-haired variety also earned the same esteemed status, solidifying the recognition and appreciation for both variations of Japanese Bobtails within the cat fancy community.2

Physical Attributes Of Japanese Bobtail Cats

Height, weight, and lifespan of Japanese Bobtails

Japanese Bobtail cats are of medium size and possess a distinct feature that sets them apart—their naturally short, almost non-existent tails that bear a striking resemblance to the tail of a cottontail rabbit. This unique feature is a result of a genetic mutation affecting the vertebrae in their tails. While this mutation is present in every Japanese Bobtail, the size, shape, and even the presence of the tail itself can vary among individual cats.3

In addition to their distinctive tails, this genetic mutation also leads to another noticeable trait—a set of longer hind legs compared to other cats. Surprisingly, these longer hind legs do not hinder their mobility. Thanks to their naturally angled hind legs, even when in a relaxed position, Japanese Bobtails maintain a balanced posture, with their torso remaining level. This allows them to move in a quick and graceful manner.3

The body shape of these cats is generally lean and muscular. They have a triangular head shape and high cheekbones, as well as fairly large, upright ears that are set widely apart. The ears tend to give the impression of always being slightly tilted forward. Their eyes are oval-shaped and look slanted when viewed in profile.3

When it comes to coat color, Japanese Bobtails come in a variety of hues, but the most favored are tri- or bi-color calicos, which are called mi-ke in Japanese, meaning “three-fur.” Most are predominantly white, but darker coats exist as well. Some have markings, while others have coats in one solid color.3

Behavioral Characteristics Of Japanese Bobtail Cats

Personality traits of the Japanese Bobtail

These cuddly cats are known for being friendly and intelligent with a generally sweet disposition. They get along well with other animals and love being around humans, so they do well in families or households with other pets. In many ways, Japanese Bobtails are quite dog-like. They often enjoy:

  • Active play (retrieving or chasing games, playing in water, etc.)
  • Going for walks and exploring the outdoors on a leash
  • Greeting you at the door when you come home
  • Learning simple commands or tricks4

They need lots of mental stimulation, so if you’re thinking of getting a Japanese Bobtail cat, be prepared to have lots of playtime with various cat toys and puzzles. They’re also quite vocal and will often use a variety of sounds like trills, chirps, and melodic meows, to communicate with humans—particularly with their owners. Some people even describe their vocalizations as resembling singing.4

Common Japanese Bobtail Health Issues

Overall, Japanese Bobtail cats are considered a healthy breed with no breed-specific health risks. Of course, they may still develop typical cat-related health issues, such as:

  • Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs): A UTI is a bacterial infection in the bladder that can disrupt the normal urinary process. It can present as pain or discomfort when urinating, excessive cleaning of the genital area, bloody urine, or difficulty urinating.5
  • Gum disease: Also known as periodontal disease, this is an inflammation of the gums that can cause redness, soreness, swelling, and pain. It’s usually caused by a buildup of tartar, but it can also occur as a result of cat flu, feline AIDS, or feline leukemia. If your cat is showing signs of dental problems, it is advisable to seek advice from a trusted veterinarian.6
  • Weight problems: Pets that are overweight are at risk of developing chronic health conditions, like arthritis and diabetes. Carrying excess weight may also cause respiratory problems. Make sure your feline friend engages in active play and doesn’t overeat.7
  • Diabetes: Just like in humans, this disease prevents the body from being able to control blood sugar levels. A cat’s blood sugar may get very high, but they still feel like they have no energy. Symptoms include sudden weight loss, frequent urination, excessive thirst, and lethargy.8
  • Arthritis: Sometimes called osteoarthritis, this is a painful joint condition that makes it difficult and uncomfortable to move. It’s a common health problem in senior cats, but can go unnoticed for quite some time. Contact your vet if they seem to be moving slower or more rigidly than usual, especially if your cat is older than 9 years of age.9

These health conditions are common as cats age, but you should also make sure to get your cat from a responsible breeder who conducts proper health screenings, genetic testing, and breed selectively to reduce the risk of hereditary diseases or conditions.

A responsible breeder will also ensure that their kittens are well-socialized from an early age. They provide proper socialization experiences, exposing the kittens to different people, sounds, and environments. This helps in developing a well-adjusted and confident cat with a good temperament.

Caring For Japanese Bobtails

Diet & Nutrition

Every cat is unique and has different likes and dislikes. However, cats are natural carnivores, so the majority of their protein and other vital nutrients should come from their diet. The specific proportion of these nutrients depends on the age, size, lifestyle, and general health of the cat. Like many other cats, Japanese Bobtails are prone to obesity, so it’s best to adhere to feeding guidelines given by your vet.10

Exercise & Enrichment

Most cats need some form of exercise and enrichment to hone their natural instincts, as well as to prevent them from getting too bored and potentially wreaking havoc across your home. Japanese Bobtails are naturally curious and they love to climb. They will definitely appreciate a tall, sturdy cat tree and time spent outdoors whether on a leash or in a catio. Cat wands and interactive puzzle feeders are also great tools to keep your cat entertained.

Grooming

Grooming is an important part of regular care for any cat, because it helps keep their coat clean, healthy, and free of debris or tangles. Regular grooming removes loose hair, helping to prevent your cat from ingesting it and developing hairballs in their digestive system. A greasy coat likely means that they aren’t grooming themselves effectively, which can indicate an underlying health problem. Brushing your cat’s teeth is also important to maintaining dental health.

Routine Veterinary Care

Your Japanese Bobtail will need a routine vet exam at least once a year. Older or chronically ill cats should be examined twice a year. You should also give your feline friend flea medication every month. Here at Dutch, we can help you bridge the gap between your in-person vet visits and help answer any questions that may come up in the meantime.

Japanese Bobtail cat sitting atop a cat tree in front of a clock

FAQs

What is the average lifespan of a Japanese Bobtail cat?

As a generally healthy breed, Japanese Bobtail cats live for an average of 12-16 years.

What is the difference between American and Japanese Bobtail cats?

American Bobtails have a more varied tail length and come in a wider range of colors and patterns than Japanese Bobtails.

How much is a Japanese Bobtail cat?

It depends. Since Japanese Bobtails are an uncommon breed, you can expect to pay anywhere from $600-$1,600 from a good breeder. Make sure the breeder is responsible and performs regular health screenings on their cats.

Final Notes

Japanese Bobtail cats make wonderful companions and are highly popular. Overall, they are a very healthy breed but are still susceptible to developing common feline health problems. These cats get along well with people and other animals and don’t like being left alone. They crave attention and interaction through play and pets.

Considering adopting one of these lovable kitties? Read our blog to find out more about caring for a Japanese Bobtail, from how to bathe a cat to how to trim your cat’s nails. You can learn about other interesting breeds like Abyssinian cats and Munchkin cats as well.

In addition, we provide convenient telemedicine services that enable you to consult with a licensed veterinarian from the comfort of your own home. Through a quick yet comprehensive video call, our veterinarians can address your questions and concerns while prescribing tailored treatment for your beloved pet. Discover how Dutch can make caring for your pets stress-free. Try Dutch today.

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References

  1. Mitten, Mandi. “Japanese Bobtail.” Animal Corner, 9 June 2022, https://animalcorner.org/cat-breeds/japanese-bobtail/.

  2. Scruggs, Allen, and Douglas Myers. “Japanese Bobtails.” Amazon Web Services (AWS), 2020, https://cfa-files.s3.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/breed-presentations/JapaneseBobtail.pdf  

  3. Scruggs, Allen. “Japanese Bobtail Breed Standard.” The Cat Fanciers’ Association Inc, 2022, https://cfa.org/japanese-bobtail/japanese-bobtail-breed-standard/# 

  4. “Japanese Bobtail Cat Breed Information.” Purinahttps://www.purina.co.nz/find-a-pet/cat-breeds/japanese-bobtail-short-hair

  5. “Bladder Infection (UTI) in Cats.” The People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA)www.pdsa.org.uk/pet-help-and-advice/pet-health-hub/conditions/bladder-infection-uti-in-cats.

  6. “Dental Disease in Cats.” The People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), https://www.pdsa.org.uk/pet-help-and-advice/pet-health-hub/conditions/dental-disease-in-cats.

  7. “Obesity in Cats.” The People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), https://www.pdsa.org.uk/pet-help-and-advice/pet-health-hub/conditions/obesity-in-cats.

  8. “Diabetes in Cats.”  The People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), https://www.pdsa.org.uk/pet-help-and-advice/pet-health-hub/conditions/diabetes-in-cats.

  9.  “Arthritis in Cats.”  The People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), https://www.pdsa.org.uk/pet-help-and-advice/pet-health-hub/conditions/arthritis-in-cats

  10. “Feeding Your Cat.” Cornell Feline Health Center, July 2017, www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/feeding-your-cat.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Dutch?

Dutch is an online veterinary pet telehealth service, created by pet parents and board-certified veterinary specialists. We use a science-backed approach to provide pets relief for their everyday physical and behavioral health issues. Dutch connects you with licensed veterinarians over video chat and messaging to help you get care for your dog or cat quickly wherever you are — without the stress or expense of a vet visit. We also partner with pharmacies who can deliver prescription medication (in applicable states only) and over-the-counter treatments directly to your door. Dutch isn’t a veterinary practice or pharmacy, but a company that helps facilitate these services for pet parents to make veterinary care more accessible to all.

What is a visit with Dutch like?

When booking a video call with a vet, you'll be asked a few questions about your pet’s health issue. Depending on the issue, you may also be asked to fill out a longer questionnaire about their symptoms and share photographs of them so our veterinarians can better understand what’s going on. You’ll then pick an appointment time that works best for you.

During your video call, one of our licensed veterinarians will talk to you about the symptoms your pet is experiencing, ask you questions, review your pet’s medical history if you’ve provided it, and answer any questions you have. The vet will ask to see your pet and their environment. And they may ask you to perform some simple checks on them if needed.

After your video call, the vet will send you a message with a custom treatment plan to help your pet feel better, including a link to buy any recommended prescription or over-the-counter medications. Place your order and we’ll ship it free.

How much will it cost for Dutch to treat my pet?

The Dutch membership starts at $11/mo for unlimited access to the vet. No more long waits for appointments or surprise bills.

In addition to the base membership plan, our veterinarians may also recommend additional medication (Rx and/or OTC) that you will have the option of adding to your plan at an additional cost.