Japanese Bobtail
Japanese Bobtail

The Japanese Bobtail presents the overall impression of a medium-sized cat with clean lines and bone structure, well-muscled but straight and slender rather than massive in build. The unique set of this cat’s eyes, combined with high cheekbones and a long parallel nose, lend a distinctive Japanese cast to the face. The short tail resembles a bunny tail with the hair fanning out to create a pom-pom appearance, which effectively camouflages underlying bone structure of the tail. Overall type, composed of balance, elegance, and refinement is essence of Japanese Bobtail breed.


  • Playfulnesslevel 5 in 5

  • Activity Levellevel 4 in 5

  • Friendliness to Other Petslevel 4 in 5

  • Friendliness to Childrenlevel 4 in 5

  • Grooming Requirementslevel 2 in 5

  • Vocalitylevel 4 in 5

  • Need for attentionlevel 4 in 5

  • Affection towards ownerslevel 5 in 5

  • Docilitylevel 2 in 5

  • Intelligencelevel 4 in 5

  • Independencelevel 2 in 5

  • Hardinesslevel 3 in 5

Disclaimer: While the characteristics mentioned here may frequently represent this breed, cats are individuals whose personalities and appearances will vary. Please consult the adoption organization for details on a specific pet.


As elegant and clever as a Haiku, Japanese Bobtails are living works of art with their sculptured bodies, pert bobbed tails, alert ears, and large window-to-the-soul eyes. But they’re not just for admiring; they also possess a personality that will make you purr. Bobs make outstanding companions. Fearless and fierce as samurai warriors when on the hunt for a roving rodent or catnip mouse, Japanese Bobtails nevertheless passionately adore their human families and spend much of their waking hours at their favorite human’s side, chirping quiet queries and sticking curious noses into everyone’s business. They’re bold, intelligent, and energetic, and easily adjust to new people, situations, and animals, making them good show cats. Bobtails are very active; they are ever-present companions that stop short of being clingy. 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.” Because of their high intelligence, Bobtails readily learn behaviors usually reserved for the canine crowd, such as fetching and learning to walk on a lead. Be careful what you teach them, however; if jumping on your stomach at three in the morning gets you up to feed them even once, they’ll jump on your stomach in the wee hours forevermore. Their intelligence can get them into mischief, since they are adept at opening cupboards and getting into off-limit rooms—and out of closed off rooms as well. At their most mischievous, how ever, they are loads of fun to watch. You’ll need no better excuse for neglecting the housework than watching the antics of your Japanese Bobtail at play.

Physical Attributes


Medium in size, torso long, lean, and elegant, not tubular, showing well developed muscular strength without coarseness. No inclination toward flabbiness or cobbiness. General balance of utmost importance. Neck neither too long nor too short, in proportion to the length of the body.


Long and finely chiseled, head forms almost a perfect equilateral triangle (does not include the ears) with gentle curving lines, high cheekbones, and a noticeable whisker break; the nose long and well-defined by two parallel lines from tip to brow with a gentle dip at, or just below, eye level. Muzzle fairly broad and rounding into the whisker break; neither pointed nor blunt. Chin full, neither undershot nor overshot.


Large, upright, and expressive, set wide apart but at right angles to the head rather than flaring outward, and giving the impression of being tilted forward in repose.


Large, oval rather than round, but wide and alert; set into the skull at a rather pronounced slant when viewed in profile. The eyeball shows a shallow curvature and should not bulge out beyond the cheekbone or the forehead.

Legs & Paws

Legs in keeping with the body, long, slender, and high, but not dainty or fragile in appearance. The hind legs noticeably longer than the forelegs, but deeply angulated to bend when the cat is standing relaxed so the torso remains nearly level rather than rising toward the rear. When standing, the cat’s forelegs and shoulders form two continuous straight lines, close together. Paws oval. Toes five in front and four behind.


Tail is unique not only to the breed, but to each individual cat. This is to be used as a guideline, rather than promoting one specific type of tail out of the many that occur within the breed. The tail must be clearly visible and is composed of one or more curves, angles, or kinks or any combination thereof. The furthest extension of the tail bone from the body should be no longer than three inches. The direction in which the tail is carried is not important. The tail may be flexible or rigid and should be of a size and shape that harmonizes with the rest of the cat.


No color or pattern is preferred over any other. In the dominant colored bi-colors and tri-colors (Ml-KE) any color may predominate with preference given to bold, dramatic markings and vividly contrasting colors. In the dilute colored bi-colors and tri-colors (MI-KE), any color may predominate, with preference given to soft, muted markings and gently contrasting colors. In the solid color cat the coat color should be of uniform density and color from the tip to the root of each hair and from the nose of the cat to the tail. Nose leather, paw pads, and eye color should harmonize generally with coat color. Blue eyes and odd eyes are allowed. All colors with the exception of those showing evidence of hybridization resulting in the colors chocolate, lavender, point restricted (i.e. pointed pattern) or unpatterned agouti (i.e., Abyssinian coloring) or those colors with white.

Coat: Long Hair

Longhair: length medium-long to long, texture soft and silky, with no noticeable undercoat in the mature adult. Frontal ruff desirable. Coat may be shorter and close lying over the shoulders, gradually lengthening toward the rump, with noticeable longer hair on the tail and rear britches. Ear and toe tufts are often present

Coat: Short Hair

Shorthair: medium length, soft and silky, but without a noticeable


No one knows for sure when and where the Japanese Bobtail originated, but it is believed that the ancestors of today’s Japanese Bobtail cats traveled from Korea and China to Japan around the beginning of the sixth century. They most likely were kept aboard ships to protect precious silk goods and documents being transported from port to port. Whether these seafaring cats had bobbed tails or not is not known; the origin of their bobbed tail mutation will probably never be known. It’s clear, however, that the breed has been bobbing around the Far East for many centuries, since early Japanese folklore contains numerous references to short-tailed cats. Bobtailed cats can be found in Japanese woodcut prints and silkscreen paintings from the Edo period (1603–1867), so they were not only well known in Japan but by the fifteenth century were prized for their grace and beauty, and were kept in the temples and homes of the Imperial Japanese families for many years. It’s safe to say the Japanese Bobtail is one of the oldest existing cat breeds with a history as rich with legends and folklore as the country in which it developed. Bobtailed cats born with a particular pattern of red, black and white markings were called Mi-Ke (pronounced mee-kay, meaning “three fur” in Japanese) were considered lucky; such cats were particularly treasured. The most famous story about the Mi-Ke is the legend of Maneki Neko, which means “beckoning cat” in Japanese. As the tale goes, a bobtailed, tri-colored cat named Tama lived at the poor Kotoku temple in Setagaya, Tokyo. The monk often shared his meager food with his beloved cat to make sure she got enough to eat. One day, Lord Ii Natotaka was caught in a rain storm near the temple. While he sought shelter under a nearby tree, he noticed Tama beckoning to him from the temple gate. A moment after he left the tree in response to the cat’s welcoming gesture, the tree was struck by lightning. Since Tama had saved his life, Lord Ii Natotaka took the temple as his family’s own, bringing it great prosperity. The lord renamed the temple Gotokuji and built a large new temple building. Tama, revered for bringing such good fortune, lived out her life in comfort and was buried with honors in the temple cemetery. Other legends about Maneki Neko abound, but all associate the cat with good luck and prosperity. Maneki Neko silkscreen paintings and other artwork were particularly popular in the Edo period. Today, figurines of Maneki Neko can be found in many Japanese shops, restaurants, and other businesses as charms to bring good fortune and success. These figurines clearly show the bobbed tail, the tri-colored pattern, and the raised beckoning paw. Japanese Bobtails might have remained pampered royal cats if not for the Japanese silk industry. Around the fifteenth century, when growing rodent populations threatened to destroy the silkworms and their cocoons from which the precious silk was harvested, the Japanese government ordered cats be set free to protect the silk industry. Afterward, Japanese Bobtails became street and farm cats, and after many years of survival on Japan’s streets and farms, natural selection turned the Japanese Bobtail into a hardy, intelligent, adaptable cat. Until quite recently, the Japanese Bobtail was considered a common working cat in its native land.

The Japanese Bobtail came to North America in 1968. In 1969, CFA accepted Japanese Bobtails for registration. In 1971, the breed was granted provisional status, and in 1976, the Japanese Bobtail was granted CFA championship status. Today, all North American associations accept the breed for championship.