Japanese Bobtail Information, Characteristics and Facts

Japanese Bobtail Cat: Breed Information, Characteristics and Facts

The Japanese Bobtail can be recognized by their large, oval eyes, wide ears and, of course, a distinctive bobtail. It’s soft, silky coat can be either: shorthair (medium length), or longhair (medium length that gradually lengthens on the body towards the tail). The coat has a low to medium amount of shedding. An adult cat is medium in size weighing around 2.5 – 4 Kg.


This active, affectionate breed loves to interact with humans. Any color or pattern of coat is permissible but the harlequin and van patterns (white body with colors only on the head and tail) are most popular. Their distinctive characteristics include:

  • Broad, round muzzle
  • Large oval eyes
  • Rabbit-like bob tail
  • Oval-shaped paws
  • Slender hind legs – longer than the forelegs
  • Lean torso with well-developed muscular strength
  • Soft, silky coat
  • Soft ‘voice’ with a broad scale of tones

Japanese Bobtail – Traits

Highly intelligent, this breed thrives on companionship. Playful by nature, they are always full of energy and mischief. Be warned, they can be highly attracted to water so be extra vigilant when taking a shower or a bath as your Japanese Bobtail may decide to join you! They also love to climb, so make sure they have ledges to rest on.

Their affectionate nature makes them a good family pet, although interaction with children should always be supervised to avoid any mishaps. Being a strongly human oriented breed makes them easier to train than many others and they can learn to walk with a harness and lead or even play ‘fetch’ with their toys. They are considered a talkative breed and often interact vocally with people. The tonal range of their chirps has resulted in them being known as ‘singing cats’.

History of the Japanese Bobtail

The Emperor of China is said to have made a gift of bobtail cats to the Emperor of Japan in the 7th Century, thus introducing the breed to Japan. They became the Imperial Family’s favorite pet for centuries and regularly appear in traditional Japanese artwork.

According to folklore, they saved Japan’s silk industry by hunting and killing rodents that were destroying the silkworms – and this is how they became so prized in Japanese culture. Another folk tale tells of a cat’s tail catching fire as it slept by a fire. As the creature ran through the village the dwellings caught fire and the village was destroyed.  To prevent this from happening again, the Japanese Emperor decreed that all cat’s tails should be shortened to a ‘bob’ and so began the bobtail.

Finally, there is the tale of Maneki-Neko, a female Japanese Bobtail who sat in shop doorways and beckoned passers-by into businesses by waving a front paw in welcome. Once inside the villagers would trade and business flourished. The waving cat, Maneki-Neko, is considered to bring good fortune and her image is seen in many stores and restaurants.

Most breeders of the Japanese Bobtail are located in Japan although an American breeder, Elizabeth Freret imported three cats into the USA in 1968 and began a breeding program.

Quick Facts About the Japanese Bobtail Cat

The Japanese Bobtail is a unique cat and, naturally, there are some things you will need take into consideration before purchasing one:

  • A well-bred, pedigree kitten can be costly. Your new cat can make quite the dent in your purse or wallet – especially when considering the cost of vaccinations, good quality food and insurance.
  • Depending on factors such as breeding, nutrition and environment, they have a life expectancy of around 9 – 15 years.
  • The Japanese Bobtail is a curious, energetic and sociable breed that does not like to be left alone. They need to play, interact and climb, and therefore aren’t suitable for houses that are often out at work or often find themselves too busy to give their Bobtails a little love.

Known as the ‘singing’ cat due to its wide range of chirps, the Japanese Bobcat is considered a symbol of good luck with ornaments and pictures on display in restaurants and takeaways. Its endearing looks have ensured its representation in art and culture up to the present day from traditional Japanese silkscreen paintings and woodcut prints to the Manga character, Hello Kitty.

Things You Should Know 

Coming Home

Before you bring your pet home, make sure that water and food dishes, litter tray, bedding and toys are in place ready for their arrival. Make sure the toilet lid is closed (Japanese Bobtails love water!), cupboard doors are closed (they love a game of hide and seek) and electrical wires are neatly secured.

It would also be wise to put away any expensive ornaments in case your pet decides to go climbing. Let them explore safely and introduce themselves to members of their new family in their own time and your cat will soon feel happy and settled.


The Japanese Bobtail is generally a healthy breed, and, to date, no spinal or bone abnormalities have been associated with the recessive gene responsible for the shortened tails. They can be prone to obesity, so make sure they have lots of opportunities to exercise and keep cat treats to a minimum.

Kittens tend to be proportionally larger than other breeds at birth and develop faster too. Litters are small and kitten mortality rates low.

Japanese bobtail-cat lying on the floor


Your cat will be coming into a brand-new environment, filled with different smells and sounds, which can cause them to feel a little anxious. Luckily, you can help your new Japanese Bobtail out by keeping to the same feeding routine as they had been on, previously. This simple change can help them to relax and become more confident, while simultaneously avoiding any tummy upsets that are prone to happen when food is changed without notice.

If you do need to change the brand or type of food or have to alter the feeding schedule at any time, you should try to make the changes gradually, over time, to minimize any upsets. Begin by adding the new food at a ratio of 1:4, before changing to 2:2 and then 3:4 before changing over the food completely. If you come across any problems using this routine, you should revert to the original routine and contact your vet.

Good nutrition is essential for the health and well-being of your pet so always aim to provide good quality food. If you have any concerns about feeding, then contact your vet who can give you more precise, personalized information for your cat.

You should also be aware that Bobtails can get a little greedy and may have a tendency to overeat. To avoid the negative repercussions of this, you should be careful with portions and monitor their weight and overall health.


Ensure a clean, fresh supply of water is always available. Hydration is essential to keep your pet healthy and help digestion. The Japanese Bobtail is often attracted to water for play and will probably like to drink from a running tap. If this is the case with your pet, a drinking fountain could be an option. Fountains are a great choice as they combine play with hydration – perfect for the playful Japanese Bobtail!

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To keep your cat happy and feeling secure, make sure there is a snuggly cat blanket or cat bed in a safe, warm place for them to nestle in, especially during the colder months. Although they are mischievous and love to play with their human friends, your pet will also need a quiet place to sleep and rest.


It may not be necessary to bathe your pet and, as this breed’s coat is highly water-resistant, a cat shampoo may not be particularly effective. Check with your breeder or vet.

Dental care

Try to brush teeth daily, or at least weekly, to help prevent gum disease and tooth decay. You should never use toothpaste intended for humans as the chemicals in the formula are not good for pets- they also aren’t too keen on the taste. Of course, if this becomes part of a daily routine from being a kitten the process is much easier, and your cat may even consider it as play.

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Ear Hygiene

Schedule a weekly ear check between your cat and yourself. This will allow you to check for any problems, such as ear mites, and allows them to be caught early and dealt with quickly. Ears need regular cleaning to help avoid ear infections and remove any waxy deposits.

If you do find any dirt present, this should be easily wiped away using a soft, damp cloth and a mix of half warm water and half cider vinegar. If you find that the dirt is a little more stubborn, contact your vet for a check-up.

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Eye care

Eyes should be checked, and any discharge or dirt wiped from the inner corners of the eye toward the outer side by using a soft, damp cloth. Always ensure that you are using a separate cloth for each eye, as this will help to avoid the spread of infection.


The Japanese Bobtail’s coat is highly water-resistant and only requires brushing every few days to remove any dead hair. Always be gentle when handling the pom-pom tail as it may be more rigid and less flexible than a regular cat tail and you could accidentally cause discomfort to your pet.

Litter tray

Keep the litter tray spotlessly clean – this breed is very particular and will not use a tray that has any hint of mess or wetness in it. There is also the chance of them using an unorthodox place as their toilet, which can be more than a little inconvenient, so always try to ensure the litter tray is clean.

It is important to consider the type of cat litter you use in the tray. Wood litter will break down and can be a little messier but is fully absorbent and therefore more appealing to some cat breeds. Meanwhile, a dust free cat litter helps reduce the risk of breathing problems in your pet. However, the main consideration should always be whether or not your cat seems to appreciate one form over the other.

Play and socializing

Hide and Seek, Fetch, and even agility courses, are just some of the games this fun-loving breed enjoys. Human interaction is very important to the Japanese Bobtail and they will happily perch on your shoulder, parrot-style, and share your day. With a little patience, they can often be coaxed to walk with you on a cat harness and lead.

They are always up to mischief be it opening doors and hiding in cupboards or sneaking food off your plate. They can become quite chatty and will chirp to their human to communicate. This breed can become lonely and bored and is happiest if there is company in the home be it animal or human.

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The Japanese Bobtail breed will usually get along well with other cats or even the occasional dog. However, this will always come down to the personalities involved and if other animals are happy to meet other cats. There is always a risk of an initial personality clash so, to start, try using a careful, and closely monitored meeting. This way, you can quickly step in, should one of the animals becomes anxious or aggressive.

The Japanese Bobtail loves the company of other pets but tends to become the pack leader so, even if there should be an initial personality clash, pets usually find their own pecking order and learn to tolerate each other in time.

A word of caution: Smaller pets will be in danger as all cats have an inbred hunting instinct. To avoid mishaps always keep smaller pets, especially rodents, away.


Children often make sudden movements or loud sounds that can upset a pet, but having a pet also allows them to learn care and responsibility. Always supervise child and cat interaction teaching children how to respect an animal’s personal space and their need to be left alone.

It is a good idea to provide an area for your cat which is purely for their own solitude, giving them a place to go when they need to get away. Don’t forget to teach your kids about respecting this personal space and ensure that they never chase your friendly feline into their own area.

 In Summary

The Japanese Bobcat is a mischievous, affectionate and playful cat that loves company. They tend to get on well with people, other cats and even dogs. Always the pack leader, they will reign over other pets and take control of the household. Intelligent and curious they are the natural entertainers of the feline world.

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  1. Japanese Bobtail, PetMD
  2. Japanese Bobtail, VCA Hospitals

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