The American Bobtail, a relative newcomer on the scene, is increasing in popularity due to its winning combination of wild appearance and friendly demeanour.
Among the few cat breeds that have originated in the United States, the American Bobtail did not receive recognition by the Cat Fanciers’ Association until February 2000.
American Bobtail History
The first known American Bobtail was Yodie, a stray with a stubby tail who was found by vacationers in the 1960s. Although his parentage is unknown, it was rumoured that he was a hybrid of a bobcat and a domestic cat due to his short tail and wild look. However, this is unlikely, as the males derived from such matings tend to be sterile, whereas Yodie was not. It is more likely that Yodie’s stumpy tail was the result of a spontaneous mutation.
Yodie was mated at first with a seal point Siamese female and the kittens were born with bobbed tails, which indicated that the bobtail gene was dominant. Yodie and his children were subsequently mated with Birmans, Himalayans, Ragdolls, and additional Siamese.
With so few American Bobtails in existence, inbreeding led to poor health, and so breeders in the 1980s phased out the old bloodlines and introduced new ones. During this phase, they moved away from point-markings with long hair and white mittens and sought to re-establish the large, wild, shaggy tabby appearance that Yodie had sported, with the goal of creating offspring that looked like bobcats but had pleasant domestic temperaments. No Japanese Bobtails, Manx cats, or bobcats were used in these subsequent breeding programs – only American Bobtails and random-bred domestics. This breeding strategy has created a diverse and healthy gene pool.
American Bobtail Appearance
A medium-large cat, the American Bobtail has an athletic, muscular build, with back legs slightly longer than its forelimbs, large feet, and in some cases, tufted toes. Its face is broad and wedge-shaped, with almond-shaped eyes and tufted ears. A slow-maturing cat, the American Bobtail takes two to three years to reach its full adult size.
The most distinctive feature of the American Bobtail is its naturally stumpy tail, which varies in length from one cat to the next, with the average being 1-4 inches. The tail may be curved, straight, or kinked, and American Bobtails use their stubby tails as expressively as cats with full-length tails. There are also American Bobtails born without tails (known as Rumpies). Some of these completely tailless cats are prone to health problems due to their shortened spines, though experienced breeders can usually prevent these problems.
The American Bobtail comes in a broad array of colours and patterns, including tabby and Siamese-style point markings. The double coat is somewhat dense and water resistant, and longhaired American Bobtails have shaggier hair with a slight neck ruff.
American Bobtail Personality
Because the breed is still in development, there may be more variation from one American Bobtail to the next than would be found in other, more established purebreds. Thus far, anecdotal evidence from owners suggests that the American Bobtail shares many traits in common with the Manx, including the tendency toward a doglike temperament.
The American Bobtail is an affectionate, gentle breed. Bright and adaptable, American Bobtails are better able to cope with bustling, busy environments than cats of many other breeds. They usually get along well with most dogs and tend to be friendly toward new people and pets. Because many American Bobtails are well-behaved and have shown a remarkable sensitivity to those in distress, these cats have been used as pet therapy animals by psychotherapists.
More tolerant than most breeds of being carried around by well-meaning but clumsy young children, American Bobtails are good family-friendly cats. Amusing and playful, they are among the more trainable breeds, and can often learn to do tricks. Many American Bobtails also have a fascination for shiny objects, so jewelery, coins, and other small, easily swallowed items should be locked away out of reach.
Bobtails have quiet voices, but they do tend to be vocal, and are inclined to chirp, click, or make trilling sounds when excited. Although they are bold, people-oriented, highly intelligent, and somewhat demanding, they aren’t as chatty as the Siamese.
Energetic, playful, and agile, American Bobtails love to climb and explore. Their cleverness and dexterity has also earned them a reputation as escape artists, able to extricate themselves from cages and closed rooms.
American Bobtail Grooming Requirements
Shorthaired American Bobtails don’t have any special grooming requirements, though brushing during the shedding season can be beneficial. Longhaired American Bobtails should be combed two to three times per week to prevent tangles, and grooming should be started at a young age to accustom kittens to the procedure. Most cats enjoy their grooming sessions.
American Bobtail Health
There are no significant health problems associated with stump-tailed American Bobtails other than increased risk of developing hip dysplasia, though cats born without even a stump of a tail are at greater risk for health problems such as spina bifida and bowel and bladder issues. However, adopting kittens from a legitimate breeder significantly reduces the risk of health problems.
Adopting an American Bobtail Kitten or Cat
Purebred American Bobtails are still somewhat rare – in 2000, just 215 were registered with the Cat Fanciers’ Association – so breeders tend to maintain waiting lists. The price of American Bobtail kittens varies based on markings, bloodlines, and other factors (expect to pay $600 to $1,200 or more).
Those who wish to save money and provide a home for an adult American Bobtail in need, see PetFinder’s list of American Bobtails available for adoption.
- Helgren, J. Anne. (2009). “Choosing an American Bobtail.” PetPlace.com.
- Sylvia, Kathryn, Cat Fanciers’ Association. (22 June 2009). “Breed Profile: American Bobtail.” CFAinc.org.