American Bobtail: “Bad Boy” with a Heart of Gold

Jeremy Vaughn
Written by Jeremy Vaughn

You will agree that your cat’s temperament and looks matter. The problem is, sometimes those two features don’t come in conjunction with one another. Some cats look like the purest of angels but are actually hellish little gremlins. On the other end of the spectrum, there are cats that look like trouble, but are actually perfectly well-behaved kitties that are ready to devote themselves wholly to you; one of the latter is the American Bobtail.

Despite their wild looks, the American Bobtail is social, amiable, and lovable. They are also said to be a great escape artist. They can escape a caged enclosure or a locked room; true or false, that just adds to their allure. Finally, let us not ignore their unique bobtail; short and unusual, it’s the feature that sets them apart from most other cat breeds.

Studio image of an american bobtail cat sitting up

In this article, we summarize some characteristics of the cat breed and trace their roots in history. We feature major highlights that will give you details of the American Bobtail. We will enumerate their personality and character, give descriptions of their coat and grooming needs, as well as any health challenges the cat breed may face.

Breed Characteristics

  • Adaptability: High
  • Grooming: Above Average Needs
  • Health: Good
  • All Around Friendliness: Good
  • Exercise Needs: Moderate
Cat Breed GroupSemi Long-Haired, Natural Breed
SizeMedium to Large
WeightMales: 12 - 16 pounds

Females: 7 - 11 pounds
Lifespan11 - 15 years

The American Bobtail is an old breed that has existed for years in America. The breed was recognized fully by the International Cat Association in the year 2002. The American Bobtail is named after their tail shape and length. Their coat comes in different colors and patterns.

Apart from their signature feature—the bobtail—this cat breed is also known to have a wild or feral look which can be attributed to their ancestors. The American Bobtail cat personality is, however, the opposite of how they look. Sweet natured, loyal, intelligent, lively, and sensitive, this breed is well balanced.

Orange American Bobtail cat sitting on a road

They have almond-shaped eyes that come in different colors that vary with the coat color. The only eye color that they do not come in is the odd eyes. They can be short haired or long haired, but one thing’s for sure: they do have an undercoat. This makes them relatively high-maintenance when it comes to grooming.

They can be as heavy as 16 pounds. The females are slightly smaller than the males. Their tail is visible above the back, but not beyond the hock. Their tail can be straight, curved, slightly knotted, or bumpy. The American Bobtail is generally healthy but can be predisposed to some health challenges. They can live up to fifteen years. They can be leash-trained easily because they like to go for walks. They also do well as outdoor cats because they are intelligent and have good self-preservation instincts.

Main Highlights

  • The American Bobtail is bred selectively to be wild and sturdy and also for their wild looks and sweet temper. The American Bobtail is intelligent, sensitive, and social.
  • This breed comes with a double coat. They have a shaggy overcoat and a soft, downy undercoat.
  • The signature feature of the American Bobtail is their tail—which is usually between one-third and a half of the average cat’s tail length
  • The American Bobtail matures slower than other domestic cats. They may require two to three years to develop.
  • The breed comes in different colors and patterns. As long as the cat retains the signature feature—the bobtail—cat fanciers associations will recognize them as an American Bobtail.
  • The American Bobtail is a naturally-occurring short-tailed breed.
  • Their hind legs are slightly longer than their front legs
  • The tail mutation gene cannot be controlled; therefore there are varying lengths of tails.
  • No two tails are identical, making it a unique feature for each American Bobtail cat.
  • The American Bobtail is sensitive to human emotions and has been included in psychotherapist programs.

Breed History

The American Bobtail has varying tales of how they were conceived with a similar storyline. One thing we know for sure is that the breed was discovered in the 1960s, although it has existed in America for much longer.

Legend has it that the foundation cat of the breed was a stray cat that was adopted by John and Brenda Sanders. They found the cat while vacationing and driving through an Indian reservation in Arizona. They decided to bring the cat home and named him Yodi.

six american_bobtail kittens sitting in a cat tree

A brown tabby, Yodi had an interestingly short tail. In his new home in Iowa, he met Mishi—a female Siamese seal point—and they had a litter together. The kittens were also born with a short bobtail. The original bloodline has since died out, but a new, modified breed that comes in different coat colors and patterns was initiated by family friends who saw the potentials of a new breed—namely Mindy Shoultz and Charlotte Bentley.

In 1989, the American Bobtail gained recognition by The International Cat Association (TICA, US) and full recognition in 2002. The breed has since gained worldwide recognition and has also been accepted for championship in Cat Aficionado Association of China, the Cat Fanciers’ Association (US) and American Cat Fancier Association (ACFA).


The American Bobtail is a medium to large cat. The cat can weigh up to 16 pounds. Males weigh between 12 and16 pounds while females weigh between 7 and 11 pounds. Female American Bobtails are proportionately smaller than the males.

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These cats have a stocky and sturdy body, a noticeably rectangular body stance, a broad chest, as well as wide hips at an equal width to the chest. Their feet are large and round, as they need to be to carry their heavy weight. The bobtail can be straight, curved, slightly knotted, or bumpy.

Personality and Character

The American Bobtail is a social cat. They are wild-looking but sweet on the inside. They love to follow their owners around. American Bobtail personality is loyal and loving—able to seek and give affection equally. Although not your typical lap cat, an American Bobtail would not mind curling up in a vacant lap.

The American Bobtail cat is moderately active and energetic; they certainly enjoy being allowed to roam outdoors or engaging in indoor playtimes, but at the same time, they are not too demanding and so can fit into a family of elderlies as well as a family with young kids.

american-shorthair-cat lying on the side

The American Bobtail is a quiet cat overall. They are known to click, chirp, and trill when delighted and happy. They are sensitive to emotions as well. They have been compared to a Labrador or a Golden retriever because of their intense devotion and loyalty to their owner. They will eagerly meet you at the door to welcome you home after a long day at work.

The American Bobtail loves to play games that will challenge their mind and keep them sharp. The American Bobtail also loves to play games like fetch, hide and seek, and they most certainly enjoy walking on a leash. Their hunting instinct is reflected by their habit of catching flying insects within their territory. Also, they love to stalk their toys before carrying it in their mouth as if it were a real live prey.

Health and Potential Problems

The American Bobtail is generally healthy and is not known to have any genetic health problems. However, they can be predisposed to the following health challenges:

  • Hip Dysplasia: This is a hereditary disease that can cause arthritis or lameness of the hip joint in a severe case.
  • Shortened Spine: This is not a health problem, but a congenital disability. In this case, the Bobtail is born without a tail and is referred to as “rumpies.” These cats usually face many health challenges that can be related to a shortened spine.

You can inquire about any health problems your kitten may develop at the point of purchase. You can also request a written health guarantee from the breeder.

Care Features

The American Bobtail is an intelligent and flexible breed. They can wiggle their way out of an enclosure or a cage, so you need to be careful with their transport mode when taking them from place to place. Hide your jewelry or any other shiny keepsakes you may have if you don’t want your American Bobtail to lay their paws on them. Your cat is not a thief; they just like shiny stuff.

An american bobtail kitten playing outside near a tree

You should keep your cat indoors to protect them from automobiles, exposure to diseases from other cats, ticks, fleas, or larger predators that may try to attack them. The American Bobtail is heavy-boned and sturdy and can seem deceptively overweight especially due to their dense undercoat. Their apparent obesity can become a reality if care is not taken when planning the cat’s feeding schedule.

This cat is intelligent and loves to have their mind exercised. Provide puzzle toys such as food mazes and giggle balls to keep them occupied when you are not with them. Your cat was born with a strong hunting instinct. Therefore, stalking, climbing, and leaping are things you would often see them doing even if you keep them indoors. Purchase cat condos and trees that will allow them the freedom to leap and climb.

Feeding Schedule

The American Bobtail should be kept on a protein-rich diet. The food must meet the minimum daily dietary requirements for your American Bobtail as prescribed by the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)

Quality ingredients like premium beef, chicken, and fish make for great protein sources. Added minerals, essential amino acids, vitamins, and fatty acids should also be sourced for your cat’s consumption.

American Bobtail cat in a studio

The American Bobtail loves routine; it is advisable that you serve them the same daily portions of food at regular mealtimes. You can ration the food by giving half in the morning and later in the evening or simply ask your veterinarian for advice on the specific amount. Keep in mind that the American Bobtail’s nutritional needs will change as they age.

Coat, Color, and Grooming

Their coat is dense and plush with a shaggy appearance. Their hair can be long or short. The undercoat is heavy and needs to be groomed around three times a week. The brushing helps stimulate blood circulation which promotes better coat health. It also removes dead hair and debris that may have clung to the coat.

For long-haired Bobtails, the brushing may need to be done more often. Shedding is a constant phenomenon in the life of the American Bobtail, so brush and comb their coat as often as you can, or you could have a major hairball problem at hand. The American Bobtail comes in many different colors, a few of which are black, blue, brown, chocolate, cream, fawn, cinnamon, lilac, and white. Any color that enhances their natural wild look is preferred.

Magnificent American Bobtail In Nature | Cats Free Stock Photos

Check their ears and eyes for any build up and wipe them with a clean, damp cloth. Don’t use the same cloth for both of them as you could spread the infection this way. If you suspect an infection, please take them to the veterinarian as soon as possible. An occasional bath, nail trimming, and teeth brushing should also be a part of their grooming routine. These should be introduced as early as possible to promote overall health and well being.

Children and Other Pets Compatibility

The American Bobtail would fare better with older kids who are mature enough to handle them with consideration. Kids younger than six should be supervised when playing with the cat to prevent any unwanted injury—for both the cat and the kid. Sensitive and quiet, they fit in best with elderlies, adults, and quiet individuals. These cats can be friendly towards other pets and dogs as long as the first-time introduction is supervised and controlled.

Wrap Up

In conclusion, the American Bobtail is an intelligent, wild-looking but sweet-natured feline. They are family oriented and unusually devoted to their owners. Their bobtail and feral looks propelled them to stardom among cat fanciers.

The American Bobtail loves to travel and won’t fuss if you need to move them around; just ensure that you use a secure carrier as these cats can become skilled escape artists if they want to. Get yours at registered breeders at sixteen weeks or less, where you are sure they have been vaccinated as required and properly socialized.

american bobtail cat lying on a wooden floor

In need of a calm, intelligent, and reliable feline companion? Look no further than the American Bobtail. These cats don’t look it, but they are the cream of the crop. But what about cat breeds that do look like the cream of the crop and act like it as well? Is there even such a purrfect cat? Yes, there is; take a look over here if you’re interested. If there are any other facts or information you are willing to share about the American Bobtail, please comment below.

About the author
Jeremy Vaughn
Jeremy Vaughn

Jeremy Vaughn is a member of Canadian Professional Pet Stylists, who lives in Winnipeg. Creating new looks for cats and other pets is his passion. Jeremy shares his house with the wife and wonderful Siamese cat.