Japanese Bobtail: Harbingers of Good Luck

Studio image of a Japanese Bobtail
Stella Noble
Written by Stella Noble

Those who have had firsthand experience of what it’s like to live with a pet often can no longer go without one. It’s irrefutable that pets bring joy, laughter, and fun companionship into our household, but some specific breeds are said to be able to bring something extra: good luck. The Japanese Bobtail is one such breed.

The Japanese Bobtail is a very well-known and respected cat, as the breed has existed in Japan since the 6th century. Temples such as the Niko Temple and Gotokuji Temple have wood carvings and statues of the Japanese Bobtail—symbolizing their love and respect for the breed.

A natural breed, the Japanese Bobtail is a healthy cat that loves physical activity and companionship. Thus, they’re great for people who have a lot of time to spend with their cat. They get along well with everyone, as long as they are treated with respect. The moment a Japanese Bobtail steps into your abode, know that you’re surrendering the throne to them. And you’ll find yourself doing so gladly because that’s just how charming these cats are.

Close-up image of a Japanese-Bobtail-cat

If you’re curious about the playful and loving Japanese Bobtail, you should be. They’re a breed full of personality and life which is what makes them so loveable. In this article, we’re going to provide you with all the information you need to know about the Japanese Bobtail. That way, you can decide whether or not they’d fit into your home and lifestyle. From personality to grooming, history and health, you’ll be given a complete rundown of what the Japanese Bobtail consists of as a breed. By the end of this article, you’ll have fallen in love with this amazing breed.

Breed Characteristics

  • Adaptability: High

  • Grooming: Low Maintenance

  • Health: Very Good; main concern is weight control

  • All Around Friendliness: Good

  • Exercise Needs: High

Cat Breed GroupShort-Haired, Natural Breed
WeightMales: 8 - 12 lbs

Females: < 8 lbs.
Lifespan9 - 13 years

The Japanese Bobtail is quite a famous cat—specifically in Japan, but they have also gathered a bit of a fan base around the world. The breed has been around since the 6th century and is a symbol of prosperity and happiness in Japan. Of course, the breed was eventually exported to the United States in 1968. However, it is still most popular in its country of origin.

The Japanese Bobtail is a medium-sized cat that can be with long hair or short hair, depending on the parents—although they are most commonly associated with a silky, short coat that has splotches of black and brown on it. The length of the hair tends to be the most noticeable on their hind legs, belly, and tail.

Interesting Japanese Bobtail cat lying down with a toy mouse

If you have allergies to the undercoat, the Japanese Bobtail has very little. Thus, the breed is ideal for people with allergies to hair. They have large triangular ears that stand completely upright on top of their head. Their large oval eyes, small nose, and prominent cheekbones give them an oriental look.

Their hind legs are slightly longer than their front legs—which give them more force for jumping. Their tails are significantly shorter than other breeds. What’s unique about this breed is that no two tails are alike. Their tails can be seen as fingerprints—meaning, each tail looks completely different in curve and kinks.

Japanese Bobtail cat with different colored eyes

The Japanese Bobtail loves to play and interact with people and other animals. You’ll catch them often speaking back when you talk to them. They have songlike voices which they use to get those around them to do what they want.

They’re highly intelligent, so, to keep them mentally alert, playing fetch and mind games with them is recommended. This is an ideal breed for people with time to spend with their cats such as the elderly or those with children as they need to be played with and given attention.

Main Highlights

  • The Japanese Bobtail’s voice is melodic—almost as though they’re singing a song.

  • No two tails are alike. Their tails are like fingerprints—each one a different size, with different curves, kinks, and angles.

  • Japanese Bobtails were imported to the United States in 1968.

  • They’ve lived historically in Japan since the 6th century and are highly respected cats. Carvings of them are seen in temples throughout Japan.

  • They love to play fetch.

  • A tricolored cat with a beckoning paw and bobtail are seen as a symbol of good fortune in Japan.

  • The Japanese Bobtail is one of the oldest naturally occurring breeds in the world.

  • They adjust well to other animals, including dogs. However, they usually remain the master of the house.

  • Each litter can have up to three or four kittens.

Breed History

The Japanese Bobtail has been historically living in Japan since the 6th century. To this day, in temples around Japan, carvings of the Japanese Bobtail can be seen and remain a favorite among the people.

Originally, the Japanese Bobtail was kept by those who had silkworm barns. The breed was used as a valuable asset with regards to rodent control. However, the Imperial family adored this breed to the point where they gave this breed equal privileges as the ruling class. This means they were pampered and treated as members of the ruling family.

There’s even a story of one Japanese Emperor loving this breed so much that he declared he is the only one allowed to own and breed the Japanese Bobtail. He would even walk them with red silk leashes.

Image of a Fluffy Japanese Bobtail

Till this day, the Japanese Bobtail is seen as a harbinger of luck; their presence is said to offer their owner happiness and prosperity. Calico Japanese Bobtails are seen as the luckiest of all since they are usually female—meaning, they are the bearers of kittens.

There is a famous statue called the Maneki Neko in Japan. Maneki Neko means “a beckoning cat.” It depicts a Japanese Bobtail with its paw risen and waving back and forth. If you’re in Japan, you’ll see the Maneki Neko throughout the country as it is believed to attract good luck.


The Japanese Bobtail is an extremely elegant yet muscular breed. Their back legs are slightly longer than their front legs—which provide them with the support and agility needed to jump easily from place to place.

Studio image of a Japanese-Bobtail cat lying down

The head of the Japanese Bobtail is triangular with two large ears pointing directly upright. Their oval eyes give them an oriental feel. Typically, the male is slightly larger than the female. However, their weight should never exceed 12 lbs—or else they will be considered overweight.

Personality and Character

The Japanese Bobtail personality is extremely sweet, energetic, and fun-loving. Though, don’t be fooled by their sweetness; they are also highly intelligent and social. They do best in environments with many people as they thrive off of play and affection. Though they are dominating and assertive in nature, they get along well with everyone around them.

Japanese-Bobtail cat walking in the garden

Their playful personality does require attention, and they’ll use their soft and melodious voice to persuade people around them to do what they want. You’ll notice that their voice is very soothing and almost song-like. It’s common for them to be seen sitting on their owner’s shoulder, making sure they see everything that’s going on.

Like we said above, the Japanese Bobtail is highly intelligent. They love to be challenged, so, you’ll be able to teach them to fetch, walk on a leash, and other tricks so long as you reward them with treats for their efforts.

Health and Potential Problems

Since the Japanese Bobtail is a natural breed, they have fewer health issues than affirmatively-created breeds. The Japanese Bobtail is generally a healthy breed with no major health concerns; however, when looking to adopt one, you’ll need to speak to the breeder regarding the history of the parents.

All cats individually have health problems, just like humans. Of course, though this breed is generally healthy, you’ll want to make sure you receive a certificate of health from the breeder and take your cat to the vet for routine checkups and vaccinations against common feline diseases.

Japanese Bobtail Shorthair playing with water outside

If there’s one thing you’ll want to be very careful to avoid when it comes to caring for a Japanese Bobtail, it’s overfeeding them. Obesity is highly common in cats, especially indoor cats. The Japanese Bobtail is a highly active cat. Thus, if kept as an indoors-only cat, they are known to have weight issues. This is why it’s so important to have a strict diet for them.

If your Japanese Bobtail is an indoor cat, make sure that they have enough space to run around. They’re also jumpers, so you’ll want to create spaces for them to jump onto. If they’re an outdoor cat, of course, you still need to maintain a healthy diet; but in this case, obesity is less of an issue.

Care Features

If you‘re looking for a cat that‘s highly independent and doesn‘t rely on human interaction, then this is not the cat for you. The Japanese Bobtail are cats that are highly social, energetic, and playful. Thus, if your cat is going to be an indoor cat, it‘s best that you socialize with them as much as possible.

Play with them, give them mind games, and also hang out with them while watching a movie or reading a book. They don’t need to be constantly stimulated; they just enjoy the company of people. Also ensure that you provide them with enough space, toys, and activities to keep them moving.

studio image of three Japanese Bobtail cats

Or, you can let your Japanese Bobtail outside for a minimum of 15 minutes per day. That way, they have enough time to stretch their legs, go for a run, play, and socialize with other cats. But before you do this, make sure that the neighborhood is cat-friendly and that your Japanese Bobtail knows how to find their way home.

Feeding Schedule

Your Japanese Bobtail is an obligate carnivore—meaning, you’ll need to keep them on an animal-based diet. Their diets will consist mostly of proteins and fats. Their obesity issues arise when fed too many carbohydrates since they’re unable to digest them properly. Thus, avoid feeding your Bobtail any plant-based food sources. We recommend that you speak to your vet about the food you’ll be feeding them with as specific brands tend to be of a higher quality than others.

Japanese Bobtail cat walking on a beach

The feeding schedule of your Bobtail will depend on a couple of things: if they’re an indoor or outdoor cat, if they’re neutered or spayed, and if they have any specific health conditions. Typically, they enjoy eating small snacks or meals throughout the day, however, speak to your vet in case your cat needs a specific eating regiment.

Coat, Color, and Grooming

The shorthaired Bobtail has a medium-length coat that’s silky and extremely soft without a dense undercoat. The long-haired Bobtail has a medium to long coat that’s also soft and silky in texture.

Typically, the Bobtail can come in a variety of patterns such as bicolor, tricolor, tabby, smoke, and ticking. The most well-known pattern is the tricolor. Their coats also range in color and can be white, brown, cream, red, black, Mi-Ke, and tortoiseshell.

Japanese_Bobtail cat scratching itself

With regards to grooming, the Bobtail is relatively low-maintenance. You only need to brush or comb them once or twice a week. During the spring and fall, they’ll be shedding. Thus, you’ll need to brush them more often. They only need regular nail trimming and ear cleaning if they look dirty. Other than that, you Bobtail is good to go.

Children and Other Pets Compatibility

It’s important to know that the Japanese Bobtail is extremely dominant when it comes to their territory. They’re not intimidated by other animals and have a tendency to rule the house. So, if your other pet is also a dominant, they might clash. The Japanese Bobtail will make sure they are the king of the place. Thus, they bond best with less dominant animals that don’t mind surrendering the throne to them.

Japanese Bobtail kitten picture from above

These cats mix well with children, but only those age six or above because they demand to be treated with respect. They love the attention that older kids give to them but may shy away from younger kids that don’t know how to handle them properly. They have no problem playing fetch for hours on end, so your older children will be kept well entertained.

Wrap Up

The Japanese Bobtail is a highly intelligent, fun-loving, and playful cat that would be a great addition to any loving home. Their playfulness and affection towards people make them an ideal cat for those that have time to spend with them, as they love to be surrounded by humans. Whether you’re looking for a cat to add to your family or as a loving companion for someone elderly, these cats can be a great pick.

If you’re looking for a low-maintenance cat, the Japanese Bobtail is one of the easiest cats to maintain. They have relatively short hair with minimal undercoat, so brushing them once or twice a week is enough to keep everything under control.

Japanese Bobtail cat dressed as a plane pilot

The Japanese Bobtail is an interesting breed. They’re extremely sweet, communicative, and playful. Though, at the same time, they’re the kings of the castle. Meaning, wherever they live, they make sure they’re the ruler of the house. If you have other cats and dogs, the Bobtail will get along just fine with them. However, they will make everyone know that they’re the boss.

Do you fancy the Japanese Bobtail’s free-spirited and dominant nature? Would you like a taste of that good luck they are supposedly capable of calling into the household? If you don’t think the Japanese Bobtail is right for you because you’re not one to stay for long in one place, we might just be able to introduce you to your new travel companion. Let us know what you think in the comment section below! If you already have a Japanese Bobtail, we’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences!

About the author
Stella Noble
Stella Noble

Stella Noble lives in Warren, Michigan with her family and three cats. She is a Certified Cat Trainer and a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.