ALL CAT BREED PROFILES

Manx Cat: A Wholesome Cat, Despite Their Lack of Tail

Studio image of a Manx Cat
Martha Harvey
Written by Martha Harvey

A cat’s tail is very expressive. In fact, it’s their main tool of communication. Cats also use their eyes, ears, and meows to converse with you and others of their kind, but it’s their tail that plays the biggest role. So what happens when a cat is tailless? Would they be aloof and antisocial? Hostile and short-tempered? None of the above! The Manx cat is one sweet, loving cat that can communicate their love to you just fine even without a tail.

A breed that is characterized with its short tail or complete lack of a tail, the Manx is also a very social and playful animal that can be a great friend and family member for homes with kids and other pets. The Manx are very intelligent and adaptable, making them a great choice for most households. They also have a long history as working cats, so you can leave the task of pest control around the house to them.

studio image of a manx cat lying down

Below, we’ll make sure to give you all the information on the breed you need to make an informed decision. You’ll learn about the Manx’s potential for health problems, Manx cat personality, the details surrounding their tails and ancestry, as well as everything there is to know about Manx temperament.

Breed Characteristics

  • Adaptability: Very High

  • Grooming: Low Maintenance

  • Health: Average; vulnerable to some hereditary conditions

  • All Around Friendliness: Good; a bit shy

  • Exercise Needs: Moderate

Cat Breed GroupShort-Haired, Natural Breed
SizeAverage
Weight8 – 12 pounds
Lifespan8 – 14 years

The Manx, although best known for being a short-tailed cat, actually comes in all sorts of tail varieties. Some Manx cats have full-sized tails—these are called the “longies.” The more typical option is a Manx with a short but existing tail; these are referred to as the “stumpies.”

Side view of a Manx cat in the yard

A Manx cat can also have no tail whatsoever, in which case they will be called the “rumpies.” Lastly, a Manx cat can also have just a slight protrusion of tailbone; this variation is called the “riser.”

On the show ring, you will only see rumpies and risers, but stumpies and longies are also perfectly acceptable as members of the breed and are even frequently used in breeding programs. The breed is native to the Isle of Man—an island in the United Kingdom, located between Great Britain and Ireland.

Main Highlights

  • The Manx has a unique look thanks to their typically short or missing tail. However, the Manx is not the only tailless cat; there are other tailless cat breeds native to Cornwall (in mainland England, ~400 km / 250 miles from the Isle of Man), the Danish peninsula, the Crimea peninsula in the Black Sea, as well as other breeds such as the Indonesian Lombok cats.

  • Cats of this breed are relatively healthy, but they do have their fair share of health issues—related mostly to their tail.

  • Thanks to their physical peculiarity, the Manx breed is surrounded by a lot of myths and legends regarding their origin.

  • In terms of personality, these cats are very friendly, playful, and adaptable. They can be great with strangers, children, or with other cats and cat-friendly dogs, as long as they are properly socialized at an early age.

  • The Manx comes in a lot of different color schemes, but they also have some set in stone breed standards.

Breed History

As with any other animal that has a peculiar physical trait, the Manx is surrounded by their fair share of myths. Some say that these cats were late to board Noah’s ark (maybe because the Isle of Man is so far from the Middle East?) and their tails got slammed by the closing door.

Other superstitions say that the ancient Irish and Viking raiders of the island used to steal small kittens because they viewed their tails as good luck charms, which was why the mother Manx would bite her kittens’ tails off.

There is even a folk tale that claims that the Manx cats are a hybrid offspring of cats and rabbits, which is why they have shorter tails and longer hind legs; it is known as the widespread “cabbit” folktale. Of course, the actual explanation is much simpler but no less fascinating. The Manx owe their short tails (or lack thereof) to a genetic mutation.

Side view of a manx cat walking outside

It isn’t very clear exactly when the mutation occurred thanks to the island’s small size and a lack of detailed historical records regarding felines prior to the 18th century. However, it is known that the spread of the mutation wasn’t due to human-driven selection and was entirely natural. It is known as the founder effect; this is what happens when a population experiences a loss of genetic variations due to its small and confined size.

The Manx cat’s ancestors aren’t native to the island too; they are of mainland origins. Some stories claim that the cats came from the shipwrecked ships of the Spanish Armada that were foundering in the area in the 16th century. However, there is no evidence to support this, and it is likely a myth.

What is known is that the Manx cats—like all other house cats on the British Isles—are descended from the African wildcat. And since they are prominently used on ships for their good rat-hunting skills, the most likely explanation is that they came to the Isle of Mann together with its first settlers and later developed their genetic trait.

black and white picture of a manx-cat

In the Goidelic Celtic language of the Indo-European language family that was spoken by the native population of the island, the cats are called Kayt Manninagh or literally ‘cat of Mann’ (plural kiyt or kit) or Kayt cuttagh, i.e. ‘bob-tailed cat.’

The Manx cats started getting their share of recognition by the mid-18th century, or the 1750s. The breed started going through exhibitions around the British Isles and Europe in the late 1800s. The first breed standard was published in 1903 by pet breeding and showing expert Charles Henry Lane in his “Rabbits, Cats, and Cavies.”

The Manx was one of the first cats to be recognized by the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA), which in itself was founded in 1908. The CFA has records on the breed in North America dating all the way back to the 1920s.

Size

In terms of size, the Manx is average but sturdily built. This means that the 8 to 12 pounds of weight of the Manx can feel a bit heavy for the size of the cat. The Manx also take quite a while to reach full size; don’t be surprised if your Manx keeps growing even in their fifth year!

Brown tabby and white Manx cat

The sturdy built of the Manx is characterized by their broad chests, sloping shoulders, and their flat sides. They have a nice, muscular body without being overly bulky. This athleticism is what made them valued hunters in both farms and on ships.

In addition to their small or absent tail, the other key body feature is their longer hind legs, which can give them a seemingly “jumpy” running style. The Manx’s head is rounded with spaced ears; they have big, round eyes. This gives the breed a very expressive face that many owners love as it makes communication with the cat all the more enjoyable.

Personality and Character

On to one of the most important sections—the Manx’s behavior and personality. The Manx are very social animals and get easily attached to their human owners and families. They can be shy around strangers, so it is strongly advised that you give them ample social contacts when they are little; this way you Manx will learn from an early age that guests and strangers are not to be feared, but instead treated as gift-bringing play buddies.

The breed is characterized by quite a playful nature. The Manx are highly energetic, but not to the point of destructiveness when left alone throughout the day like some other cat breeds (we’re looking at you, Abyssinians). This isn’t to say that you should leave your Manx all alone for long periods of time; they are still very social animals that love and need constant social contact with their family.

A_tabby_manx_cat_lying_in_the_grass

Still, they are not destructive, and they are fine with resting alone for a bit while waiting for you patiently, but when the time for fun and games finally comes, the Manx will impress you with their energy. What’s more, the Manx is also one of the more intelligent cat breeds out there, which not only eases the process of communicating with and raising the cats but also allows you to train them to do different tricks and games such as fetch and come. It’s this intelligence together with their athleticism that allow them to be such great farm and ship cats.

If there is one word that can describe the Manx’s personality, it’s “Adaptable.” The Manx are happy to play when a play buddy is around, but they are also happy to sleep on your lap throughout most of the day if that’s what you want to do.

a manx kitty sitting in front of the door

They can become very social if you frequently have guests and you teach the cat early that strangers are not to be feared, or they can become protective of their home and property if they are not accustomed to strangers. So, if you are looking for a cat with a great and balanced social character, the Manx is a great option.

Health and Potential Problems

All animals have their health risks, both genetic and otherwise. Some breeds, however, are more predisposed to issues than others, so it’s always a good idea to be aware of all potential problems. The Manx is a relatively healthy breed, but they do have their unique health risks that are much less manifested in other cat breeds:

  • Manx cats run a risk of developing arthritis in their tailbone.

  • There is also the Manx syndrome. Named after the cat breed itself, this syndrome can appear around the 4-month mark of the cat’s life. The defect includes problems with the bowels and digestion as well as the urinary tract. The syndrome appears mostly in rumpies, but overall, it appears in 20% of all Manx cats. This is a good reason not to adopt Manx cats before the age of 4 months, as well as to avoid breeders that fail to provide birth certificates and health certificates for the cats (which is always a good idea with all cats, not just with the Manx).

  • Corneal dystrophy is a cloudiness of the eyes that is due to an abnormal material forming in the transparent outer layer of the eye (the cornea). This condition also manifests itself around the 4th month of the Manx kitty’s life.

A 20% chance of developing the Manx syndrome may sound terrifying, we know. And it is a very unfortunate condition. Aside from it and the corneal dystrophy, however, Manx cats are very healthy and don’t have any other serious genetic problems.

Manx Cat walking near a wall

So, if you find a healthy Manx kitty of 4 or more months of age (and from a reputable cat breeder that has provided you with the necessary health certificates), you can be quite sure that you’ll likely have a very healthy cat in your care.

Care Features

If you are not interested in spending half of your day caring for your cat’s well-being, the Manx is a good choice. They are very low maintenance and don’t require much work to be kept in good shape. You won’t need to brush or comb a Manx’s hair more than once a week; this will be perfectly enough to ensure the removal of dead hair. Daily dental hygiene in the form of brushing the cat’s teeth is recommended as with any other breed, but doing it weekly should be more than enough, provided the cat has a diverse diet.

Manx Calico Cat Lying Down

You’d also do well to check the eyes and the ears of the cat weekly. If the ears are dirty, you can wipe them clean with a cotton ball dipped in 50 – 50 mixture of water and vinegar. You can also clean the corners of the cat’s eyes with a damp cloth, using different pieces of the cloth for different eyes, to prevent the spread of infection. Aside from that and keeping the Manx’s litter box clean, there isn’t much else you’ll need to do for the day-to-day wellbeing of your cat.

Feeding Schedule

The Manx doesn’t have any peculiarities when it comes to feeding habits. However, don’t think that you should feed the Manx raw fish just because it is an island breed. Instead, give your cat a balanced diet of dry and wet food, particularly from chicken, turkey, and rabbit meat.

As for the feeding schedule, as with all other cats, it’s best to feed your cat more than twice a day. 3 or 4 meals per day are preferable if you can work them around your own work schedule.

loving-manx-cat-lying in bed

Don’t just feed your cat 2 times a day because you can’t space 3 meals with perfect 8 hours between each meal. You can have a 10-8-6 hour schedule or an 11-7-6 schedule, to accommodate for the time you’re away. Just make the different meals larger or smaller in size, depending on the time since the last feeding.

As for how much food a Manx’s portion should have, it all depends on the exact size of the cat. Manx cats are of a medium size so a standard size of the meals should be fine too. Keep an eye on your cat’s figure and make sure that you neither starve your feline friend nor make him or her too fat.

Coat, Color, and Grooming

The typical Manx is short-haired, but the breed does have a long-haired variant. Long-haired Manx are called the Cymric (pronounced kim-rick) and factor as a separate breed in some cat registries. But in others—like the Cat Fanciers’ Association—it is viewed just as a variation of the Manx breed.

Shorthaired or longhaired, the Manx doesn’t present much trouble in terms of grooming. Weekly combing and brushing are enough to keep the Manx’s coat in great shape, and even the longhaired Cymric cats are easier on your furniture in times of excess hair than other longhaired cats.

Manx Cat lying in front of the door

The coloring of the Manx’s coat is very diverse. The Manx breed has tabbies, solids, tortoiseshells, and calicos. Full-white Manx cats are rare, but they do exist. Chocolate and lavender colors, as well as the pointed Himalayan pattern, are not recognized as a part of the breed.

Children and Other Pets Compatibility

As a social and playful breed, the Manx can be very kid-friendly and animal-friendly—especially if the cat is introduced to the children or other pets when he or she is still a kitty. Socializing shouldn’t be much of a problem. Whether it is with other cats or with cat-friendly dogs (emphasis on “cat-friendly”), a Manx will love the company.

Tiger color Manx cat walking in the yard

When it comes to children, the only possible problem arises from an inappropriate behavior from the kids themselves. As with all other cats, you might need to teach your children how to play with their feline buddy. No cat—Manx or otherwise—tolerates being constantly dragged around, thrown in the air, pulled by the tail, and so on. As for other pets like hamsters, chinchilla, or birds, the Manx is a mouser, so pets that the cat may identify as prey are not a good idea.

Wrap Up

If you are looking for a cat with unique looks that will always attract the eyes of your guests, the Manx is for you. And if you also want that cat to be more than just eye candy, but to also be a very playful, intelligent, and energetic member of the family, the Manx is the breed for you as well.

Studio image of two manx kittens

A very well-rounded and people-friendly breed, the Manx’s adaptability makes it a perfect breed for most households and families. Does this friendly, reliable, and eye-catching cat appeal to you? If you like unusual looks on your cat, but you prefer them to be on the “wild and untamable” side, we have a unique one that looks like a wildcat right here. Do share your thoughts in the comments section below!

About the author
Martha Harvey
Martha Harvey

Martha Harvey is a skilled veterinarian and a member of American Veterinary Medical Association from Greeley, Colorado. She has 20 years experience of working in Animal Hospital. Martha loves all of her patients, but her favorite one is the Russian Blue cat Stitch, who lives with her.

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