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Japanese cats have short tails?

By: Floro Mercene

The oldest reference to the domestic cat is a picture of one found on an Egyptian tomb dating back to around 1600 B.C. The picture has led to the theory that the ancient Egyptians had domesticated the wild Libyan cat at least as early as then.

In Japan, there are two species of wildcats, the Amur yama-neko and the Iriomote yama-neko, and both are entirely different from the domestic cat. The Japanese domestic cat is not native to Japan – it was brought from China. It is said that the domestic cat first came to Japan in 538 (or 552) A.D. It is generally thought that cats were introduced at the same time as Buddhism, to protect sacred texts from the damage mice can cause. Genetic research indicates that the domestic cat probably came to Japan from India, via China.

In the 1600s, the silk trade found itself in jeopardy due to rats, and the Japanese Bobtail was pressed into service and thus became the street cat that it is today in Japan. Once the domestic cat was seen all over the country, it was no longer thought of as an exotic animal worth bringing from abroad. Mutation occurred suddenly, perhaps because of inbreeding, and cats with short tails became increasingly common. Before long, people began thinking of cats with stubby tails as Japanese cats, and those with long tails as cats with foreign ancestry. After World War II, different breeds were brought into the country, including Siamese and American shorthair, and the genetically inferior short-tailed cat suddenly became quite rare.

In 1968, an American woman took several of Japanese Bobtail to her own country, where she bred them and registered them as a breed called Japanese Bobtail. Thanks to her the Japanese Bobtail lives on in the United States.