Friday, February 24, 2012


A lot of people have heard of Manx cats, and that is probably because Manx cats don't have tails, which makes them different from most other kinds of cats.  The reason Manx cats end up with no tails is because they are born that way  And they are born that way because of a certain mutation in their genes that makes them have a shorter tail or no tail at all.

Manx cats come from the Isle of Man, which is an island off the west coast of England.  In the Manx language, the Manx cat is called kayt Manninagh, but I have no idea how you pronounce this.  And sometimes Manx is spelled Manks.  Another word for Manx cats is stubbin, but this is an old word that isn't used much anymore.  There were already tailless cats on the Isle of Man before the 18th century, and nobody knows exactly how they got there, but they probably came on ships from other places.

Over time, people made up stories about how the Manx cat lost its tail.  One of the stories was that Noah closed the door of the ark on the cat's tail when it started raining, and accidentally cut the tail off.  Another tale says that a rabbit and a cat mated, and their babies were tailless and long-legged, with a hopping gait.  But the real truth is that the cats ended up without tails because of a spontaneous mutation in their genes.  And then, because the tailless trait was dominant, and the gene pool on the Isle of Man was limited, this type of cat got to be pretty common there.

As it turns out, there are some other populations of tailless cats in places like Cornwall, in the south of England; on a Danish peninsula called Reersø; and on a Black Sea peninsula in Crimea.  So the Isle of Man cats might have originally come by ship from one of those places.

Some Manx cats have no tail at all, and others have a little short tail.  If you breed two Manx cats, you will get a litter of kittens with several different tail lengths.  And if you breed a Manx cat to a regular cat, you will get some Manx kittens and some regular kittens.

Here are the names for different lengths of Manx tails:

Rumpy or dimple rumpy -- no tail at all, except maybe there is a tuft of hair in the spot where the tail would have been.
Riser or rumpy riser -- the cat has just a bump of cartilage under the fur.
Stumpy -- there is a partial tail of fused vertebrae, up to 1" long.
Stubby -- with a short tail of non-fused bones, up to half the length of a regular cat tail.
Longy, tailed, or taily -- a cat with a tail that is half- to full-length.

I think we can all agree that these are really funny-sounding names!  They make me want to giggle, just reading them.  But now that I know what the categories are, I can tell you how our little Manx rescue kittens fit into them:  Jeeves is a rumpy, Janey is a stubby, and Jilly is also a stubby.  This means that only Jeeves could be entered in a cat show as a Manx , because the Manx class is only for rumpies, risers, and stumpies.  Stubby and Longy Manx cats have to go in the "Any Other Variety" class.  But of course, Jeeves couldn't really be in a cat show because he doesn't have any registration papers.

Besides not having a tail, one of the other things that makes a Manx cat Manxlike is that their hind legs are longer than their front legs.  This causes their rump be higher up than their shoulders, and their back to be arched or humped.  In size, the Manx is small to medium, and usually weighs between 6 and 10 pounds.

Manxes have round heads, long necks, and large eyes.  They can be short-haired or long-haired, but they all have a double-layered coat.  The most usual colors are tabby, tortoiseshell, calico, and solid colors.  A long-haired Manx is called a Cymric.

Farmers like to keep Manx cats around because they are very good mousers, and sailors used to take them on their ships for the same reason.  This breed is mostly social and friendly, but they might be a little shy with strangers.  They are smart and playful and active.  Sometimes they get so attached to their humans that they follow them around like a dog would.

There is a health condition called "Manx syndrome" or "Manxness," where the cats end up not just without a tail, but also with a spine that is too short.  If this happens, there can be damage to the spinal cord and nerves, which can cause problems with the bowels, bladder, and digestion.  Nowadays, this condition doesn't occur much because breeders have learned how to avoid it by breeding rumpy cats with stumpy cats.  Of course, our little kitties that came from a barn were not bred in any kind of planned way, so I hope they will not end up with "Manx syndrome" or with any other bad thing wrong with them.

Anyway, now that I have told you all about Manx cats, I will also tell you that I was shocked to learn that not all tailless cats are Manx cats.  This is because the same gene that makes Manx cats be tailless can mutate in any kind of cat, and then one or more kittens are born without tails.  This type of cat is called a Domestic Tailless Cat.  We can't call it a Manx because there is no way to prove that its ancestors came from the Isle of Man.  But I'm sure that our kittens are real, true Manx kitties.  We just need to take the time to trace their family tree back a little ways!


  1. Dear Piper,
    I like to believe that a bunny mated with a cat, because that's a nicer story and less painful. If a door closed on my tail it would hurt a lot!
    And I hope the rescued cats you have don't have something wrong with their spines!

    1. also can bunnies be tail less?

    2. Dear Fluffy,
      I don't think bunnies can be tailless. I think they always have a little short fluffy tail. But you would know better than I do, since you are a bunny! The story about a bunny and a cat mating is a nice one, but I guess it is not biologically possible. But I wouldn't want to get MY tail cut off in a door either!
      Your friend, Piper

  2. I think the Isle of Man also has strange sheep on it. Do you know why there are strange animals on the Isle of Man? I think that would make for an interesting blog. They also have that funny 3 legged thing on the flag.


    1. Dear Zest,
      I saw a bunch of those 3-legged things when I was looking for symbols of the Isle of Man. I think they are totally bizarre. I was looking for symbols because in Wikipedia I read that the Manx cat is a national symbol of the Isle of Manx, and that it was on some coins and stamps. But I could not find pictures of any such coins or stamps, so maybe Wikipedia lied to me. I found a ton of those 3-legged things, though. Maybe they are good for running 3-legged races, but besides that, I'm not sure why you would want one.

      I don't know anything about the sheep on the Isle of Man, but maybe I will look for some pictures. What I think looks weird are those Highland Cattle in Scotland that have lots of hair in their faces, like Old English Sheepdogs.

      Your friend, Piper

  3. The sheep on the Isle of Man have a bunch of extra horns. I don't know why, of course dogs don't need any horns.

    Mom says she'd like to have a Highland cow. Sometimes she finds them on Craigslist, but so far she has not brought one home. (Of course she also sometimes finds Yaks and thinks they'd be fun to have too. She's a bit odd like that.)


    1. I only just got a chance to look at some pictures of sheep from the Isle of Man. You weren't kidding about the extra horns! I don't know why anybody would need 4 horns when 2 would be plenty. Or even just 1, if you are a unicorn. We have a Highland cow in the zoo here in Kansas City. There might be a yak, too. I didn't know you could just buy them on Craigslist. Maybe I'll tell Mom to get us one.


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  5. sooooooo cute!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!