One of the original show cats, the Manx cat is know for its unique tail…or rather, lack of tail. These cats are fun-loving, intelligent, protective, loyal to family, and great hunters. Some even consider them to be dog-like because they are easy to train and love to play fetch.
The Legendary Manx Cat
The Manx cat has a very interesting history, however, no one is quite certain what that history is. What does seem to be certain is that they originated on the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea. The Isle of Man is also called Manx and that is how the Manx cat got its name. In the language of Manx, these cats are also referred to as “Stubbin” and “Kayt Mannignah.”
A Scientific Explanation
Scientists believe that since cats are not actually native to the Isle of Man, they were probably brought there by explorers or settlers centuries ago. Popular scientifically-based theories as to how the original cats arrived on the Isle of Man include:
- The cats were brought to the Isle of Man by Vikings that settled there.
- Phoenician traders brought them back from Japan with them.
- Cats were aboard one of the ships in the Spanish Armada when the ship went down and the sea savvy cats swam to the Isle of Man.
Tales of the Tailless
According to scientists, the original cats probably had a normal cat tail, but somewhere along the way a spontaneous genetic mutation occurred that created the tailless variety of Manx. However, the locals have some much more entertaining legends of how the Manx got its signature look:
- The Manx cat was the last animal loaded aboard Noah’s Ark. After nearly missing their ride, Noah slammed the door to the ark, cutting off the Manx tail.
- The Manx is really the product of the mating of a cat and a rabbit; Thus the small or non-existent tail.
- Invaders came onto the Isle of Man and took the cat’s tails for the plumes in their hats.
- There were people who considered the Manx’s tail so lucky that they would steal baby Manx kittens. To protect her young from being stolen from her, the Manx mothers began chewing off their babies’ tails.
Breeding of the Manx began long before the official Cat Fancy shows began. They are a beloved symbol on the Isle of Man and have even been featured postage stamps. King Edward VIII of Great Britain was a lover of the Manx cat.
The Manx Look
A Manx cat is very round in appearance. They have round faces with wide cheeks and rounded eyes and ears. Their hind legs are powerful and allow them to jump very well. They are also longer than their front legs causing their rear end to stick up higher than their shoulders. Fur could be long or short, but always has 2 coats. Sometimes the long hair Manx cats are considered a separate breed called Cymric. Manx cats are not always tailless, in fact, there are 4 different lengths of tail.
- Rumpy – No tail at all. The tail vertebrae are entirely missing. There may even be a dimple where the tail should be.
- Rumpy Riser – A very short stump of a tail that rises slightly. This could be formed of cartlidge or 1 – 3 vertebrae.
- Stumpy – A slightly longer stump of a tail that may be curved or kinked.
- Longy – Almost a normal length to a normal length cat tail.
Only Rumpys and Rumpy Risers are used as show cats, but Stumpys and Longys are also valuable. It takes all lengths of tail to keep this breed healthy and strong.
The Trouble With Tiny Tails
For the most part, Manx cats are very healthy cats. The only chink in their armor is the dominant Manx Gene. Each Manx cat carries at least one gene for a normal length tail and they can also carry the Manx Gene – the gene that causes them to be tailless. If a cat receives 2 Manx genes from its parents (Manx Syndrome), problems with spinal development can occur causing spinal bifida, fused vertebrae, and colon problems. Most of these cats will die either in utero or by 4 months of age. This potentially affects 1/4 of Manx kittens conceived. Careful breeding can keep this occurrence to a minimum. If you purchase a cat from a breeder, always be sure that they are a licensed, competent, and ethical breeder.
The Marvelous Manx
Overall, Manx cats are great cats to have in your home. They are great with children and other pets. The Manx breed is slightly less common than other breeds, but they are still easy to find. If you would consider adopting a Manx cat into your home, please check Petfinder or your local animal rescues. There are lots of purebreds in shelters!