Curly Ringtailed Kitten or Kinked Tail?

A visitor to PoC would like some input on whether his cat carries the American Ringtail genes or indeed whether his cat has a genuine ringtail. The tail is certainly curly or corkscrew. The cat’s name is Pippi and she was adopted with this curly tail.

Thank you very much for visiting, asking and allowing me to discuss this on PoC. I don’t know your name, by the way.

This is the original comment:

We just adopted an 8-week old kitten from our local pound.  She has kind of a “ringed” tail, but in her case its more like a true corkscrew or a pig’s tail. Its straight (normal) for the first half then makes a series of 90-degree turns to the right.  Three in total, so that her tail almost forms a “square”. Its the darndest thing!  Otherwise, she’s a normal tawny brown tabby. Seems perfectly healthy, tail doesn’t bother her (we can touch it, move it, she doesn’t complain — doesn’t seem broken or anything). We’ll see what the vet says. Because of laws in California, she’s scheduled to be spayed in 3 weeks tho….

I asked for photos. Here are the pictures with some annotations by me.

Curly tailed kitten Pippi

Curly tailed kitten Pippi

The owner goes on to remark:

I’m wondering if her tail is truly in the ring-tail suite of genes as her’s is SO curly. Kind of makes right-angle turns!  Also, she can move it “normally” from the base and she can twitch the tip, but the two turned portions don’t seem to move at all really.  So definitely not the “fully functional” tail of the Am. Ringtail.  She (Pippi) is about 8-9 weeks old, and EXTREMELY sweet and affectionate.  She climbs right up on my chest and will curl up and go to sleep in the crook of my neck.  She also comes to us when we call to her and is very talkative too!  (Of course, we’re totally smitten with her. lol)

Anyhow, I’m just wondering if her genes are of any value (I mean biologically, of course, not financially!) to the Am. RT folks or the researcher studying cats. Well, any advice or info on these genes you can provide would be most welcome. Thanks!

My thoughts:

You can see what I am thinking. My best guess is that the tail is either kinked or broken (before adoption) and healed in perhaps two places or deformed. The fact that it does not move in these places would indicate that there is some nerve damage, but that is probably a rather crude assessment.

The original Siamese cats often had kinked tails and still do in the Far East. However, the indicators are that this is a injured or deformed tail that is not a problem for Pippi.

I don’t know the history. Is this a rescue cat? If so it would make it more likely that the tail was injured when Pippi was a small kitten or was born with a deformed tail.

I do not believe that Pippi is a genuine ringtail cat but I could be incorrect. Sorry. See a page on curly tail cat.

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Curly Ringtailed Kitten or Kinked Tail? — 9 Comments

  1. Gigi’s mama has a kink in her tail but I think it’s a birth defect or injury and you can feel the little bump and solid kink which is right at the tip. I’ve never seen a curly tailed cat but Pippi looks very sweet and I assume fine with her tail. Gigi’s mama has no problem with her kinked tail even if you touch it. None at all – just fine.

    • I think you’re right. Pippi is fine with her kinked tail. There is no discomfort or anything. Kinked tails are probably more common than we think.

  2. When the veterinarian comes back to you with the x-ray, please update on this page? She is a total sweetheart! Thank you for taking the time to post the photos of your little Pippi–because, there is nothing better than a photo posted of your baby. Give her a kiss for me and for all of us visitors on this site? Besides the x-ray of just her tail, mind you, have your veterinarian draw a bit of blood to have her DNA tested? That might answer your Q for a lifetime of love with your Pippi. 🙂

  3. It’s not the right type of curl for an American Ringtail – they have a relaxed “up and over” curve that rests on the spine or falls over one or other flank. The American Ringtail tail can also be straightened out and doesn’t have specific vertebrae where the curve is “fixed”. If Pippi has places where the kink is fixed in place then she doesn’t have the Americal Ringtail mutation. She either has a natural kink (either genetic or developmental) or there has been skeletal or nerve damage early on and it has set that way. Hope this helps.

    There are currently 4 alleles (at the same locus) identified for Manx and Bobtail mutations and there are almost certainly genes at other loci that affect tail conformation. There seems to be a mutation “hotspot” that has resulted in several different bobtail/tailless alleles, so Pippi might have a spontaneous mutation.

    • Thanks, Sarah. Good to know. It does sound like there’s some variability in those genes. Fascinating. Since Pippi was from the pound, I know nothing about her parentage, litter mates or rearing. Just one of those pet mysteries, I guess! Thanks.

  4. Wow! Thanks for all the info! I’m Cat Braun, btw, Pippi’s new person. And, I agree she’s not in the Am. Ring-tail class, for sure, cuz her tail def does not “curl” or go “up and over.” Nor can it be straightened. I originally thought her tail had a break in it or a dislocated vertebrae. But, now I think not b/c it makes a very specific 90-degree turn in THREE places (and all in the same direction too). First turn is 1/2 way down her tail, 2nd turn is another 1/2 down (towards the tip) and last turn is another 1/2 down near the very tip (you can’t see that one in the pix since she’s so tiny, her fur hides it). Maybe I’ll wet her tail fur down and try a pic of it that way. I can’t imagine these three perfectly spaced turns arose from a break. Also, there’s no swelling or lumpiness (or pain) at any of the turns. I can run my hand along them and she doesn’t mind at all. Her tail just kind of stretches out then recoils back — a bit like a Slinky — lol! 🙂 Anyhow, I am still inclined to believe its genetic. Tho it could also be due to crowding in the womb or something like that. We’ll see what our cat vet says. I’ll post any info I get. Sorry about typos — Pipp’s “helping” me type! And, yeah, she’s a super sweetheart of a kitten! jkk ,.

  5. Oh, and I forgot to mention. Pippi can use/move her tail like a normal cat from the base (side-to-side swish, up an down, etc.) and I’ve seen the tip move (quiver type movement). Also her tail puffs up like a normal one along its whole length (demonstrated when she met our dog today, lol!) But the middle section doesn’t show any real movement. So maybe in vitro damage??? Well, whatever. Her tail is only a tiny fraction of all the things we love about her!!! 🙂

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