Curly Tail Cat


I have never seen a curly tail cat in the flesh! But they are not that rare it seems. There is one well known cat breed that is based on the fact that a part of their anatomy is curly, the American Curl (curly ears). And there are a bunch of cat breeds, LaPerm, Selkirk Rex, Tennessee Rex, Devon Rex, Cornish Rex and many more lesser known rex cats who have curly hair. We like curly!

Genetic mutations have caused the above breeds to come into existence. The same has happened to produce a purebred cat breed that is not yet that well known, namely the American Ringtail cat, the curly tail cat that has a pedigree.

But there are many other curly tailed cats out there that do not have a pedigree but have that tail. There are two important point about curly tailed cats:

  • the genetic mutation that produces the curly tail is not harmful to the cat – sometimes genetic mutations can have unwanted detrimental effects as well as the characteristic for which the cat is bred.
  • there are a wide variety of curly tails from tails that simply lie on the back of the cat to those that form a corkscrew.

curly tail dogYes, I know, this is a dog! The first dog on the site. It links to a bigger picture. But the same gene is in action in my opinion, so why not? And now I am in the mood what about this:

curly tail lizard OK enough – back to cats.  The above pic, by the way is of  a curly tailed lizard – photo by SteveMcN (new window). It was taken in the Bahamas. Nice pic (cropped as allowed under the license).

What of the genetics that are in play? Beth Gardner co-breeder of the American Ringtail, talks us through it. The first point to note is that this is still work in progress but a good hypothesis has been argued. The curled tail is due to the presence of polygenes (new window) (a “polygenetic trait”). At least two genes are present that create the curl.

One gene creates the aerial configuration. This is thought to be a dominant gene (new window) and sex linked meaning it is carried on the X chromosome.

The X chromosome is one of the two sex-determining chromosomes in many animal species, including mammals (the other is the Y chromosome)…..Females have two X chromosomes, while males have one X and one Y chromosome……(src: Wikipedia®)

Beth Gardner says that the factors that indicate a sex linked gene are:

  • female cats with a ringtail fully expressed (occurring early on) are the offspring of parents who each carry the dominant gene and also carry the recessive gene).
  • the curly tail is expressed in a similar way to that of the red colour in cats, which is caused by a sex linked gene.
  • when a outcross parent is used in breeding, female offspring display tails that are partially aerial, which is believed to be due to only one copy of the dominant gene being present (two needed for full expression).

The other gene, the recessive (new window), is thought to produce the tail that curls and is independent of the dominant aerial gene. As mentioned, it is not extremely rare and can be seen, for example, Beth says, in feral cat colonies around Hayward in California, USA, (see map below) the home area of the purebred American Ringtail cat.

Map picture

OK, lets see a curly tail cat! The pictures below are thumbnails. Click on them to see larger versions. There are published under creative commons licenses: (a)Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic and (b) Attribution 2.0 Generic.

curly tail cat curly tail cat
curly tail cat 4
Although not that clear, the photographer says: “She has a curly tail that always flops forward over her body…”
curly tail cat 5 This is Tux. The photographer says this: “such a sweet cat. he has a little curly Q tail. i think he was born with. it’s very uniQue the way it curls around like a little pigs tail.”

From Curly Tail Cat to American Ringtail Cat


Comments

Curly Tail Cat — 10 Comments

  1. We just adopted a cat from the Humain Society, a large (14 lbs) 1 1/2 year old shorthaired orange male with “tiger” stripes and a large muscular tail. When he walks he always holds his tail curled over towards his head, like a squirrel. No one in this area (Boise, ID) including the vet knew anything about a cat that walked with his tail like this.

    • This is possibly due to a genetic mutation. It is harmless (i.e. there are associated health issues). You probably have quite a rare cat! A purebred cat was created out of the curly tail: American Ringtailed Cat. But this tail really does curl like a corkscrew. A cat named Draco on this site. You can see a picture of him on this page.

  2. I just got a Cornish Rex who can straigten or curl his tail at will; he can make a double coil…a pig type tail! I was curious as to how common that was.

  3. I’ve owned curly-tailed cat for 10 years: Slinky. He’s from Santa Cruz county, CA. His tail curls in a complete loop. He can wriggle the very tip and the top but can’t uncurl it. His brother had a normal tail. His body type is reminiscent of a Manx. He’s black and white and looks very similar the cat “tux” on your site. You can follow him on twitter: SlinkyTheCat@Slinky_The_cat

  4. I “adopted” Captain Jack after a tragic event with his previous owner. My husband found his best friend , dead at home from a self inflicted gunshot wound. The Captain had just been adopted by him the previous year. He was found cold, scared and clinging to a kitchen window screen and wouldn’t leave. So the woman adopted him to my husbands friend. When my husband found him, he was eating out of the garbage. His owner had left him food, but wasn’t found for five days. He is all black, huge fangs, pure muscle, curly tail, and very large. He is by far, the most wonderful cat ever. He is so loving and sweet. He likes his belly rubbed! But he still has issues. At night when its dark and quiet, he meows this low, sad song. He has demons and a past that I can’t fathom. He hates when we sleep because he probably thinks we are dead. But he pushes our faces with his until we move and then he is okay again. I wish I knew his full story. Even the tail is intriguing. Incidentally, when he is safe and comfortable, his tail straightens out. But always goes back to the beautiful, unique curl. Ilove this boy more than words can say.

    • Hi Catherine. He has the classic and genuine ring tail. He would qualify as an America Ringtail Cat which was and still might be a cat breed. I have a page on the breed:

      http://pictures-of-cats.org/american-ringtail-cat.html

      Your story of Captain is sad. He may be quite old. I don’t know. But older cats with a little bit of dementia can yowl at night because it is said that they become a bit confused.

      They need the company of their human companion. I am not sure there is much you can do about that other than what you are doing: plenty of reassurances and ideally getting up and interacting with him when he makes that nighttime song.

      Good ending to a sad story. Thanks for sharing. He is a rare cat. The page on the American Ringtail cat briefly explains the causes of the curly tail.

  5. My 3 year old cat “Puddy” carries her tail curled under sometimes.I have read that this means a cat is feeling scared, but she curls it under in all kinds of situations. Anyone else have a cat whose tail curls under?

    • Hi Susan, your cat probably has a genetic mutation that modifies the way her tail functions. There is an American pedigree cat called the American Ringtail with this gene modification. If you have a picture please upload one into a comment.

      It is rare by the way. Very rare. Puddy is a rare cat. Happy Christmas.

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