Curly tail cat – moggies with curly tails and the American Ringtail

This page is about cats both pedigree, purebred and random-bread (moggies) who have a curly tail. That is their tail curls over when it is held in an erect position. In passing I have noted that the cat fancy quite likes to create cats with curly pieces of anatomy ?.

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. I suspect that people searching for a ‘curly tail cat’ or ‘curly tailed cat’ are looking for information about the American Ringtail cat. I have a page on that and the link above takes you to it. Belo are a couple of pictures of cats of this breed. The American Ringtail cat is not yet accepted by the mainstream cat associations.

But there are many other curly tailed cats out there that do not have a pedigree but they do have that tail. The American Ringtail was created out of random bred cats (moggies) through selective breeding. The genetic mutation that causes the curled over tail is recessive and in moggies. Normally it does not show in the cat’s appearance. 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

Here are two more genuine curly tailed cats. I don’t know if they are pedigree cats. I suspect that they are not. It proves that there are curly tailed moggies all over the planet as they carry the genetic mutation.

And some more. 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. Update: These are not great examples! Sometimes tails curl when they are normally straight. I have left them here anyway.

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

Please search using the search box at the top of the site. You are bound to find what you are looking for.

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

36 thoughts on “Curly tail cat – moggies with curly tails and the American Ringtail”

  1. Michelle Gallaga

    Thank you for this post! I have been looking for articles on cats with curly tails and I’m happy to stumble upon your article & see that my cat isn’t alone. We adopted Joni a year ago and as I read up on books about cat tail language, I couldn’t find any description on curly tails which was quite frustrating. Our cat never carries her tail straight so the books didn’t really help in letting me know what my cat is communicating. Hopefully someone will be able to study the tail language of curly tails. Here is a photo of our Joni who is turning two next month.

    1. Thank you very much Michelle for commenting. There’s actually a purebred cat with a curly tail: the American Ringtail cat which you can read about by clicking on the link below.

      Incidentally, unfortunately, your photograph did not upload but you can try again if you like.

      You make an interesting point about the inability of a cat with a permanently curly tail to adopt the usual tail sign language such as the tail up position when greeting.

      This is similar to the problem encountered by the purebred cat Scottish Fold whose ears are permanently flat. As you know there are many ear positions for the domestic cat but this cat is unable to make them.

      1. Michelle Gallaga

        Thank you for sharing the other articles, Michael. I look forward to learning more about these breeds. Hopefully this photo uploaded this time.

        1. Great photo. I love it. Super quality. You’re a natural. Super cat too. A lynx point Siamese with a fabulous ring tail. I am impressed.

          1. Hi!! I also have a curly tailed lynx point siamese kitten. her tail is a perfect ringlet and her name is Curly Fries! Her tail is always curled when she is resting and when she is walking she slightly extends it but it still has a curl at the end. We adopted her from a family friend who helps care for a cat colony and she started showing up. She is so loved!

  2. This is Thor. His tail is always curled over his back. He will be walking past something and hook it with his tail and pull it off a table. He is a late bloomer, he didn’t meow till he was around 5 years old. He is a major klutz too. But we love him bunches.

  3. This is Zoe Bird, she was born in 2002 near Whistler BC, she was in a litter of strays that lived under a shed, she was the only one in the litter with a ringtail. Back then there was nothing online about ringtails, I always assumed it was a deformity and the vet was never able to give me an answer. But that’s what drew me to her. To this day I’m so thankful I have her. Love her to the moon!

    1. Hi Patricia. It seems that your photo failed to upload. If you want to try again please reduce its size. Thanks for commenting.

    2. Hope you do succeed in downloading your pic, Patricia. We are just rearing two kittens from an abandoned litter we found in our wood pile ! Very rural location in South Lincolnshire,UK. One is a plain all black with a shiny coat, we’ve named her Traza but her sister turns out to be almost certainly of Abyssinian descent…much smaller than her sibling and at first glance Tabby….with a beautiful curly tail over her back, only straightened when in chase, play or grooming mode! The are now 20 weeks and just completed their second lot of injections. Growing well but still quite a difference in their sizes. My Vet is amazed at the little one..Wiskers is her name. she’s never seen a curly-tailed cat but definitely confirms the Abyssinian connection. So I’ve come on to Google to try to find out more. More details and pictures but have to find out how to transfer them here to this site.

  4. Sven fetches. He only does this with a bunny that he “adopted” from my daughter’s stuffed animal collection.

  5. This is my Ringtail Cat, Sven. He was a rescue from a shelter, and he is a sweet 2.5 year old. He follows, fetches, and keeps you company like a small dog. He is very social with his family, and we are happy to have him.

    1. What a beauty! In the 1980’s,my mom had a tiny calico who kept her tail in a corkscrew. She looked similar to Sven.

  6. Gday from South Australia,my wife brought home a kitten from the shelter just a little grey velvet he has grown his tail is now carried curled over his back looks more like a Akita or Spitz dog.His back legs look a bit more like a jack rabbit so suppose there is some mutation happening.Top cat has no fear stands up to our cattle dog but friendly to peopleWe kid everyone about having a American Ringtail but Jedhi is just a cat with a curly tail CQ

    1. Thanks for sharing, Chris. You are right. The American Ringtail is in fact a moggie turned into a purebred cat so your cat is quite possibly the same and probably carries the same genes as the purebred version. They are rare though. Nice to hear from Australia.

  7. Our random bred black with white cat Ruby was adopted from a shelter- she had been picked up as a stray.

    She has the most unusual and special tail I have ever seen on a cat. She can curl it front, back, left, or right and can do a corkscrew either clockwise or counter clockwise.

    She only curls it sometimes- 80% of the time she holds it in “normal” cat tail positions.

    What unique genetics! And a sweet and loving kitty.

  8. 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?

    1. 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.

    1. 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:

      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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

    1. 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.

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