I received an email from Heather about her cat’s short, quadruple-kinked tail and as there is interesting domestic cat history about kinked and shortened tails, I thought it would be nice to discuss it! Here is Heather’s email. She lives with a rare cat in the USA. They are far more common in the Far East.
Hi Michael, my cat’s tail is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. As I was looking for answers online the only thing that I found that looked like his tail was a post of yours from 2013 about a cat called Pippi. My kitty’s name is Captain Crook (Crookie for short) and his tail is kinked in about 4 places, moves ok, doesn’t seem to bother him. Just like Pippi. The first kink turns toward his right hind leg, so the tail naturally points in that direction. Not symmetrical. Rights angles, and I can bend them around, but they go right back to kinks. I keep trying to feel and see if there are 4 or 5 kinks, but he’s still kind of a kitten and tries to play. Other than this special tail he seems to be your average orange tabby- sweet as sugar. I just took him in, so I have no idea what his parents or siblings looked like. Someone dumped him here at the RV Park where I’m staying. He loves me and my dog. Did you ever get an answer or any more info on Pippi? I’m curious. Thank you, Heather.
He is a standard and attractive ginger tabby-and-white random bred cat except for his tail. He has a very nice character. I have to say that every time a cat caregiver talks about their ginger tabby cat they always remark on their great character. There must be something in the argument that coat colour is linked to character. I have discussed this tricky topic before and decided it is true. See: Cat personality linked to coat colour? Yes, but work in progress.
Genetics and history
The great Charles Darwin mentioned, in 1868, truncated tails with a knot at the end in his The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication: “Throughout an immense area, namely the Malayan archipelago, Siam, Pegu, and Burmah, all the cats have truncated tails about half the proper length, often with a sort of knot at the end.”
Sarah Hartwell, an expert of cat genetics writes: “The bobtail trait ranges from a normal-length tail with a distinct kink, through to a short, twisted pom-pom and just about anything between those two extremes.”
The first Siamese cats imported into England had kinked tails. The early Siamese cats had this famous kink, which was selectively bred out by breders but apparently you can still feel it. I have seen photos of random bred pointed cats in Asia with shortened and kinked tails. They are common as indicated by Darwin.
In a 1949 study, the geneticist A.G. Searle concluded that there were no short, kink-tailed cats in London, UK but said that bobtailed cats were common in Singapore in another study dated 1959.
Research indicates that there are four different versions of the tailless gene.
Hartwell has an extensive library on cats, many books on cat history and she refers to information provided by Mr Boden who many years ago was Director of the Raffles Museum and Library at Singapore. He said that:
“The tail which distinguishes these cats may be clubbed or kinked, very short or of medium length, and the animals themselves of many colours – plain, piebald, or patterned. A fair proportion of the cats of Singapore seen in native villages are short-tailed animals with a kinked tail. There would [be], I should say, three or four kinks. In colour they may be tabby, or boldly black and white. As a point of interest, it may be noted that Felis planiceps [Flat-Headed Cat], one of the wild species of the peninsula, tends to resemble the domestic Malay cat in the matter of tail.”
My impression is that Crookie has one of these precious four versions of the tailless gene and that it originates in Asia. Heather lives in the US.
Below are some more articles on tailless cats.