Manx Cats - the Marvelous Tailless Cats

Manx cats are believed to have originated on the Isle of Man, an enchanting small island some thirteen miles wide and thirty-three miles long, which is set in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Ireland.

It is a common mistake to think that all Manx cats are tailless, this is not so.

Some cats of this breed are born with a slight rise of tail (a piece of cartilage at the base of their spine), these are known as risers.

Others have a very short "stump" of a tail and are unsurprisingly known as stumpies. Yet other Manx have a normal full length tail and are referred to as longies.

The completely tail-less Manx that we are all familiar with are known as rumpies

Manx are not the only examples of tailless cats, other breeds sometimes produce kittens with missing tails.

Tailless cats are often found in Scandinavia, and there is a suggestion of a link between these and Manx cats.

However Manx remain the only cats that are purposefully bred to be without a tail, particularly for show reasons.

The Characteristics of the Manx

The most striking feature of Manx cats (apart from the lack of a tail,) is their extremely long back legs, giving them a raised rump.

black manx cat

Manx have short stocky bodies, wide chests and strong bones.

Their eyes are round, and the ears are broad at the base tapering to a rounded tip.

Like the British Shorthair, with whom cats probably share ancestry, the breed has rounded cheeks.

In fact Manx have a generally rounded appearance, and it has been said that they could be drawn using just a series of circles.

Manx have double coats, either short-haired or long-haired (often known as Cymrics.) The average weight for a male Manx is 10 to 12 pounds, and for females 8 to 10 pounds.

The Manx breed is seen with just about every coat color, and every coat pattern. Solid color Manx, blue, cream, black, white, and red Manx cats. Beautiful bicolor Manx, wonderful tabby Manx and charming calico Manx.

You can even find Manx with pointed (Siamese type) patterns, but these are not generally accepted for show purposes.

Manx cats have surprisingly soft and quiet "voices", but love to hold conversations with their humans.

A mother calling her kittens will give a very distinct trill, but apart from these two instances, the Manx is a cat that is seen rather than heard.

Living with Manx Cats

Calico ManxLucy relaxing after a car trip. Photo by A. Davey

You will find the Manx to be generally sweet tempered, friendly and active.

They will usually be very attentive to their humans, and in turn can take any amount of stroking and do not usually object in the least bit to being picked up.

A trait that the Manx breed shares with Main Coon cats, is following their humans about the house, even waiting patently for them to re-emerge from behind a closed door. It is for this, and other reasons that Manx are sometimes called dog cats.

Orange ManxPhoto by S. J. Pyrotechnic

Manx are intelligent and inquisitive, they will take a keen interest in whatever you are doing and will often try to get involved.

The breed seem to love to climb on furniture to be at your eye level, it seems that the Manx breed prefers to have the same view of the world as their humans.

If allowed to live the life of an outdoor cat, Manx cats will engage in hunting with irrepressible enthusiasm.

They can be very protecting toward their humans, and it has sometimes been known for Manx to attack threatening dogs.

The Manx can be trained to walk on a leash (another trait shared with Maine Coon cats,)some retrieve thrown toys, and many Manx will bury their toys and enjoy digging them up later.

The breed retains its kitten qualities for a long time, indeed many Manx will remain playful and kittenish until five, or even six years old.

Manx and Children

If introduced into homes as kittens, Manx behave very well with children and show them the same affection and devotion as older humans.

Mature Manx that are unfamiliar with children may not take very well if transferred to a home with youngsters. They are far from being shy cats but they do seem to prefer a quiet, calm home.

Manx Kittens and Manx Syndrome

Responsible breeders of the Manx breed will not let kittens leave their cattery unless the kittens are at least four months old.

This is to greatly reduce the possibility of Manx Syndrome being present in any kittens they sell.

Manx Syndrome is a defect caused by the Manx gene, it is this gene that is responsible for the taillessness in the Manx breed.

Manx cat

Usually any problems show up in the first month of a Manx Syndrome kitten but can sometimes not show until later, by the age of four months the breeder will be sure that the kitten does not have the syndrome.

Breeding between two tailless Manx greatly increases the chances of Manx Syndrome being present in a litter.

Breeders of Manx usually make sure that a longy (tailed) is bred in at frequent intervals, to decrease the risk.

If a kitten does not have Manx Syndrome it should go on to live a long and healthy life, in fact Manx are generally robust felines and if properly cared for and not overfed, many will live to 16 years or beyond.

The Manx Cat Breed - The Myths and the Truth

One of the mythical tales about the origins of the Manx cat breed would have us believe that when Noah called for all the animals to enter the ark, the Manx ignored him because the cat had found good shelter from the rain.

It was only when the sheltering feline saw that the water was going to rise above the level of his refuge that he made a dash for the ark.

By this time Noah had reluctantly given up on the cat and had started to close the great door of the ark.

The Manx only just managed to squeeze in its body and head, leaving its tail to be severed and carried away by the raging torrent.

Another of the myths, this one from the Isle of Man itself, tells us that Manx cat breed was hunted down by invading Irish warriors who cut of their tails for trophies.

This same legend is also told about invading Viking warriors. Seems like everyone was after those poor Manx cats!

A slight variation of the above myth, is that quick thinking mother Manx cats bit off the tails of their kittens to stop invaders snatching them away by the tail.

One myth explains the appearance of Manx cats as being the outcome of mating between cats and rabbits! Of course, breeding between the two different species is just not possible.

It is likely that this myth was spread by sightings of malformed (Manx Syndrome) cats whose hind legs could not operate independently.

Many stories tell of shipwrecked galleons and the strange tailless cats that swam to the Isle of Man and established a colony there.

Indeed over the centuries many thousands of ships must have docked at the Isle of Man, and at least some of those ships would have been carrying a cat or two.

Did the gene that is responsible for the Manx cat breed arrive by ship from some far away place? Who knows for sure.

What we do know is that Manx most likely share a common ancestry with British Shorthair cats.

The most probable explanation is that a lack of tail happened as a spontaneous, genetic mutation and once it had established, was able perpetuate within the confines of such a small island. With the passing of time, and the isolation of Manx cats from outside breeding, the missing tail became a common characteristic on the Isle of Man.

Manx cats