Choosing a Bombay

Bombays may look like miniature black panthers, but these cats are purely domestic. A comparatively rare breed, Bombays are well loved by fanciers for their pleasing packaging and people-oriented personality. Black to the roots with snapping copper eyes, this breed combines the body style and personality of the Burmese with the solid black coloration of the black American shorthair.

History and Origin

The Bombay is a creation of the late Nikki Horner. A breeder and exhibitor since the age of 16, Horner bred award-winning American shorthairs, Burmese, exotics, Himalayans, Persians, and Siamese over her long cat fancy career. In the 1950s, while she was breeding sable Burmese and the black American shorthairs, she envisioned a Burmese with a sleek black coat and snapping copper eyes – sort of a pint-sized panther. Because she imagined it would look like the black leopard of India, she named her brainchild after the city of Bombay.

Her first effort in 1958 was a failure – the kittens she produced looked more like poor American shorthairs than black Burmese. However, in 1965 she tried again, choosing her breeding stock more carefully, and eventually she achieved the look she wanted. Despite opposition from Burmese breeders – they were not excited about Horner coloring outside their bloodlines – in 1970 the Cat Fanciers’ Association accepted the Bombay for registration and in 1976 granted championship status.

Horner quit breeding at this point, exhausted from the long years of struggle to get the breed accepted. Other breeders, however, had fallen in love with the Bombay’s beauty and personality and worked to keep the breed going. Starting over with new bloodlines, breeders Herb and Suzanne Zwecker produced Road to Fame’s Luv It Black, a breakthrough cat for the breed. Until Luv It Black’s win as CFA’s Second Best Cat in 1985, Bombays were doing poorly in the shows due to poor breed quality and opposition from Burmese breeders. Luv It Black can be found in the pedigrees of many of today’s Bombays. While still a minority breed, (in 2000 CFA registered 97, which places the breed 34th out of the 40 breeds CFA recognizes) the Bombay has won over the opposition and gained acceptance with most North American associations.


The Bombay is known as the cat with the patent leather coat and new penny eyes. The ideal contemporary Bombay is medium-sized with substantial bone structure and good muscular development, a cat that feels surprisingly heavy for its size. The head is pleasingly rounded with no sharp angles, and the face is full with considerable breadth between the eyes. The muzzle is broad and moderately rounded. The eyes are rounded and are set far apart. Eye color ranges from gold to copper. The medium-sized ears are tilted slightly forward and set well apart. The tail is straight and medium in length.

Two head types exist, the traditional and the contemporary. The traditional Bombay has a longer, narrower muzzle than the contemporary Bombay. The less extreme head type of the traditional is preferred by some fanciers, and are more often seen in TICA shows. CFA shows favor the contemporary.

The coat, one of the breed’s nicest features, is fine and close-lying with a patent leather sheen. The short satiny fur feels like warm velvet to the touch. Only one color and pattern is accepted – solid black – although most breeding programs produce a certain number of sable-colored cats. To maintain the desired head, body and coat type, breeders cross their Bombays with sable Burmese. This creates certain problems. The gene governing the sable color is recessive, and the gene for black is dominant. If a Bombay has one copy of the black gene and one of the sable gene, as many Bombays do, the cat will be black but will carry sable and can pass it along to the offspring. Any cat that inherits a copy of the sable gene from both parents will be sable. Sable Bombays can only be shown in TICA, where they are considered Burmese.


If an aloof, independent cat is what you’re craving, this breed isn’t for you. Like Burmese, Bombays are velcro kitties, sticking to your side as if attached. They crave constant attention, and they’ll follow you anywhere to get it. People-oriented and extremely affectionate, Bombays tend to love the entire family rather than bond with only one person. Fanciers say they are particularly good with children.

Bombays have inherited traits from both their parent breeds. Like Burmese, Bombays are playful and intelligent. Like the American shorthair, they are even-tempered and less talkative than the vocal Burmese. When motivated by empty food dishes or momentary neglect, however, they will speak their minds. Bombays don’t do well if left alone for long periods; consider getting another cat to provide company for your Bombay if you’re gone all day.


Bombays need little grooming; their short, glossy coats are easy to maintain. Breeders recommend using a rubber brush to remove loose hair, particularly during the fall and spring shedding seasons. In the winter their coats get heavier in texture and in the spring their coats thin out. An occasional bath is also a good way to remove dead hairs, if your Bombay will cooperate.


Pet quality Bombays cost $300 to $600, although some breeders sell sable Bombays for less; a sable Bombay closely resembles a Burmese. Breeder and show quality runs anywhere from $750 to $2000, depending on the breeder, location, bloodline, and gender. Since this is a relatively rare breed, finding your dream kitten can take time. Most breeders maintain waiting lists since demand is high. Retired breeder and show Bombays usually run $100 to $200 to approved homes, but they can be difficult to find as well since the breed is rare.

Association Acceptance

The Bombay is accepted for championship by the following North American cat associations:

Special Notes

Bombays are generally healthy cats. However, because they are so closely related to the Burmese, the Bombay can have some of the same health issues. These can include runny eyes, asymmetrical jaws, and sinus and breathing problems. Reportedly, traditional Bombays have fewer of these problems because their faces are not as extremely flattened. Getting a written health guarantee is a wise practice when purchasing any pedigreed cat.