To some folks, a cat without an elegant and expressive tail to lash with anger, frizz with fear and hold high with self-assurance is missing an indispensable part of its character. Manx lovers are not of this mind, however, and the enthusiastic fanciers of this breed assert that the Manx has as much feline character as any tailed cat, and maybe more. This round, huggable breed so well known for its want of tail is long on personality and has a long, fascinating history to match.
History & Origin of Manx Cats
The Manx has existed for many centuries on the Isle of Man, a small island located in the Irish Sea midway between Liverpool, England, and Belfast, Ireland. Since the Isle had no indigenous feline species from which the Manx could develop, domestic cats must have been introduced by human settlers and explorers, but who and when is not known. Some believe that the Manx is descended from British shorthairs, which is likely given the proximity of Britain to the Isle. Many trading vessels stopped at the Isle, however, so the Manx’s ancestors could have come from another part of the world.
Geneticists believe that the Manx’s lack of a tail is the result of a spontaneous natural mutation that occurred within the Isle’s domestic cat population. Given the Isle’s closed environment and small gene pool, the dominant gene that governs the Manx’s lack of tail easily passed from generation to generation. But no one knows for sure when this happened, or even if the mutation occurred on the island itself.
What we do have are myths and legends to account for the Manx’s lack. According to one such tale, the Manx is a cross between a cat and a rabbit (for the record, that’s biologically impossible). Another story claims that Irish invaders stole the cats’ tails to use for their helmet plumes, and forever after the cats nipped off the tails of their kittens to protect them from the thieves. A third says two cats were passengers on Noah’s ark, but as they were late in boarding, Noah slammed the door on their tails.
Max Cat’s Appearance
The Manx is the only breed of truly tailless cat. The overall impression of the Manx is that of roundness, enhanced by the lack of tail. From the round head and prominent cheeks to the round rump and rounded, muscular thighs, the Manx is a sturdy, solid, roly-poly cat. The chest is broad, the front legs short and substantial, and the back short and arching from shoulders to rump. The hind legs are much longer than the forelegs, causing the rump to be considerably higher than the shoulders. Male Manx usually weigh 10 to 12 pounds and females usually weigh eight to 10.
The coat is glossy, short and dense, and possesses a cottony undercoat that gives the Manx a well-padded appearance. The Cymric (KIM-rick), the longhaired version of the Manx, is identical to the Manx in every way except hair length. The Cat Fanciers’ Association considers the longhaired Manx to be a division of the Manx breed, but most other associations consider it a breed in its own right.
The “Manx gene” produces a variety of tail lengths. Tail types are broken into four classifications: rumpy, rumpy-riser, stumpy, and longy. Rumpies are highly prized by show enthusiasts, since this is the type favored in the show ring. They are completely tailless, and often have a dimple at the base of the spine where the tail would normally begin. Rumpy-risers have a short knob of tail that consists of one to three vertebrae connected to the last bone of the spine. Risers can be shown if the vertical rise of the tail doesn’t stop the judge’s hand when the cat is stroked. Stumpies have a short tail stump that is often curved or kinked; stumpies are usually pet quality. Longies have tails that are almost as long as an average cat’s. Many breeders dock the tails of these pet-quality kittens to make them easier to place and also to avoid a manifestation of the Manx gene, which causes the tail vertebrae to ossify in later years, causing great pain.
The Manx may be short of tail, but it’s long on personality. Fans say Manx get their feelings across very well without a tail to swish. Intelligent, even-tempered and adaptable, Manx cats form strong bonds of love and trust with their chosen humans. While they usually choose one special person, they get along well with all family members, including children, other cats and even dogs. Manx adapt well to most situations. They are playful, too, and enjoy a good game of fetch. Manx are fascinated by water – possibly from all those years surrounded by it on the Isle of Man. Manx are exceptional jumpers because of their powerful back legs, and no cupboard or shelf is safe from the curiosity of the Manx. If given the opportunity, Manx become good mousers.
Grooming a Manx Cat
Even though the fur is short, it is dense and possesses a cottony undercoat, so even shorthaired Manx require some grooming. A once-a-week combing with a good steel comb is usually enough.
How Much Does a Manx Cat Cost?
Pet quality kittens range from around $300 to $600, depending upon the breeder, location, gender and coat pattern and color. The rare, prized rumpy Manx can run $1,000 or more, particularly if it also meets the show standard. True rumpy Manx that also possess the body style and head type needed to excel in the show ring are scarce and prized by exhibitors and breeders.
Association Acceptance of Manx Cats
Homozygous Manx kittens (kittens that inherit two copies of the Manx gene – one from each parent) die in vivo early in their development. Since homozygous kittens comprise roughly one-fourth of all kittens conceived from Manx to Manx matings, Manx litters are generally small, usually averaging three or four. The gene that causes the lack of tail, the Manx gene, can also cause severe spinal defects such as gaps in the vertebrae, fused vertebrae, spina bifida, and defects of the colon. These problems usually appear within the first four weeks of life, but they can occur later. Most breeders keep their Manx kittens until they are four months old because defects can appear up to that age. Buy from a breeder who is willing to guarantee the health of his or her kittens and avoid Manx that show any signs of weakness in the hindquarters or that walk stiffly, hop or have trouble moving freely.