The Bombay is the perfect cat for anyone who has thought “I’d like to have a panther, but maybe smaller and less bitey.”
Bred specifically to look like the Indian black panther, the Bombay is a mix of the Burmese and the black American shorthair. The result is a cat that does indeed resemble the big jungle cat, without having a single drop of wild blood in his pedigree.
Combining some of the best traits of both parent breeds, the Bombay has the hardiness, loyalty, and intelligence of the Burmese, without being quite as overwhelmingly vocal, and while sporting a gorgeous, solid-black coat.
They do look like little panthers. Easily the most noticeable thing about the Bombay is that purpose-bred coat. Short and sleek, the coat is a solid black color and very shiny. Many breeders liken the coat of a healthy, happy Bombay to patent leather.
Visually, the Bombay has a similar build to the Burmese, though slightly less stocky and a little longer instead. They are well-muscled cats with a round head, short, round-tipped ears and medium-sized, round eyes that are gold to copper in color.
When the Bombay cat walks, it has a particular, swaying gait that further heightens its similarity to the black panther.
The Bombay cat’s personality draws a lot from its Burmese roots. The Bombay is a highly social, intelligent, people-driven cat. They form strong bonds with their family units and greatly prefer to be in the company of humans. Their playful, yet restrained nature makes them particularly good with children. They also do very well in households with other cats, as they quickly establish a pecking order within the household and live well in their place.
As a people-lover, the Bombay follows their human companions around a lot, observes all they do, and wants to be in the middle of as many things as possible. They are strong, agile climbers and jumpers, and they are extremely playful as younger cats. As they mature, the Bombay will mellow out some, appreciating a little couch time, but will still enjoy a game of fetch now and then.
Because of their highly social nature, Bombay cats don’t do well on their own for extended periods of time. This is of course a non-issue for multi-cat households, but people for whom the Bombay is their only cat, stress issues may start to manifest themselves if the Bombay is left alone for more than a couple hours at a time.
Bombays are strong, agile climbers and jumpers, so a multi-level scratching post or climbing tower is appreciated. They’re by nature active cats, so a variety of toys are good, especially ones that allow you to be active with them, as the Bombay loves engaging in activities with their human companions.
Bombays can also be trained to walk on leashes, so if you want to spend some (supervised) time outside or take them for a walk, chances are, your Bombay will welcome the fresh air and time outside with you.
That short, sleek coat virtually takes care of itself. They do shed a little, with traditional shedding seasons being a little heavier, so they aren't a breed that would be considered more hypoallergenic, but a weekly brushing should be enough to keep most of their hair and dander at bay.
Bombays can be prone to gingivitis, so brushing their teeth a couple times a week wouldn’t be a terrible idea as well, or at least providing some regular, tartar-fighting treats.
This is another area where their Burmese genetics help out. The Bombay is a relatively healthy breed, with no major genetic dispositions for health concerns. Sinus issues can be a nagging problem, and keeping an eye on their gums and teeth is recommended. Also, the breed can get a bit chonky if their food intake isn’t monitored, especially as they get older. To help combat this, many vets urge meal-style feeding over plopping a dish of food out and allowing cats to free feed.
“Overall, I tend to recommend meal feedings—generally twice a day—and having that food down for 15 to 20 minutes, then picking it back up again so the cat knows that’s their window,” says Michelle Beck, DVM, CCRT, CVA, of the Backlund Animal Clinic in Omaha, Neb.
“In a multi-pet household especially, if you’re doing meal feedings, then those are times you can specifically separate out those animals, so they each get a set amount of food for a set amount of time.”
“The bags of food that we purchase, the recommendations on the label on how much food to feed animals, that’s for animals that are intact. But most of our pets nowadays are spayed or neutered removing those hormone processes from a cat’s body changes how they metabolize food. Calories need to be reduced on average by 30 percent versus what’s on the bag.”
The average Bombay cat lifespan is 15 years, but because they tend to be so hardy, examples of well-tended cats living 20 years are not uncommon.
The Bombay is the brainchild of Nikki Horner, a breeder from Louisville, Ky., who wanted to create a breed reminiscent of the Indian black leopard. To achieve her look, she crossed Burmese cats with black American shorthairs. Her goal was a cat that had the muscular, solid build of the Burmese, with the shorthair’s jet-black coat. She also specifically searched out shorthairs with golden eye colors to complete the look and, in 1965, succeeded in producing a full litter of black haired, golden eyed kittens that became the foundation of the Bombay breed.
The breed was named after Bombay, India, in an effort to draw the mind towards the black panthers the cat is meant to emulate. While Burmese and American shorthairs are still accepted outcrossing partners for the breed, the Bombay is a genetically distinct breed that was given recognition by the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) in 1970 and The International Cat Association (TICA) in 1979.