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Manx cats are kind of like the diet sodas of the cat fancy: all the great cat flavor you love, now with up to 100 percent less tail.
The result of a naturally occurring genetic mutation that shortens the tail, the Manx has been the dominant cat breed on Britain's Isle of Man for centuries. Known for their gentle, unassuming, sweet dispositions and their legendary hunting abilities, Manx have been favorites of sailors and farmers for almost as long as they’ve been around.
Let’s leave the most obvious trait for last. To begin with, the word of the day for the Manx is “round.” Their heads are round; their eyes are round; their ears have a rounded shape, and their hind legs are noticeably longer than their front, so their rumps rest above their front shoulders, giving them a rounded shape when they stand or move.
The Manx has been described as “rabbit-like” in its movements and general appearance. This cat breed often walks by moving both hind legs in unison, giving it a kind of bunny-hopping gait.
Manx fur is thick and double-coated, making them healthy shedders, but also highly tolerant of colder weather and water. Manx cats have been found in virtually every color and pattern combination, with all-white or color-pointed Manx being the rarest, and orange, tabby, and tortoiseshell being the most common.
Though known to be short-haired, long-haired cats of the same genetic makeup do exist. How they are treated is a matter of some debate. The Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) says the Manx can be both long- or short-haired, but exhibits them all as short hairs, regardless of actual coat length. Other governing bodies in Europe and Asia list the long-haired cats as a separate breed, called the Cymric.
But now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for. The Manx’s lack of tail is the result of a naturally occurring genetic mutation. This, coupled with the Isle of Man’s small size and geographic isolation, allowed the dominant-gene trait to run rampant among the Isle’s cat population.
Despite their reputation for taillessness, Manx cats can actually manifest in one of five categories:
- Rumpy (or rumpie): These cats have no tail at all, though a tuft of hair where the tail would have grown is not uncommon.
- Riser or rumpy riser: Cats that have a bump of cartilage under the fur. When the cat is happy or their rumps are petted, this bump will often rise.
- Stumpy (stumpie): Cats that are born with a partial tail of vestigial, fused vertebrae, usually around an inch in length.
- Stubby (stubbie), shorty, or short-tailed: A Manx with a short tail of non-fused bones, up to about half an average cat tail. Aside from their length, these tails can move and operate exactly like a regular tail.
- Longy (longie) or taily (tailie): Manx with a half to normal-length tail.
In competition, only rumpies to stumpies are eligible to show under the Manx category. In the CFA, Stubbies and longies are still eligible to show, but under the “any other” category. They are both, however, important in breeding stock, as mating two rumpies together can cause health problems.
The Manx is a sweet-tempered, easygoing cat. While possessing a strong independent streak, they are loyal to their family units, often following their favorite humans around the house. They can be wary of strangers, and may not always take to children.
The Manx will get along well with other cats, especially if properly socialized as kittens. Dogs can be a tough sell, but your mileage may vary, depending on individual personalities.
Manx doesn’t have a ton in the way of special needs or desires. They are moderately active cats who will enjoy playing fetch and can be trained to understand vocal commands with relative ease. They’re adept jumpers and natural hunters, more so than explorers, so if your Manx disappears for a while, she’s probably on the scent of something.
Families and multi-pet homes will find Manx to be an affable, sweet-tempered addition, though Manx may shy away from overly loud, smaller children, or at least observe them from a distance.
The Manx’s double coat tends to require fairly constant care. Brushing daily is the most effective way of keeping loose hair to a minimum and keeping coats looking smooth and free of tangles. Expect the shedding seasons to be especially fun, as both coats drop a bit of mass.
By and large, the Manx is a fairly healthy breed. However, there are issues tied specifically to its taillessness that should be kept in mind.
For starters, some partial tails are prone to a form of arthritis that can result in severe pain. Similarly, Manx-bred kittens are, in rare cases, born with kinked short tails because of incomplete growth of the tail during development.
"Manx syndrome" or "Manxness" is a colloquial name for a condition that results when the tailless gene shortens the spine too much. This can result in seriously damaged spinal cord nerves, causing a form of spina bifida, as well as problems with the bowels, bladder, and digestion. One indication of the disease is an overly small bladder, which can often be difficult to diagnose. The condition is a virtual certainty to result in sudden, premature death. Some Manx with the condition live for only 3–4 years, while the oldest recorded was 5 years when affected with the disease.
Such problems can be avoided by breeding rumpy Manx with stumpies, and this breeding practice is responsible for a decline in spinal problems among modern, professionally bred Manx.
The breed is also predisposed to intertrigo in their rump-folds, and to corneal dystrophy, neither of which are fatal, but both can cause complications and discomfort.
Finally, some tailless cats such as the Manx may develop megacolon, which is a recurring condition causing constipation that can be life-threatening to the cat if not properly monitored.
The Manx has existed for centuries on the Isle of Man. While their exact origin is a matter of some debate, they were almost certainly created when a cat with a spontaneous short-tailed mutation was introduced to the island, most likely by either Nordic or Spanish sailors. Due to the island’s small size and relative isolation from the mainland, combined with the mutation’s high degree of penetration, the Manx gene became the dominant trait among the island’s cat population.
The Manx is not the only short-tailed cat in the world, nor are all non-tailed cats automatically Manx. Breeds like the Japanese bobtail are thought to have been created in a similar fashion (genetic mutation meets geographic isolation) but developed independently. Visually comparing a Manx with one of these other tailless breeds shows several physical differences that make the Manx immediately recognizable.
Manx have existed for at least three centuries, having been first recorded in 1807 and written about as a well-established breed. When the CFA was founded in 1904, the Manx was one of the founding breeds.
- Thanks to their distinct appearance, the Manx has been a favorite character in literature, film, and television. Some notables include Mac Manc McManx from the comic strip “Get Fuzzy,” Manx Cat, the antagonist in Paul Gallico's 1968 children's novel “Manxmouse: The Mouse Who Knew No Fear,” and the titular Stimpy from “The Ren & Stimpy Show”
- The Norton Manx motorcycle line used Manx cat badges to promote their brand, in the forms of both enameled metal pins and sew-on patches.
- The Meyers Manx, the original, Volkswagen Beetle-based dune buggy, was named after the cat, due to its stubby, short-bodied design
- A popular flying model aircraft of the late 1950s was the Manx Cat, sold in kit form as the Manx Cat V. Constructed of balsa wood, the plane features a very short tail (thus the name).