What are Manx Cats?

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

Manx cats, named for the Isle of Man where they originated, are a breed of felines that have a natural spinal mutation. This mutation yields a stubby tail or the complete absence of a tail. While Manx cats are known for being completely tailless, many of them do actually have tails that are simply shorter, or stubbier than the tails on all other breeds of cats. In fact, breeders have classified the tail length into four categories.

Manx cats originated on the Isle of Man, which is between Ireland and Britain.
Manx cats originated on the Isle of Man, which is between Ireland and Britain.

A “tailed” Manx, which is also referred to as a “longy” has a tail that is almost as long as tails on other breeds of cats. A “stumpy” is a cat with a partial tail. Manx cats with just a stub of a tail, no more than a few vertebrae, are called “risers” or “rumpy risers.” In this case, the tail may not be visible unless the cat raises its very abbreviated tail to express joy or it is felt for under the fur. A “rumpy” or “dimple rumpy” Manx has no tail at all. As mentioned above, this is the most well-known version of Manx cats.

Breeders classify their kittens based on the length of the tail. While the length of the tale is based on genes and most litters produce kittens with the same kind of tail, breeders have reported litters of kittens with varying tail lengths. If Manx kittens are born with tails, some breeders will dock them. This is not entirely for aesthetics. Rather, it has been found that Manx cats with partial tails are prone to a certain form of very painful arthritis. Tail docking is sometimes preformed as a preventative measure against this affliction.

While the absence or abbreviation of the tail is the most obvious genetic difference between the Manx cat and other breeds, there are other physical characteristics that distinguish them. For example, Manx cats have hind legs that are longer than their front legs. Furthermore, Manx cats can have two different types of coats. A short-haired Manx has two layers of fur. The bottom layer is short, and the top layer is longer and coarser. A long-haired Manx, which is also known as a Cymric Manx, also has two layers of fur. However, both coats are of medium length and are quite silky. Furthermore, the cats exhibit ruff — a longer, sometimes curly patch of fur — on the belly, neck, britches, and ears.

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for wiseGEEK, Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

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I have a no-tail rescue kitty who is probably part Manx. He is a rumpy and has no tail at all. When he gets excited, a tuft of fur near the base of his spine ripples. It's pretty hilarious.

One thing I found in reading about the Manx is that some kittens are born with what amounts to spina bifida, which means they have problems eliminating and other issues. These kittens usually are euthanized when the condition becomes evident. This is why breeders have to be so careful about their cats. They may see some lethal conditions like this that have no cure. The best method, then, is prevention.

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