One of the oldest and most popular cat breeds in the world, the Manx cat makes a great family member. The Manx cat has little to no tail, but that doesn’t slow them down at all. If you're looking for a friendly, energetic, and adorable companion, the Manx cat may be for you.
Characteristics of the Manx Cat
The Manx size is compact and sturdy, with wide-set ears, a round head, and a short back. They have longer hind legs — so that their rump is up in the air — and have little to no tail. Overall, the Manx cat characteristics give the impression of “roundness”. Though it can vary widely, the average weight of a Manx is 8 to 12 pounds.
The hair coat of a Manx is thick and short, though there is a long-haired variation called a Cymric. Some cat associations consider the Cymric a completely separate breed. Nearly any hair coat color and pattern are acceptable, though pale or unhealthy hair coats are penalized in the show ring. The Manx cat lifespan is similar to other common breeds of cats, around 14 to 16 years.
The main defining characteristic of a Manx cat is a very short to completely absent tail. The gene that causes the taillessness is dominant, so breeding can be complicated and results in many possible variations. Over the years, Manx cat enthusiasts have come up with colorful and descriptive ways to describe the body of a Manx cat:
- A “longy” is a Manx cat with half a tail.
- A "stumpy” is a Manx cat with a short tail, which can sometimes be irregular but shouldn’t be kinked.
- A “rumpy” is a Manx cat with a completely absent tail.
- A “rumpy riser” is a Manx cat with only a slight tail.
In general, a completely absent tail is most desirable for showing purposes, but the amount of tail present does not affect the suitability of a Manx cat to be a pet. The exception to this rule is that in some cases, a completely absent tail can be related to some health problems with the end of the spinal cord and the nerves in that area. Kittens that were born with a short, kinked tail can sometimes have arthritic tail pain later in life, so their tails are often amputated to prevent that possibility.
The Manx cat personality is playful, affectionate, and interactive. They're great for families that have time to give them the affection and attention that they need. Many Manx owners also report that their cats are avid jumpers. They are active, curious, and will get into everything.
Caring for a Manx Cat
The Manx cat has a thick double coat that needs daily to weekly brushing. They do shed a lot, but frequent grooming helps them eliminate loose hair and is a great bonding exercise.
The Manx cat has medium to high exercise requirements. They're generally very intelligent and need a lot of toys and playtime, as well as places to run, jump, and climb. A sturdy scratching post, at least 3 feet tall, will help keep your cat from destroying furniture.
A typical, healthy Manx cat does not require any special care, outside of what’s needed for all cats. They will need a quiet, safe bed to sleep in and a sturdy cat carrier. A high-quality diet, plenty of fresh water, and a clean, safe litter box are essential. Routine nail trimming and teeth brushing, as well as ear cleaning when needed, are also recommended. Your cat will need regular visits to the veterinarian for all yearly examinations, as well vaccines and parasite control recommended for your area.
Most veterinarians agree that cats need the core vaccines — feline panleukopenia, feline herpes virus, and feline calicivirus — plus a rabies virus vaccine in all states except Hawaii. Some cats, depending on their lifestyle, will also need the feline leukemia vaccine. Your vet will help you decide on the vaccines your cat needs.
Although cats are not the natural host for heartworm, they can still get infected, and some veterinarians in areas with a high incidence of heartworm will also recommend heartworm prevention for your cat.
Health Problems to Watch for With a Manx Cat
The most common Manx cat health issues are related to the gene that causes the very short (or absent) tail, which can also cause abnormal development of the end of the spinal vertebrae, nerves, and spinal cord. This can cause a wide variety of symptoms, ranging from very mild to very serious and even life-threatening. The signs of “Manx syndrome” include:
- Fecal incontinence
- Urinary incontinence
- Urinary tract infections
- Lack of feeling around the anal area
- Partial paralysis of hind legs
- Abnormal gait in the hind end, including “bunny hopping”
- Rectal prolapse
- Megacolon, a condition caused by chronic constipation in which the colon loses the ability to push the feces through the rectum
Kittens that are severely affected by Manx syndrome will often die before they're born or have to be humanely euthanized shortly thereafter. Kittens with less severe Manx syndrome symptoms will usually start to show signs when they're a few weeks old. If these signs are seen, a veterinarian will recommend a series of tests, including blood work, urine tests, and X-rays, to determine how severe it is. Many cats with the more severe symptoms of Manx syndrome do not live past three or four years.
There is no cure for Manx syndrome, but many of the complications can be managed. Depending on the cat’s symptoms, this can involve the use of incontinence diapers, cleaning the skin and fur daily, giving stool softeners, and treating any secondary infections that occur. Your vet will help you manage whatever medical challenges may arise.
Most responsible Manx cat breeders are very aware of Manx syndrome and work hard to prevent it. The most successful Manx breeders have gotten very good at knowing which cats to breed to avoid Manx syndrome. For example, if an entirely tailless Manx (a rumpy) is bred with a Manx that has a very short tail (a stumpy), they're more likely to get a tailless but healthy Manx cat. Many Manx breeders keep the kittens until they're at least four months old to monitor for signs of Manx syndrome before they go to new homes.
Special Considerations for a Manx Cat
The Manx cat is outgoing, friendly and will usually get along well with kids and other pets. It’s important that children (and adults) be taught to be gentle with the hind end of Manx cats. The nerve endings are still there, though they are not protected by a tail, so in some cases, rough handling can cause severe pain. Don't poke the area where the tail should be, and take care to support the hind end when picking them up.
As a member of the family, the Manx cat will often vocalize to let you know what they want and will try to be in the middle of the action. Due to their thick double coat, Manx cats are not hypoallergenic, though frequent brushing will reduce the amount of dander in the house.
History of the Manx Cat
The Manx cat history is long and colorful. The breed originated on the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea, a favorite of farmers and sailors for catching rodents. No one knows for sure where the first cats came from, but somewhere along the line, a genetic mutation that caused a short tail and vertebrae occurred and became concentrated in the local cat population over the years.
The Manx cat, affectionately called a “stubbin” by locals, has played an important cultural role on the Isle of Man, and in the rest of the world, for many decades. The first image of a Manx cat appears in a painting from 1810, and the first reference to a “stubbin” was in 1750.
The Manx cat was one of the earliest recognized cat breeds, with standards established in 1903, and one of the first breeds to be included in the Cat Fanciers’ Association in 1908. The U.S. has Manx cat breeding records dating back to the 1920s.
Since then, the Manx cat has seemed to pop up everywhere. Here are some places you may have seen a Manx cat:
- Legend has it, when the Manx cat was being loaded onto Noah’s Ark, he accidentally closed the door on the cat’s tail and chopped it off.
- The Manx cat is featured on several commemorative coins, the 1980-1983 penny, several postage stamps, and many other tourist products on the Isle of Man.
- Stimpson “Stimpy” J. Cat, of the American cartoon series Ren and Stimpy, was a Manx cat.
- Koko, the gorilla made famous by her skill in American Sign Language, has had three pet Manx cats, named Lipstick, Smokey, and All Ball.
- The Norton Manx motorcycle, popular among motorcycle racing enthusiasts, was named after the Isle of Man road race and uses the Manx cat in its advertising.
- The Manx Cat is a popular comic book story by IDW Comics.
The Manx cat is one of the most recognizable and most popular cat breeds in the world and has been for many years. With its friendly and energetic personality and its cute round face and body, the Manx cat makes a wonderful addition to any family.