What to Know About American Bobtails

Medically Reviewed by Kathleen Claussen, DVM on July 18, 2022
7 min read

The American Bobtail is an affectionate cat that's perfect for families. They love having people around them and have a lot of love to give

Along with their charming personality, they have a stellar appearance. American Bobtails have a coat like a wildcat, soft fur, and—most conspicuously—a rather stubby tail. 

American Bobtail size and shape. American Bobtails are medium-sized cats. Males can weigh between 12 and 16 pounds, while females can weigh between 7 and 11 pounds.

American Bobtails take a bit longer to reach their full size compared to other cats. They finish growing once they're around 3 years old. 

Coat characteristics. American Bobtails have many coat styles, making each cat unique. They're considered either shorthair or longhair, but their coats can also be:

  • Medium length
  • Semi-dense
  • Short
  • Semi-long
  • Shaggy long

American Bobtails can have coats of any color or pattern. They resemble wildcats with shades of brown and black.

Distinct physical features. Their most notable feature is also their namesake: their bobtail.

Besides being short, every American Bobtail's tail is unique. It can be:

  • Straight
  • Slightly curved
  • Slightly kinked
  • Bumpy

American Bobtail lifespan. American Bobtails live a long and full life as a generally healthy breed. They can live to be 15 years old.

American Bobtail personality. American Bobtails are social and affectionate. They prefer to be a member of a family rather than living on their own.

Though they love to snuggle up with their loved ones, American Bobtails also love to play. They're usually up to play whatever games you want as long as they get to do it with you.

Coat care. American Bobtails are low-maintenance. You only need to brush them once or twice a week regardless of the length of their fur.

However, Bobtails also go through periods of heavy shedding in spring and autumn. Brush them more frequently during these seasons to remove loose hair.

Dental hygiene. Dental diseases are a frequent problem for cats. Dental hygiene is vital because dental disease can cause severe infections.

Brushing your cat's teeth daily with a pet-friendly toothbrush and toothpaste is the best way to keep them clean. Since brushing a cat's teeth can be challenging, train them from a young age to be comfortable with dental care.

You can also:

  • Have their teeth cleaned professionally
  • Give them dental chews or treats
  • Give them food designed for dental care
  • Use oral rinses

Nail care. Your American Bobtail needs their nails trimmed every 2 to 3 weeks. You, a groomer, or your vet can trim them.

Feeding and nutrition. A high-quality commercial cat food provides enough nutrients for most cats. You should feed your cat an amount of food appropriate for their size and activity level.

The cat food label will tell you how much to feed your adult cat daily. Divide the amount into two meals that you give to your cat 8 to 12 hours apart.

Some cats do well with constant access to food, a diet called free-feeding, but free-feeding can lead to overeating. You also shouldn't free-feed with wet food. Wet food that's been left out can attract bacteria and pests.

Wet food has high moisture content and helps with hydration. It has many flavors that can appeal to a picky cat.

Wet food is generally more expensive, though. Dry food tends to be more affordable and stays fresh. Unfortunately, a dry food diet can make it difficult for your cat to stay hydrated and digest their meals.

Cats are picky, and their dietary needs will change as they age. As your American Bobtail gets older, consult your vet to make sure their diet has the nutrients they need.

You may want to give your Bobtail treats, but treats are like junk food. Treats should account for less than 15% of their daily calories.

Exercise and activity needs. American Bobtails have a moderate amount of energy that they use to play their own games. You can spend time with your cat by:

  • Playing hide-and-seek
  • Taking them on walks
  • Playing fetch

Indoor vs. outdoor cats. American Bobtails love looking out the window or going on walks. You shouldn't let them roam freely outside, though, despite their love of the outdoors. 

Cats will hunt rodents and small birds when left outside. This hunting can hurt local ecosystems and expose your cat to harmful diseases.

If you take your American Bobtail outside, take them out on a leash. You can engage their instinctive, predatory behaviors inside through small toys that they can "hunt".

Flea, tick, and heartworm prevention. Your American Bobtail needs protection from fleas, ticks, and heartworms even if they spend all their time indoors. Fleas can enter your home through your yard, visitors, or by nesting in your carpet.

There are many flea preventatives available, though. You and your vet can determine which is best for your Bobtail.

Ticks are a problem for cats who spend time outdoors. If your American Bobtail spends time outside, consider using a tick preventative.

Infected mosquitoes can transmit heartworms when they bite your cat. Heartworms don’t infect cats as much as dogs, but they aren't immune.

Heartworm disease in cats is different than in dogs, so diagnosing it is challenging. There are also no approved drug treatments for heartworm disease in cats yet.

Unfortunately, heartworms can be deadly. Consult your vet about heartworm infections in your area, available preventives, and heartworm tests at your Bobtail's routine vet visits.

Vet visits. American Bobtail kittens need multiple vet visits during their first few months to track their development, provide a core set of vaccinations, and have them spayed or neutered. 

American Bobtail get vaccines against conditions like rabies and feline leukemia virus (FeLV). 

Adult Bobtails need an annual visit. The visits should focus on: 

  • Updating vaccines
  • Disease prevention
  • Weight management

Senior American Bobtails need two or more visits per year. Your vet will monitor aging symptoms and do regular exams and lab work to catch developing diseases.

American Bobtails are healthy cats. Purebred cats may be more susceptible to genetic conditions that affect their lower body because of their unique short tail.

Spine and Hip problems. The Bobtail’s tail results from a genetic mutation. While typically harmless, this mutation might make your Bobtail susceptible to diseases of their spine, hips, or nerves.

A responsible breeder will avoid breeding Bobtails with diseases like hip dysplasia or spina bifida to prevent hereditary diseases. Talk to your vet if you have concerns about your cat’s spine and hip health.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). The most common feline heart disease is HCM. It causes the heart's walls to thicken and the heart to pump blood less efficiently.

There's no preventable cause of HCM. Most cases are genetic, which can cause problems at any age. 

Bobtails with HCM don't usually show symptoms. Visible symptoms are severe, including lethargy and difficulty breathing.

Treatments aim to relieve symptoms like regulating your cat's heart rate. There's no cure for HCM. 

Feline dental disease. More than half of cats 4 years and older have a kind of dental disease. Many dental diseases are highly preventable and treatable, though.

Most dental diseases start with gingivitis and progress to periodontitis. If your American Bobtail has a dental disease, the pain in their mouth may cause them to stop eating.

You can help protect your Bobtail from dental diseases through good dental hygiene, using the methods previously mentioned. Professional cleanings can treat mild problems like gingivitis and periodontitis.

Professional cleanings or at-home hygiene won't treat severe problems. Severe dental diseases like tooth resorption typically necessitate tooth extractions.

Other common conditions. Other common conditions that most cats can get include:

  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Upper respiratory infections

Are they good with other pets? American Bobtails typically get along well with other pets, including dogs.

Are they good with kids? Bobtails are family cats. They do well around children.

Are they allergenic? American Bobtails tend to be heavy shedders. They can cause a flare-up in people with cat allergies

In the late 1960s, a traveling couple stumbled upon a unique tabby kitten with a short, stubby tail. John and Brenda Sanders found the cat in Arizona while on vacation, named him Yodi, and took him back to Iowa.

Though the young couple discovered the cat they named Yodi, these short-tail cats have been in North America for generations.

Yodi met the Sanders's other cat, a non-pedigreed cat named Mishi. The two cats fell in love and brought a unique litter of kittens into the world.

The kittens had Yodi's short tail and Mishi's loving personality. Kitten-loving friends of the Sanders saw potential in this unique litter.

Mindy Shultz and Charlotte Bentley bred the kittens, and the first American Bobtails were born.

The short tail of the Bobtails is part of their genes. Breeders previously used feral cats with the gene in their stock, but that practice has fallen out of popularity.

There aren't any pedigreed cats in the American' Bobtail's ancestry. A large gene pool contributes to the breed's range of appearance.

There are other Bobtail breeds around the world, like the Asian Bobtail. Surprisingly, these Bobtail breeds aren't related. The gene that makes the American Bobtail's tail short isn't the same gene that the Asian Bobtails have. 

Currently, American Bobtails are becoming popular with therapists as therapy animals. The breed seems to be sensitive to humans and their emotions.