What To Know About a Kurilian Bobtail


In this Article

  • Characteristics of a Kurilian Bobtail
  • Caring for a Kurilian Bobtail
  • Health Problems to Watch for With a Kurilian Bobtail
  • Special Considerations for a Kurilian Bobtail
  • History of Kurilian Bobtails

Kurilian Bobtails are a unique, natural cat breed. They originated hundreds of years ago near an archipelago that’s made up of volcanic islands owned by both Russia and Japan. They get their name from this group of islands, known as the Kuril Islands.  

These cats are strong, outgoing, and rare in the west. There are some in North America, but you’re much more likely to encounter one in Europe. 

Characteristics of a Kurilian Bobtail

Body size. The Kurilian Bobtail size is larger than some cat breeds. They’re generally classified as medium to large animals. The males tend to be noticeably larger than the females. 

Healthy females weigh an average of 8 to 11 pounds. Healthy males can weigh up to 15 pounds. Make sure to talk to your veterinarian if you’re concerned that your cat is too far under or overweight. 

Body shape. Kurilian Bobtails are unique looking cats. Their body types are described as semi-cobby. This means that they have big bones and thick builds with broad chests. 

Their legs are moderately long. The back legs are slightly longer than the front legs. They end in rounded paws. 

Other Kurilian Bobtail characteristics include large, wedge-shaped heads topped by triangular ears that are medium in size. The ears should slope forward ever so slightly. 

The tail is one of the most distinct features of this breed. Their bobtails are the result of a naturally occurring mutation. They’re all short, but each cat’s tail is unique — a lot like human fingerprints. You won’t find two Kurilian Bobtails with the exact same tail. 

The tails don’t all include the same number of vertebrae. The number can range anywhere from two to ten vertebrae. 

A large number of kinks throughout the vertebrae twist the tail into many different directions. The tails can take on many different shapes, like whisps, spirals, and snags.  

Lifespan. The Kurilian Bobtail lifespan is relatively long for a cat breed. They can live an average of 15 to 20 years. You should be prepared for well over a decade with your pet, especially if you adopt them when they’re still a kitten. 

Coat. Kurilian Bobtails have soft, silky coats. There are short- and longhaired varieties. The longhaired varieties tend to have shorter undercoats too. 

The coats are reasonably thick but shouldn’t feel plush to the touch. They can come in a wide range of colors and patterns. They can be solid colored, tabbies, have white patches, and even have silvery highlights. Examples of traditional colors include: 

  • White 
  • Brown
  • Red
  • Cream

Eyes. Kurilian Bobtails have walnut-shaped eyes. This means that they’re ovalish on top and rounded at the bottom. They’re reasonably large and placed about one eye width apart. The colors can vary but should be clear and brilliant. Some coat colors will come with blue eyes. But, in general, the eye color isn’t dependent on the coat color. 

Personality. Kurilian Bobtails have independent but lovable personalities. They’re clever cats that spent a large part of their history fending for themselves on small islands. This makes them very inquisitive. 

They’re fantastic mousers but are never aggressive with their families. Instead these cats become gentle, trusting companions. Your cat will love to snuggle in your lap and cuddle up with you in bed as often as they can. 

Caring for a Kurilian Bobtail

Grooming. Kurilian Bobtails are easy to groom. The coats of both the short- and longhaired varieties don’t easily form mats and tangles. 

The cats do shed. You can brush them occasionally to remove dead hairs. Kurilian Bobtails aren’t hypoallergenic. 

You shouldn’t need to bathe your cat because they’re great at cleaning themselves. The only time that you’ll need to give them a bath is if they get exceptionally dirty, sticky, or smelly. 

Regularly check their eyes and ears for dirt and debris. You can clean them out with soft cloths, cotton balls, and cat-safe cleaners. Consult your veterinarian for the best products to use. Never use cotton swabs in your cat’s ears. 

Trim their nails every few weeks to complete your cat’s grooming routine. 

Feeding. You should consult your veterinarian for the most accurate feeding advice for your particular pet. In general, you need to make sure that you’re tailoring your cat’s diet to their stage of life and activity level. Cats at different ages have unique nutritional needs. Cats that are less active don’t need as much food as energetic ones. 

Make sure that your pet has access to clean, fresh water at all times. Some cats may struggle to get enough to drink. To get your cat to drink more water you can keep water dishes in multiple locations or try using a flowing fountain. Make sure to fill your dishes up to the rim because many cats don’t like having their whiskers touch the edges when they drink. 

Exercise and mental stimulation. Kurilian Bobtails are an active breed. They love playing. Have toys out for them at all times and make sure to engage with them on a regular basis. 

Playing with your cat engages them both mentally and physically. These cats are avid hunters and will get a lot of entertainment out of finding a stray mouse or other rodent. 

Veterinary visits, medications, and immunizations. Your veterinarian is the best person to determine all of the vaccinations that your pet needs, but all cats should get a core set. 

This includes vaccinations for:

  • Feline distemper
  • Feline herpes virus
  • Calicivirus
  • Rabies

You should also discuss noncore vaccinations with your veterinarian to see if they’re right for your pet. For cats, these can include vaccinations for problems like feline leukemia: 

All cats are susceptible to flea infestations. Oral and skin-based applications are available from your veterinarian or other distributors. You should follow the directions for these very specifically. Use them at any time of year that your cat needs them. 

Both cats and dogs can get heartworms. Unfortunately, there isn’t a treatment for heartworms in cats. This means that your best bet is prevention. Have your veterinarian check your cat for signs of heartworms on an annual basis. Also have your cat take a preventative that your veterinarian recommends.

Health Problems to Watch for With a Kurilian Bobtail

Kurilian Bobtails don’t have any known breed-specific problems. They’re thought to be a very healthy breed. 

There’s very little data on the health of Kurilian Bobtails in particular. You should make sure that your cat receives annual checkups with a veterinarian. This is the best way to catch conditions early and ensure that your cat lives their happiest, healthiest life. 

The one specific Kurilian Bobtail health issue to keep in mind is a problem that’s been noted in a similar breed of cats, called Manx cats. In Manx cats, the mutation that causes their tails to be short and bobbed also damages their spines. It can lead to harmful developmental and neurological problems. 

Similar problems have been noted in other bobtailed breeds but not the Kurilian Bobtail in particular. More data is needed before we fully understand the health problems present in this breed. 

Special Considerations for a Kurilian Bobtail

One thing to keep in mind if you have a Kurilian Bobtail at home is that they love to survey the world from above. These cats enjoy climbing and will try to find the highest places in your house to perch. If you provide them with a high-up place to sit, it could greatly increase their happiness.  

These cats are great pets in a wide variety of homes. They’re good with children, other cats, and cat-friendly dogs. Like most pets, early socialization will help them feel comfortable interacting with a wide array of people and animals.  

History of Kurilian Bobtails

No one knows the exact origins of the Kurilian Bobtail. The cats are naturally found in a handful of areas in the East, including: 

  • The Kuril islands — a spread of 56 volcanic islands that are claimed by both Russia and Japan
  • The Sakhalin island — claimed by Russia
  • Russia’s Kamchatka peninsula 

Russians claim that they’ve seen short-tailed cats on these islands for at least 200 years. The cats may be related to the Japanese Bobtail, which is where their short tails may have originated { Europetnet: “Kurilian Bobtail.”}. But their tails could also be a result of an independent, naturally occurring mutation that occurred at some point in the history of these island cats. Future genetic research could help to pinpoint the exact origins of this breed. 

By the mid 19th century, Russians were enthusiastically distributing these cats throughout the country because of their fantastic hunting abilities. This greatly helped to spread awareness of this breed and increased their popularity around the world. 

Despite its age, the breed isn’t recognized by all of the popular international cat organizations. For example, The International Cat Association (TICA) awarded Kurilian Bobtails championship status in 2012. They’re one of only 13 natural breeds recognized by TICA. But the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) doesn’t acknowledge this breed at all.

They’ve become an increasingly popular pet throughout Europe. But there are currently less than 100 registered Kurilian Bobtails in the U.S. If you’re looking to adopt one of these kittens, you may have a difficult time finding a good breeder.  

Show Sources

Photo Credits:

1. maria zheleznova / Getty Images


American Heartworm Society: “Heartworm in Cats.”

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: “Cat Grooming Tips.” 

Catonsville Cat Clinic: “What Breed Is My Cat?”

Cornell Feline Health Center: “Feline Vaccines: Benefits and Risks,” “Fleas.” 

Europetnet: “Kurilian Bobtail.” 

The International Cat Association: “Kurilian Bobtail Breed,” “Kurilian Bobtail Breed Group (KB/KBL).” 

International Cat Care: “Kurilian Bobtail.” 

VCA Animal Hospitals: “Nutrition – General Feeding Guidelines for Cats.”

Wisdom Panel: “Cat Breeds/Kurilian Bobtail.”

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