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Why Indonesian Cats Don't Have Tails

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It's amazing how many times this subject has come up on the Expat Forum. We've saved a number of the postings over the years ... with a wide variety of expert and not-so-expert theories ... Enjoy :)

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I need info on genetic background of cats that we see on the streets in Indonesia. I wonder if anybody would have some info or idea where I can get it. Where these cats originated from? Why they (mostly) have that short/crippled tail etc.

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I heard another theory. It says that the local cats been brought into Indonesia from Holland (by the colonialists) and than the cats (especially those later surviving on the streets etc) degenerated due to the unsuitable habitat, namely the food. There are no mice available, the rats and other kinds are not edible by cats. On the other hand, most of locals don’t like cats. So cats end up on the streets, without proper support to breed well.

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We got our kitty while living in Papua. The cats there were rumored to have originated in Australia. They too had the bent tail and came in basically two colors: black with a white spot on their chest or taffy colored. Our cat is five years old by still looks like a large kitten because she is so small. We were told the cats were brought there to help control an out of control rodent population.

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If you go to Singapore, the feral 'drain cats' have exactly the same tail kinks. When we first arrived we thought the Chinese went around with cleavers chopping the tails off!! If you look at the story of Siamese cats - they did not have straight tails but the same kinky gene. This was bred out over the generations. We have three cats, one with a stump, one with three kinks and one with a straight tail. The straight-tailed cat is actually the most intelligent, but came from a kampung family; the other two were rescued from the roads.

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In answer to your question, this is what I have found out about Indonesian cats. These small cats are not descended from domestic cats, but small jungle cats. They are cousins of true Siamese cats. Their bodies are narrow and flexible. The muzzles are square and the eyes are large in proportion to the face to aid in hunting in dense foliage. The feet are very small and the back legs longer than the front legs. These cats are great jumpers.

The reason the tails are crooked on many of the cats is because of inbreeding. It is a recessive genetic trait. City cats don't roam very far and they so they usually mate with close relatives. Cats can't read birth certificates so they don't know that the prospective mate may be a first cousin.

My personal experience with Indonesian cats is that they are much cleverer than their domestic relatives. They are very good problem solvers. When we lived in Indonesia, our cat learned to open any door that had a handle rather than a knob by jumping up, wrapping his front paws around the handle and dropping back to the floor. Then, out he went. Since I did not like him to go out, I had to attach hooks to all the outside doors to keep him in, but, of course, the staff always forgot so he went out anyway.

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The story I heard was that most of the cats in Java or even Indonesia got wiped out by some poison spread by the Japanese during occupation, for whatever reason. The rest probably got eaten by locals sick of sushi. Anyway, due to this here come the rats. Lots of them. So they imported some cats from somewhere, maybe China or even Japan, who all had bent tails because they had to sleep in very small rooms or because eating sushi gives you a bent tail. Anyway, that's how they got here, well the story goes something like that, and it was a long time ago during a long night at a restaurant in Jakarta Pusat.

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Not sure about this specific group but they have probably been around for 40-50 years starting with a male carrying this dominant trait. For example, I just returned from Key West, Florida where I toured Ernest Hemingway's home. There are 60 cats on the property all featuring a sixth toe and all descending from the original tom cat that carried this trait, given to Ernest by a visiting sea captain.

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The short or kinked tail in cats in Indonsia is simply a genetic selection. Many Indonesians believe that cats with short tails/no tails are better ratters and they will look after these cats - feeding them, etc. This genetic trait (short or kinked tails) has therefore been selected in this way.

Why do so many cats in Jakarta lack tails???

A quick net search revealed the following possible reasons, although I'd still like to see some serious scientific research on the matter.

Why Indonesian cats have no tails:

  1. Because the evil people of Indonesia cut them off. For fun.
  2. It's a genetic defect caused by inbreeding.
  3. Because the weird people of Jakarta cut them off. Fpr aesthetic purposes.
  4. Because they fall asleep on the roads and cars run over their tails.
  5. The large number of strays leads to large numbers of particularly vicious catfights, in which tails are lost.
  6. The maid shut the door on their tail.
  7. Children put elastic bands around their tails when they were kittens.
  8. Jakarta's monster rats prey on stray kittens, preferring the tail as a delicacy.
  9. An ancient queen put her wedding ring around her cat's tail for some unknown (but presumably tragic) reason. All Indonesian cats are descended from this regal (but truncated) feline. This story can be eliminated due to Lamarckian evolution being disproved in the 19th century.
  10. They want to be as cool as Hello Kitty, who has a tiny stub tail.
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