Sunday, February 13, 2011

Stumpy Tailed Cats in Indonesia

A friendly short tailed kitten

I know I am not the first tourist to ask a local What is up with the cats’ tails? on Gili Trawangan. If you have ever been to Gili Trawangan – a very small island off Lombok, Indonesia, you will have definitely noticed, and perhaps be bemused by, the strange tails that adorn the pleasant feral cats. Some are stumpy. Some are curly. Some are crooked. Some are just your average, run of the mill long and slender.
I thought about the different reasons for this. Torture? Accident? Mass accident? Diseased? Deformed? I really had no idea so asked a local.

Our Dive Master for the day, Adi, is from Lombok and lives on the island for work. I asked him about the curious cats. Yes, you are not the first to ask. Many tourists ask this. We do not cut off the tails. Cats are cute and fluffy. We do not want to harm them. They are just born that way.

So there it was. There were too many cats and kittens with deformed tails for it to be accidental.  And Gili Trawangan’s small population is too polite and relaxed to cause any harm.

Practically non-existent

Possum like curl


I decided to take this further and did some research for myself.
It seems that the cats in Indonesia and elsewhere through Asia may have descended from the Japanese bobtail breed. This, mixed with interbreeding being that some islands are very small, has increased the chances that a cat will be born with a smaller tail. So rest assured that cats with stumpy or curly tails have not been harmed, but are the result of breeding.

These photos were taken of cats in Gili Trawangen, the largest (far east) of the Gilis off Lombok.


  1. Not true. Indos cut them off, break them mangle them. Out of sheer cruelty.

  2. Hi Anonymous,
    How terrible if you have seen people torturing the cats! I hope you were able to intervene. However, I think the locals on Gili Trawangen are too kind and polite to cause harm.
    I will be sticking to the interbreeding and Japanese bob-tail cat variety claim.

  3. Hi Kylie we've just been to gili t too and my daughter wondered about cats tails. Thanks for doing the research.I agree unlikely they tortured that many cats! Cheers glen

  4. unfortunately the interbreeding theory is incorrect, upon a stroll into the locals area of the island a cat was being swung around by its tail at an alarming rate with a number of locals surrounding the so called "cat spinner" to try and catch the tortured newly stumpy tailed cat. this is a tradition that has been with the people since they inhabited the island and has not been shared with the tourists for external views upon the activity.

    1. What utter tripe, "annonymous"! No Indonesian would behave like that. Most cats in Lombok and Sulawesi have stumpy or crooked tails - not just Gili Trawangan.

  5. ^^ Where did you see that happening??? That's terrible! I went around the whole island (just the circumference) and never saw that, shocking!! Was it in the inner area??

    I did see a litter of really young kittens, perhaps only 3wks, and they all had little bob, bunny style tails, just like their super friendly mum. Lead me to conclude it was an interbred; genetic mutation too. There is a mainstream breed called Manx which are born tailless too....

  6. I lived in Brunei 10 years where I first saw stumpy-tailed cats, one of which I owned. She had a litter of kittens, most of which also had short tails but a couple had normal tails. That is typical of a characteristic which has a genetic (inherited) basis.

  7. I'm Indonesian and I know that the tails are stumpy due to genetic reasons. I've seen cats in Java and Bali with variable degree of length and curl (and owned one stumpy tailed tuxedo cat). I won't deny that some people have horrible attitude towards animals in Indonesia, but I don't think that "cat spinning" really exists as I've never even heard of it. At most, if it ever really happened, it would not be a true cultural tradition, but just some sick, sadistic, perverted people that unfortunately exists in every society.

  8. I was also trying to find the answer to this. i'm in Malaysia and had been noticing it everywhere. I first thought it was just injuries, I have seen a lot of battle worn cats here, with broken limbs and tails, wandering around the streets and marketplaces. They are strays after all and probably get into fights, stepped on and so forth. But the sheer number of stumpy tails made me look online, glad to hear there is another explanation. I think its a bit of both, genetics and injury.

  9. Hai.. I'm an animal lover lives in Jakarta.. I have 3 cats that I rescued from the street for particular reason.

    Anonymous.. you are very wrong!

    Not only in Gili Trawangan but all over Indonesia.. The local stray tail are like that. Some are curly, or stumpy, or very thin and long with very less hair.
    One of my kitten that I rescued from a flood recently have a medium stumpy tail with a little broken part on its end. The broken part is so hairy that makes the tail somehow looks like a pom-pom used by cheerleader. It is so amusing and funny though.. and i think he was born that way.

    Some reasonable explanation that I got from a friend was; The tails condition in Indonesian feral cats was happened due to improper breeding. Mostly from incest when the cats mating with their siblings or parents. when the cats stay in one territory on mating season. The genetics defect was mostly happened on tails.

  10. Every foreigner notices this!

    Tail mutations exist throughout Asia - in the Philippines, Chaina and Hong Kong as well. It has absolutely nothing to do with injury. Generally it is felt that occurs because of excessive inbreeding - however inbreeding is common all over the world and tail mutations seem to be far more common in east Asia. There is a gene inherited from Japanese bob cats that is common throughout Asia and this seems to be the cause.

  11. The last reply seems to be the most sensible explanation. Unless their genetics could have also been mixed up with the Manx tailless cat from the Isle of Man.

  12. The last reply seems to be the most sensible explanation. Unless their genetics could have also been mixed up with the Manx tailless cat from the Isle of Man.

  13. The answer to this question is that there are places in Asia where the tailless cats meet the European tailed cats, and this creates mutated tails. The cats are born this way... and this is coming from someone who once lived next to a feral cat colony in Malaysia and watched several cats give birth and raise their young under my care. I have lots of lovely videos of these tiny kittens being born with their funny tails!

  14. there is no reason for majority islamic people of Indonesia to hurt cats that bad, 'cause their religion tell them not to.

    1. Majority of indonesia are Hindu!!!! And as for islam, it is important to look after animals. There are some sick people who harm animals that are not Muslim. Your comment is stupid. Educate yourself!!!!!!

  15. Interesting! I have always wondered about this so it's great to see some insight into why. It's good to know it's not from injury but from breeding.

  16. I used to live in rural Malaysia next to a feral cat colony. I saw many kittens born, all with mutated tails. It is indeed genetic, although the genes of the father cat are more dominant in determining the exact nature of the tail mutation than the genes of the mother. For more information, see, which gives a good overview of the tail mutations.

    The writer if this article is almost correct... actually Japanese Bobtails were bred from Asian Domestic Shorthairs who only had a specific type of tail mutation. The Bobtails are therefore created by inbreeding the Asian DSH, not the other way around. The Asian DSH mutation is also unusual in that it is not linked to spina bifida or other malformations, unlike the Manx mutation, and possibly similar mutations found in America and Russia. Often then naturally arising mutations cause spinal anomalies (such mutations can occur in any breed of cat), but the Asian DSH genotype is remarkably stable in that regard.

    They are incredible cats. I had two which I took to live with me in the UK. Never had cats like them before or since. I am seriously thinking about importing some more, because they are so lovely, and far superior to British moggies in temperament, IMO!

    One theory, mentioned above, is that the mutations were caused when the tailless cats from Asia interbred with the European DSH cats, hundreds of years ago. I must say that I have not seen any evidence for this, but it is not impossible.

    The person who says this is caused by cruelty is a moron. Cruelty to cats is an offense under Islam, because of the close relationship between Mohammed and his cat Muezza. The Hadith specifically forbids cruelty of this nature... as any observant Muslim would know. I am not a Muslim, as it happens... but even I know that!

  17. The reason of this is genetical ... cats just born this way there... I was on Gili T and was talking to some europan people who live on Gili T and they said that they acctualy have seen cats get born this way...

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  19. Thanks this has also been very helpful as we were wondering the same thing whilst travelling in KL and Langkawi, the cats seem to have the same tails there too!

  20. I asked an Indonesian in Jakarta a few days ago and he told me that they tie a string around the tail of a kitten, which cuts off the circulation and the end of the tail falls off in a week or so. I asked, "WHY?" and he shrugged.

  21. My daughter in Perth WA has a one year old cat with a tail disproportionate to the rest of its body. It's thick, with a knot at the end, like it's been broken. She was told by an Indonesian that it's common in Indonesia to snap for kittens tails. Don't know the reason. But I've seen similar tails in Bali.

  22. So there is no stumped tail cats in US? Take some Asian stumped tail pairs and breed them there. Perhaps it will be new popular breed :D.

    I'm Indonesian and my house is in stray cats territory with stumped tail cats. Some of them are born in my house. The stumped tail is genetic.

    But from my observation, stray cats look has it trends. When I was child stumped or curly tails were more common than straights. Now the straights dominate my neighborhood. Few years ago tabby cats are common (including one male live in my house), especially black-grey tabby cats. Nowadays black spotted white and calico are more common. Curly tails are rather rare in my neighborhood today, though I love that tail most.

    Every time I found stray cats colonies in other neighborhood, I like to see what type dominate there. Looks vary from place to place. It's fun observation time.

    And yes, Indonesian love cats. There are many people feeding stray cats here, and lots of them aren't rich.

  23. Have you not tried the magic mushroom drinks? They have a furry like texture this is because they mix the cat tail in them as stated by a few gili locals during a local dinner and drinks towards the center of the island you can get there if you can find your way through the maze of housing.

  24. Have you not tried the magic mushroom drinks? They have a furry like texture this is because they mix the cat tail in them as stated by a few gili locals during a local dinner and drinks towards the center of the island you can get there if you can find your way through the maze of housing.

  25. It's genetic! I've seen them all over Gili T. They also exist in the USA, but it's less common. Manx cats have a genetic disorder that affects their vertebrae, leading to stumpy tails. The cats of Gili T are wonderful, but flea-infested, so keep that in mind if traveling there.

  26. It's genetic mate. Most of my cats were born like that ^^ I didn't know that it's not common because it's very common in Indonesia

  27. Some cases are caused by cat tail necrosis, I think...