Purpose of this cat mutilation

I just got back from Japan about a week ago, and while I was there, I noticed something interesting at the Imperial Palace in Kyoto. There were a lot of cats around this one shrine within the confines, and a number of them had the tip of their left ear nipped off, and the tip of their tails bent and twisted. At first, I thought the one cat had gotten into a fight when it was young and this was the repercussions, but then I noticed at least two more with the exact same physical deformities, and they didn’t look accidental. Is there a reason for this? Some sort of branding, perhaps?

The ear I don’t know about, but the tail is a breed characteristic (the breed is called the Japanese Bobtail IIRC). Perhaps the ear is also a breed characteristic.

Not sure if this applies as a japanese bobtail has a ‘powder puff’ type tail, whereas the original post seems to be referring to a normal type tail with the tip bent.

It’s possible that the tail kink is a genetic trait. For example, it’s very common for Siamese cats (particularly those not well-bred) to have a kink in the tail (common enough that it’s considered a fault in the CFA breed standard). I’ve never heard of this trait in any other type of cat, though, so I may be completely wrong here.

No clue about the ear thing.

In the U.S., anytime a feral cat is neutered or spayed, the shelter or vet will “tip” the left ear. It’s a sign that that cat has already been neutered, so that if it’s trapped again it will not be put through anesthesia, only to discover that the surgery was previously done. These cats around the Palace don’t sound like they’re someone’s pets - maybe they do the same thing in Japan?

I saw an old documentary on cats and it mentioned the bent tailed cats in Japan. They are supposedly good luck because the bend let royal ladies use the tail to hold their rings. And for the life of me, I can’t find a link. I’ll keep looking!

It would certainly be good luck for the enterprising peasant who trains the cats to run home as soon as they have had the valuables hung on their tails :wink:

We have three cats in our household, and after watching their activities I cannot imagine a less stable location for your ring than on a cat’s tail.

“What is it, my dear?”

“My ring, it’s GONE. It was on Hana-san’s tail and now it’s GONE.”

“Well, think. Where has Hana-san been?”


(Curiously, the ring-keeper by our kitchen sink is in the form of a cat’s tail.)

OK this page talks about oriental cats guarding temples and siamese having bent tails.

I never knew about the ear nip/“already been neutered” thing before, that’s really interesting.

And just for the record, none of the cats were siamese. They were just plain ol’, run of the mill cats (one was an orange tabby, one a brown and white, the other a dark grey and brown), yet they all had the same traits.