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The Curious Case of the Cat With No Tail

May 23, 1985

DOUGLAS, Isle of Man (AP) _ The tailless Manx cat ends with the unsettling abruptness of a sawed-off shotgun, but makes up for this anatomical shortage in an abundance of love and loyalty.

This curious feline has long fascinated pet lovers, and the absence of its rear appendage is the stuff of legend.

Its tail got caught in the doors of Noah’s Ark. It’s part cat, part rabbit. It escaped minus its tail from a Spanish shipwreck and threw a litter on this little island in the Irish Sea. Viking invaders cut off the tails to adorn their helmets...

The boring truth, of course, is that it is a genetic defect enhanced by inbreeding on the tiny Isle of Man which gave it its name.

Manx cats are recognized as a distinct breed by the keepers of the pedigree books, and are highly rated for loyalty and friendliness.

Although they are bred in the United States and Britain as well as at the Manx Cattery in Douglas, the capital of the Isle of Man, the islanders regard it as a uniquely Manx species.

″To me they are a symbol of this island,″ says Peter Dunn, who is in overall charge of the Manx Cattery. ″The Isle of Man has always been somewhat independent-minded. It stands up for its apartness, and so does the Manx Cat.″

″Any fool can breed a Siamese or a Persian, but a Manx is something else,″ says Iris Burgess, who breeds Manx Cats in northern England. ″You can’t define them. They just are.″

It’s not enough just to have no tail, explains Claire Uren, who runs the Manx Cattery. If it has a bump where its tail should be it’s a Stumpy, and thus of inferior breed. The real thing has a small depression at the base of the spine, covered with a tuft of hair. Then it is a Rumpy and can sell for $100 or more.

Any cat can have tailless kittens. But to qualify as Manxes they must have long hind legs, a double coat, a tall and compact build and ″absolutely no tail at all,″ says Mrs. Uren.

Roughly 10 percent of the island’s cats are tailless, and about 30 a year are raised at the Cattery, mostly for export.

J.M.W. Turner, the 19th-century English painter, was reputed to own several Manx cats. More recently, says Dunn, an order for a pure-bred Manx reached the cattery from no less a personage than Sheik Ahmed Zaki Yamani, the Saudi oil minister.

Edward Lear, the Victorian nonsense poet, had a tailless cat named Foss. But Foss was no Manx. He was cut short by Lear’s butler who believed Foss wouldn’t stray far from the house where he had lost his tail.

Of course, cutting off the tail is blatant cheating, and Mrs. Burgess says nothing annoys her more than someone casting a critical eye over her seven Manxes and asking at what age they had their tails amputated.

The agility of the Manx disproves the notion that cats need tails to keep their balance, and to signal anger. ″You know when a Manx is angry,″ says Mrs. Burgess, ″because you can see it in his face.

″They’re not like ordinary cats who only condescend to come to you if it suits them,″ she says. ″Manxes are rather like little dogs. My husband says that until you’ve been owned by a Manx you don’t know what a cat is.″

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