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The Manx is a large British Shorthaired variety of cat from the Isle of Man, off the North West Coast of England, famous for its lack of tail, and known as a 'stubbin' or 'kayt Manninagh' in the Manx language. Despite being native to Britain, numbers of Manx cats have diminished dramatically here, and in 2010 only 8 kittens in total were registered with the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy. Manx cats are an icon of the Isle of Man and frequently appear on its stamps, in its tourist advertising campaigns and as a symbol of the local Council, as well on local commemorative crown coins.
This breed is thought to have been in evidence before the 1700s, and today's Manx cat is thought to be the result of spontaneous mutation, probably due to inbreeding on a small isolated island, causing kittens to be born without the normal vertebrae that usually form a cat's tail. Of course there are several legends that suggest otherwise - one says that when the rains came down Noah accidentally shut the door of the ark on a cat's tail, and another says that mother cats used to bite off their kittens' tails to stop the Norse invaders snatching them away to decorate their helmets! However, it seems unlikely that the Manx cat originated on such a small island and it was suggested by a Mr Gambier Bolton writing in the late 1800s that one of the ships of the Spanish Armada ran aground on Spanish Rock, close to the Manx shore, and on board were several tailless cats collected by the Captain on his travels to the middle East. The cats supposedly swam to the rock and then onto the island at low tide, and he alleges that the so-called Manx cats found in Britain, Europe and America are descended from them. Whatever the background, and nobody knows for sure, they were exhibited at the first British cat show at Crystal Palace in 1871 when there were six different varieties of Manx cats, and they were very popular up until the beginning of the First World War when the numbers of all pedigree cats dwindled significantly.
It is famous as being a tail-less variety, although not all Manx cats are completely without a tail - those that fall into this category are described as 'Rumpies', but there are also 'Risers' (with a barely visible stump at the base of the spine), 'Stumpies' with a short stump of a tail, and 'Tailies' or 'Longies' with a short visible tail. The other distinguishing feature of this breed, and doubtless linked to the lack of a conventional tail, is its lolloping 'bunny hop' gait. The traditional Manx was rangier than today's Manx, which is known for its round shape and compact solid body. The double coat shows a well-padded quality arising from a short, very thick undercoat and slightly longer overcoat. In show cats, far more emphasis is given to the coat quality than the colour or markings, which are only taken into account if all other things are equal, and all colours and patterns are acceptable apart from the 'pointed' pattern such in the Siamese. The eyes are large and round, the colour in accordance with the coat colour. This breed is basically a variation on the British Shorthair, and indeed, it competes in the British Shorthair section at UK cat shows.
The Manx is known as a cat with a very loveable personality, sometimes nicknamed the 'dog cat' because of it endearing loyalty to its human companions, although it can be quite shy with strangers. The devoted owners of Manx cats claim that they can be trained to understand simple commands in much the same way as a dog can, and quite often the Manx will attach themselves to one particular human in the household. It is a very intelligent, playful breed that loves retrieving objects thrown for it and will often follow its owners wherever they go. Like most other breeds of cat, the Manx will appreciate feline company, but ideally with another Manx or cat of similar calm temperament such as a British Shorthair. They generally get on with cat-tolerant dogs, and make ideal family pets. They have a quite unique voice unlike a traditional meow, which can sound like a long grunt or sometimes more of a chirrup, although they are not particularly vocal cats.
The modern Manx from a good reputable breeder can often live well into the upper teens. However, there is an genetic defect liked to the tailless gene that can occasionally cause something called the Manx Syndrome (which can cause severe bowel and/or bladder dysfunction, as well as difficulty in walking), although this will generally become apparent by the age of four months, which is why it is so important to buy a kitten of this breed from a very reputable breeder who will recognise the signs and not sell such a kitten. This tends to happen after several generations of rumpy (completely tailless) to rumpy breeding, and good breeders will occasionally use Manx with a more discernable tail in order to avoid this defect. In common with other cats, they need annual vaccination boosters against the common feline ailments of flu and enteritis, as well as against Feline Leukaemia if they go outdoors. However, it is as well to be aware if the Manx is allowed out of doors that it is descended from natural hunting cats, and they are said to be excellent mousers!
Caring for a Manx
Manx are not known to be fussy eaters and will eat most good quality proprietary brands of cat food, but will also enjoy treats of cooked chicken, ham and grated cheese. However, cows' milk will probably give them a stomach upset, and a bowl of water should always be available. This shorthaired breed needs very little grooming apart from regular stroking and gentle brushing, which they will love, plus a weekly comb through to remove the more stubborn dead hairs to help avoid hairballs.
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