By Joanne Stone and Lisa Franklin
The courage of a lion, strength of a bear, wisdom of the ages, heart of a child - and a bowling ball on legs. These are all phrases commonly used to describe one of the more unique breeds of cat, the Manx. CFA Manx are bred to be medium size cats, males averaging between 10 and 12 pounds, females between 8 and 10. When viewed from any angle, the Manx should appear round. The body will be shorter than that of the average cat, the hind legs a bit longer, and the back will form a natural arch when standing.
Their legs are thick and stocky, rather than long and thin like the legs of a Siamese. Manx should weigh more than they might appear. It is clear to see why the Manx is sometimes called a bowling ball with legs. A sense of strength, power, and independence is the impression this breed gives, but the Manx is a true "pussy-cat" in every sense of the word.
A thick, plush, double coat is one quality unique to the Manx. Upon close examination, the shorthaired Manx will have a coat consisting of somewhat hard guard or top hairs combined with a dense, soft undercoat. This gives the cat a well-padded feel and provides superior protection against the elements in the feral state. The longhaired Manx will have a softer, flowing coat, which includes britches and a ruff around the neck. Most longhairs have ear tufts.
Any color is acceptable except those which show evidence of hybridization such as chocolate brown or colorpoints like a Siamese. These colors do not naturally occur in the Manx gene pool. Like many other cat breeds, the Manx can sport one of two tabby coat patterns: classic (round, circular markings), mackerel (vertical stripes on the body), as well as solids and patterns such as calico or tortoiseshell.
The lack of tail is perhaps the most recognized and unique characteristic of a Manx but not all Manx are completely tailless, i.e, no tail vertebrae, a slight hollow where the tail might otherwise start (rumpy). They may be born with 1 or 2 tail vertebrae (riser), 3+ vertebrae (stubby) where movement is back and forth as well as up and down, or regular long tails. Even if full-tailed, these cats are every bit as much a Manx as their rumpy counterparts, having the Manx body, coat characteristics, personality and heritage. The perfect show Manx, however, must be born without a tail and the showing of a docked tailed Manx is against CFA Show Rules. It is interesting to note that although you will find an occasional kink in the stub or the tail of a Manx, you seldom find the curls and twists that occur in some other breeds
Manx are fun loving creatures. They like to retrieve (you will tire of the game long before they will), play in water, and carry things around in their mouth. They will bring you a toy when you are in bed, reading, or doing something where you would rather not be bothered and try in every manner known to them to get you to join in their games. That failing, they will go off to finish the game alone, seemingly forgetting that the original intent had been play for two. These are rather dog-like characteristics and, as a matter of fact, Manx tend to get along well with dogs and are often compared to them. It is not unusual to find them napping close together or actually chasing each other about the house in a friendly game of tag. It is quite a sight to see a Manx scurry from a room with a dog in hot pursuit only to return a few moments later hot on the heels of its canine playmate.
These cats attach themselves to their human family with uncanny devotion, often claiming one individual over the others as their special friend. The bond the Manx forms with their human families can be so strong that it is not uncommon to find them somewhat wary of strangers who come to the home. A Manx may well sit back and take stock of these newcomers before deciding that all is well.
The personality of a Manx also makes them a perfect choice for families who have children. They are very patient and seem to know that the young human who is perhaps tugging a bit too hard at an ear or holding a bit too tight around the middle needs to be tolerated. Rather than scratching or biting, a Manx will usually just squirm to get away and, once free, return to the child as if to give him another chance. By the same token, a Manx will know to stay clear of a child who is constantly overaggressive toward it. This would be a clue to the parent that their child may need a little more schooling in the proper way to handle pets.
Generally not loud cats, quiet chirps, trills or purrs, and gentle head bumps are the favored methods of communication for a Manx. They are not in-your-face cats and usually conduct themselves with dignity, preferring a warm lap to perching on your head or the top of the curtain rod. This is not to say, however, that Manx do not have their momentary lapses. Many owners will tell stories of Manx who are calmly walking across a room at one moment, only to jump straight up and race about the house the next for no apparent reason. The hour of ten in the evening also seems to hold some special significance for the Manx cat. It is at this time that many Manx will revert to kittenhood for a few minutes, casting aside all resemblance of adulthood, running, chasing, and acting like clowns. Why this hour? No one knows. Some speculate that it is a final release of energy before bedding down for the night. Others believe the behavior stems back to the Isle of Man, fairies, and all that made a Manx a Manx. We may never know. The Manx are not telling.
Although Manx do shed, grooming is really not a problem and shorthair Manx are sometimes referred to as Wash and Wear Cats. All cats will benefit from grooming and attention should be paid to their ears and their nails. The longhair Manx will, by nature of its coat, require a bit more upkeep than the shorthair but the texture of this coat makes it much less likely to mat than the coat of most longhair breeds.
For the longhair Manx, a wide tooth comb works best for the grooming sessions, paying particular attention to the areas under the legs and to the sides of the face as this will be the first place mats may form. A thorough combing every few days will keep this coat in top shape. For the shorthair Manx, both a brush or comb will do and your cat will come to look forward to these sessions.
With few exceptions, bathing a Manx is not a problem. This could be a result of their natural affinity for water. The frequency of baths will depend on the cat's needs. Show cats are bathed weekly whereas a family pet may need a bath once a year or less. Be sure and use the type of shampoo to suit the specific needs of your Manx and be certain to use products formulated for use on cats. The use of dog products on your Manx could prove disastrous. It is interesting to note that many people with allergies to cats are able to tolerate a Manx in the home. If you suffer from such allergies, a Manx may very well be the breed for you.
As mentioned before, the Manx cat is an old, natural breed of cat. The earlier CFA Stud Book shows that the Manx was recognized as a CFA breed as far back as the 1920s. At first, the Cat Fanciers' Association recognized only shorthaired Manx. The first CFA Manx Grand Champion was an Isle of Man import that was shown in the 1950s and became a Grand Champion in 1958. It was not until 1989 that CFA officially recognized the longhaired Manx, then called a Cymric (pronounced Kim-ric). Several years later, the Manx Breed Council and the Cymric Breed Council asked CFA for longhaired Manx status which was approved in May of 1994.
The tail mutation was first recorded on the Isle of Man in the sixteenth century, where sailing ships from many countries docked over a course of several hundred years. The lack of tail makes the Manx a breed steeped in folklore. One story tells of how, in the old days, the Warriors on the Isle trimmed their helmets with the long tails of cats. Over time the mama cats, fearing for the safety of their kittens, began gently chewing off the tails of their newborns until all that remained on the Isle of Man were tailless cats.
Another tells of how a tailless cat swam to shore from a ship belonging to the Spanish Armada that was wrecked on a rock near the Isle of Man. Upon reaching the Isle he became the ancestor of all tailless cats there and also the reason that most Manx like water to this day.
Perhaps the most endearing of these legends is the one in which the tail of the late arriving cat gets caught in the door of the Ark as Noah is closing it for the final time. It is most likely that the original mutated cat stemmed from British Shorthair, because cats were so commonly kept on ships for rodent control and companionship.
In any case, the Manx is historically regarded as a product of the Isle of Man which is an almond shaped island measuring about 10 by 30 miles in size and laying in the Irish Sea between Ireland and England. Being of limited size, with most of the cats living and breeding in that relatively restricted area of land, eventually all free roaming cats carried the gene that limited the length of tail. Today's Manx are direct descendants of these Isle of Man cats. Careful breeding over the years has preserved and enhanced this breeds unique characteristics.
It is a joy to be owned by a Manx. A well-loved, well-cared for Manx will become an important part of any family for many years (often fifteen or more). Once they have entered your heart, you will find it hard to ever be without a Manx. These are truly cats for everyone.
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This program is supported by
The Cat Fanciers' Association, Inc.
This program is supported by The Cat Fanciers' Association, Inc.