Are Cats Popular in Japan? Terrific Research!

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There is an exciting history of cats in Japan. This country has a deep love for its animals, a passion that has been growing for thousands of years. The two cat breeds that naturally originate in this country are the Japanese Bobtail and the Kurilian Bobtail.

Cats are popular in Japan nowadays. Cats are a big part of Japanese families and are cared for as their own children. The most popular cat breed in Japan is the Japanese Bobtail. This cat is native to Japan and is the oldest cat breed to come from this country.

When walking the streets of this country, you can see cats everywhere you go. The domestic cat does not originally come from Japan but was brought to this country many years ago in 538 AD. 

Cats are deeply loved by Japanese people but are also feared due to folklore history.  Around Japan, there are many stray cats; these are not the same as the Japanese wildcat (Yama-Neko) species.


History of cats in Japan

Cats did not originate from Japan but are believed to come from China or Korea in 538 AD. 

They were brought to Japan and used by Buddhist Monks to protect the rice paper scrollsin the temples from rats. They were allowed to roam the streets to protect the silkworm population from rodents. 

Cats were also kept as pets by the Emperor and were seen as prized possessions. 

The first Japanese confirmed record of cats in Japan is from a journal entry by Emperor Uda in 889 AD. It was a black colored cat, and from the beginning, it is known to have originated from China.

The first cat name that was recorded belonged to Emperor Ichijo between the years 867-931 AD in Japan. 

The first cat’s name was Myobu no Otodo meaning Chief Lady in waiting. The ladies in waiting looked after this cat, and it was seen as a special ranked cat in the courts.

Initially, cats were seen and traded as priceless possessions like gold, gems, and silk. Cats, unlike these possessions, were able to multiply and soon were found all over Japan. 

Once cats became more common in Japan, they weren’t thought of as exotic animals to be imported into the country anymore.

Japanese Bobtail

Cat Folklore and Cat Legends In Japan

Cats are mentioned in many Japanese folklores. The beliefs mentioned in these stories resulted in cats being feared and seen as untrustworthy.

These legends involve magical, mysterious cats with supernatural powers and shapeshifting abilities.

The length of a cat’s tail is an essential part of these stories where a short-tailed cat is seen a highly favorable while long-tailed cats are suspected of having an evil spirit known as nekomata.

A legend of cats with a short tail comes from a story of a cat sleeping. This cat’s long tail caught on fire, causing it to run through the town. This resulted in the whole town caching lite and falling to ashes. After this, the Emperor declared that all cats must have short tails.

The Maneki Neko (“beckoning cat” or known as the “Lucky Cat”) is a statue of a cat with its paw raised; this was an illustration of the Bobtail cat. 

These statues are found in Japanese homes, restaurants, and stores, which are thought to be a good luck charm and to attract good people.

This cat’s legend comes from a story of a man who saw his cat beckoning to him. He walked towards his cat, thinking that it had a message from the gods for him. As he walked towards his cat, a large branch that could have killed him fell from a tree where he was sitting.  

Even though these legends caused fear and concern about cats, the Japanese people still loved them dearly. 

The modern-day has changed people’s beliefs, and people don’t believe these legends that used to be told of their beloved pets anymore. 

Cats In Japan Today

Dogs and cats are a big part of families in Japan. They are well looked after where some are treated like their own children would be, and in some families, they become substitutes for those who do not want to have kids. 

The statistics for the number of cats and dogs combined in Japan were found to be higher than the number of children. The statistics show the number of pets to children under 16 years old in 2009 to be 23.2 million pets to 17 million children.

Japan is not a pet-friendly country due to homes lacking big spaces and gardens, which is why cats are easier to keep. Japan has incorporated different ways to include their pets, this includes Cat Cafes, Dog Spas, and restaurants.

Cats can be found everywhere in Japan and are a big part of their culture. This includes Hello Kitty, which is a character that resembles the Japanese Bobtail, this is very popular in Japanese pop culture today. 

There are many cat cafes, popular comics, movies, TV series about cats, and cat-inspired fashion styles worn in Japan today. Fashion styles include clothing as well as headbands with cat ears to kitty bags and jewelry.

The Gotokuji Temple is a well-known tourist destination in the Setagaya ward of Tokoyo, this claims to be where the Maneki Neko originated. 

The Nyan Nyan Ji is a famous cat shrine in Kyoto; this destination has an actual cat monk with many kitty acolytes surrounding it.

Kurilian Bobtail

Popular Cat Breeds In Japan

Cats are common animals in Japan and can be seen roaming the streets throughout the country. 

As they became native to the land over the years and started breeding with other cat species, a new mutation formed. 

This mutation caused a dominant gene resulting in cats having short tails. This was due to missing tail vertebrae. 

The tails can consist of 2 to 20 vertebrae that are either shaped like a whisk, spiral, or a snag. To be considered a true bobtail, it should not be longer than 3 inches

Short tails became a common trait with cats in Japan.  Soon, cats with short tails were the only cats found roaming the streets of Japan in 1700.

Cats with short stubby tails are commonly known as Japanese cats; this is where the Japanese Bobtail and Kurilian Bobtail originate from.

Japanese Bobtail

Great Japanese Bobtail Information

The Japanese Bobtail is a domestic cat native to Japan and Southeast Asia. This breed has a short tail that resembles a rabbit tail. Japanese Bobtail cats are high-energy and quite playful.

To learn more about when cats become less playful:  Click Here.

These cats come in many colors, such as Mi-ke, vans, solid, and bi-colors. They have a tabby coat pattern, which may be spotted, mackerel, or classic. They also come in either long or short hair.

These cats are very loyal and loving to their families; they are active and very intelligent animals. Their life expectancy is about 9 to 13 years.

These cats are believed to be a lucky breed and bring happiness and prosperity to your life.Thetri-colored, Mi-ke is known to be the luckiest of the breed to own. 

The short-tailed Japanese cats were the most common cats found on the streets until after World War II when other cats were imported into the country, such as the Siamese and American Shorthair, which resulted in the short-tailed cat becoming quite rare. 

An American lady took a few of the short-tailed cats to the United States, where she started breeding them and named the breed the Japanese Bobtail. 

Kurilian Bobtail

Great Kurilian Bobtail Information

The Kurilian Bobtail originated in the Japanese Kuril Islands, the Sakhalin Island as well as the Kamchatka peninsula of Russia over 200 years ago.

This cat has semi-long or short hair, with the short hair being the original variant. 

This cat has a short fluffy tail similar to the Japanese Bobtail, an arched back with their hind legs that are slightly longer than their front legs. 

These cats are good at fishing and hunting when in the wild; this explains why they love water. Since these cats are good at being outside, owners may be interested in letting this cat go outside regularly often, such as through a cat door.

To learn more about cat doors and if they are safe:  Click Here.

This cat breed has a gentle nature; they are playful, very intelligent, and can be easily trained. They can live for up to 15 to 20 years.

Although the Japanese Bobtail is leaner, less cobby, and more angular than the Kurilian Bobtail, these two breeds are closely related.


Cats have always been loved in this nation but also feared due to traditional folk beliefs. There is a magical mystery about the cats in Japan, which comes from the stories throughout history and folklores.  

The Japanese Bobtail is a popular cat from Japan known for being lucky because of its tail length, which was from a dominant mutation formed in the breed many years ago.

Many cat breeds are found in Japan today; they are found as pets as well as strays roaming the streets. These include the famous Japanese cat breeds as well as many breeds from around the world.

Christopher Carlson

I have an Domestic Shorthair Tabby named Charlotte. She is full of energy when she isn't sleeping most of the day. I share what I learn about cats on this site.

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