Manx Cat Health Problems

The Manx cat is a tailless breed believed to have originated on the Isle of Man. However, breed historians aren't sure where the original parent cats of the breed came from. The Isle of Man was a popular stop on ocean trade routes at the time that the breed was discovered, so there's a chance that the breed could have originated elsewhere and traveled to the Isle of Man via ship.

Characteristics of the Manx Breed

The Manx cat, famously, has no tail, as a result of a naturally occurring genetic mutation. The gene that causes taillessness in Manx cats doesn't always cause a total absence of the tail. Kittens can be born with no tails, short tails or full length tails. While breeders prefer completely tailless Manx cats, most Manx cats have short, stubby tails. Kittens in the same litter may have tails of varying length.

There are both short haired and long haired Manx cats. The short haired Manx cat has a double layer coat, with a shorter under layer and a longer outer layer. Long haired Manx cats have a medium length, double layer coat.

The Manx breed is considered a rare breed, and kittens are expensive. The Manx breed also suffers from two specific health problems, Manx Syndrome and arthritis.

Manx Syndrome

Manx cats are a fairly hearty breed, though they're prone to Manx Syndrome, a spinal disorder that can occur as a result of the genetic mutation that causes taillessness. In Manx Syndrome, the tail winds up too short, leading to often fatal spinal defects. Fused vertebrae, gaps between vertebrae and spina bifida. Symptoms appear between birth and four months of age.

Symptoms of Manx Syndrome include:

  • Missing vertebrae
  • Fused vertebrae
  • Spina bifida
  • Malformed sacral bone
  • Malformed pelvic bone
  • Shortened vertebrae
  • Fecal incontinence
  • Constipation
  • Stoppage of the bowel
  • Bladder problems
  • Hind leg paralysis
  • Crippled gait

Manx Syndrome isn't as common today as it once was, thanks to the efforts of Manx breeders to eliminate this condition from the breed. Today's breeders wait until kittens are at least four months old before selling them, to ensure that they kittens aren't going to develop Manx Syndrome. 

Arthritis in the Manx Cat

Many breeders opt to dock the tails of those Manx kittens who aren't born completely tailless. Not only does this enhance the appearance of the cat and align it more closely with the breed standard, but it prevents arthritis in the vertebrae of the tail. Manx cats with partial or complete tails become vulnerable to arthritis of the tail in adulthood, and the condition may become so painful that amputation is necessary. Amputation is much more difficult and traumatizing for an adult cat than it is for a kitten, so tails are often docked at birth.

Many breeders today are beginning to feel that docking the tails of Manx kittens to prevent arthritis may be unnecessary. If you have a Manx cat or kitten with a partial or whole tail, watch for the signs of arthritis in the tail: stiffness, swelling, inflammation, heat and pain in the tail.