I noticed in Phnom Penh that many of the cats had almost no tails, just little stubs, or else had funny little bent tails.
The three kittens who live here, and who are so delightful to watch, and such good company, are pictured here.
One of the three has a ‘normal’ long tail, the other two have short or broken/crooked tails.
So I asked my husband to look it up for me over dinner. Here is a link to the article he found which was full of interesting information about history, archeology, cultural customs and genetics.
This is part of what it said about the tails:
‘… Arnaud Demarti, a French veterinarian who runs Agrovet, one of the largest veterinarian clinics in Phnom Penh, believes the short or crooked tails of Cambodian domestic felines can be blamed on a recessive gene.
“Two cats with a broken tail can only have a kitten with a broken tail. But a male cat with a normal tail can still have kittens with malformed tails,” he explained. He estimated that 80 per cent of cats born in the city have “a tail problem”.
“It’s rare to find a cat with a normal tail,” he said.
Demarti believes the Cambodian cats are their own, yet unnamed, breed of cats. He also said that the cats with short tails in Thailand most likely carry the same gene as cats in Cambodia.
But Marianne Clark, the secretary of the Japanese Bobtail Breeders Society in the United States, said short-tailed cats in Southeast Asia were most likely Japanese bobtails.
Japanese bobtails (which were introduced to the US from Japan at the end of the Second World War) were brought to Japan from China by Buddhist monks about 1,300 years ago. The monks kept cats to protect their religious scrolls, which were written on rice paper, from rodents in the temples.
“This can explain why there are bobtails throughout Asia. The monks brought bobtailed cats with them,” Clark wrote in an email.
There’s no doubt that Chinese travellers visited Southeast Asia, including Cambodia, as far back as the time of Angkor.
But Leslie Lyons, a geneticist at the University of Missouri in the US who specialises in felines, said we couldn’t be sure about Cambodian cats just yet.
“We have no way of knowing unless someone got some DNA and tested them for the manx mutation as a starter,” she wrote in an email.
“They could be manx [stub-tailed cats from the Isle of Man], could be Japanese bobtail, a new variant at either gene, or a whole new gene.”
Lyons said that a simple DNA test could identify whether a cat was a manx while bobtail cats could be identified by counting their vertebrae in an x-ray.
However, it appears no one has analysed the DNA or the x-rays of any short-tailed cats from Cambodia or any of the neighbouring Southeast Asian nations.’
Perhaps Governments and Universities in SE Asia have more important things to do, unlike me…
One last extract from the article:
‘Cats also play a role in Cambodian house-warming traditions. To bring good luck to the inhabitants of a new house, the woman of the house must walk around the dwelling three times with a female cat in her arms, Sokrithy said.
Finally, cats – especially females with three-colored fur – have a special significance to the Royal Palace. Such cats are used in the kings’ coronation ceremonies, and are believed to bring prosperity to the entire Cambodian nation.
At King Norodom Sihamoni’s coronation in 2004, a cat was carried up the red carpeted steps of the Royal Palace by the king’s entourage…’
After dinner I stood watching the kittens play, along with some Dutch people. They told me about a show on Dutch television where kittens live in a kind of giant dollshouse… and that’s it. It was made for adults, especially for people suffering from burn out. I couldn’t find the Dutch one but I found this Icelandic made one. Presumably it’s franchised, unless more than one production team came up with the idea for a reality tv show about kittens living in a giant dollshouse?
Thank you very much for reading
All the best