The Manx Cat Myth

(Article written by Karen Weaver)

GC, GP, RW Karello's Play It Again Sam's

A neighbor or someone you know has turned up with a tailless cat. You've never seen anything like this so you inquire as to how it happened. They tell you it is a Manx cat, they got it from a shelter, SPCA or in the paper. The shelter, SPCA, vet or person in the newspaper told them it was a Manx. The breed is unique, it has no tail, hind legs longer than it's front, can hop when it runs, is very affectionate and has a high intelligence level. The breed interests you so you set out to find out more about it, perhaps get one of your own.

It's not long before you realize the breed is really unique; there aren't many Manx cats or breeders to be found, easily. You decide to search the internet, there you find web sites, breeders with various prices and loads of information. You make contact with a CFA Manx breeder who informs you the tailless cat you thought was a Manx cat might not be an actual Manx cat. This puzzles you, so you inquire further. You learn that not every tailless cat is a Manx. In fact, the genetic mutation which causes the Manx breed cat to be born without a tail can happen in "any cat" spontaneously. This happening in "any cat" does not then automatically make that cat or its offspring born without tails Manx breed cats. Shelters, SPCA's, back yard breeders and even Veterinarian's are the largest source of spreading the myth about all tailless cats being Manx.

You then learn, Manx cats are "best known" for being tailless cats however, there are fully tailed kittens born in just about every purebred, registered litter. The true Manx cat has traceable descendants back to the Isle of Man, a small island located off the coast of England. Several hundred years ago a spontaneous mutated gene carried a dominant trait which occurred at some point on the island. This mutation caused some kittens to be born without the vertebrae that form the tail of normal cats. With the passage of centuries and due to the isolation of the cats from outside breeding, the taillessness eventually became a common characteristic among the Isle of Man cats. Myth Busted!

More Manx Faqs

So, just as people who may "look" to be a specific nationality, actually aren’t and can’t claim that nationality without having actual ancestry, it's the same with the Manx breed cat. Registered Manx breeders are finding this happening increasingly and have sought to educate the public about the breed. Registered breeders refer to tailless cats with unknown origin as Domestic Tailless cats. Origin and ancestry is unknown, therefore is unable to determined based on appearance. There are several cat breeds with shortened tails, one can't assume a cat is a Manx due to its shortened tail or lack of tail. Domestic Tailless cats are not bred selectively therefore can often have many health issues. The genetic mutation which causes the Manx breed to be born tailless has limitations, there can be health complications in some cats who carry it that are not monitored how they are bred. However, the tailed Manx are very important in a breeding program; they give it stability and soundness.

A registered Scottish Fold breeder approach me at a cat show to share a story about a kitten born in one of her registered litters without at tail. This is caused by a spontaneous genetic mutation, this happening does not default that kitten to being a Manx. The breeder informed me the kitten did not survive.

I have had many instances where people contact me about their Domestic Tailless cat with heart wrenching stories. The out come can be heart breaking and often is the same. They thought they were doing something good by adopting a homeless or shelter animal or perhaps even saving a few bucks by picking up a tailless cat that was unregistered. Bottom line is, if you want a Manx cat your best choice is to purchase one from a reputable, registered Manx breeder who knows the health history of both parents. Choose a breeder who is actively showing their cats, they will be most informed on the breeds standard and be looking to produce kittens that represent the breed best for shows. Seek breeders who are willing to supply other breeders actively showing their cats as references. (Who best to tell you if the person is a good breeder than their peers!)? Registered breeders take great pride in their breeding programs and offspring, they don't sell their Manx to pet stores, allow their cats to be used in back yard breeding programs or end up in shelters. They have a sales contract with a written health guarantee, require the cat be returned if things do not work out and are there long after the money has been spent and the sale is complete. These breeders place their cats spayed or neutered or have an altering clause in their contract and with hold the registration papers until proof has been supplied it has occurred. You can expect not to be permitted to declaw these cats, this is very inhumane and painful. How would you like your fingers cut off at the first knuckle? Since there are many dangers most pet owners are not aware of for cats outside. You can expect your breeder to never allow their cats to be outside cats.

Owning a Manx cat is one of the most enjoyable pleasures in life. They have been known to live up to 20 years. Once a Manx has owned you your life will never be the same without one in it.

Manx Syndrome: The Myths and the Truth

The following article was written by twenty-five year Manx breeder Sherman Ross, BS Eng.Phy., MS Ed, President, American Manx Club, technical consultant to Karen Commings for Manx Cats: (Complete Pet Owners Manual), (Barons, 1999) and Joanne Mattern for The Manx Cat, (Capstone Press, 2003). (Article courtesy of Dick Cullen, Blarney Manx.)

Manx Syndrome is a subject of great concern to all lovers of the Manx breed. It is fraught with emotion, steeped in misinformation, and perpetuated by the ignorant. Perhaps some light can be shed on this subject by comparing some of the myths of Manx Syndrome to the actual truth.

The Myth: Manx Syndrome is any of several birth defects related to the Manx gene and afflicting the Manx breed.

The Truth: There is no common definition of what Manx Syndrome is. All of the conditions commonly called Manx Syndrome occur in other breeds of cat and other species of animals. Therefore, these conditions cannot be linked to the Manx gene.

The Myth: Manx have shorter backs than other cats because they have fewer vertebrae. This leads to severe neurological problems.

The Truth: The Manx gene does not affect the spine above the pelvis. The gene causes the cat to have fewer caudal vertebrae causing a shorter tail. Manx have the same number of vertebrae in the upper spine as any other cat.

The Myth: Spina Bifida is a Manx condition.

The Truth: Spina Bifida is a condition found in all animal species that have spines. It is caused by the neural tube that forms the spine not closing completely in the fetus. It is not related to the Manx gene. It has been shown to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. In humans, the environmental trigger is insufficient folic acid during pregnancy. The environmental factor in cats is not known. Some Veterinarians have bred Manx with Spina Bifida in their genes and related it as a Manx Syndrome. This is really bad science. However, unfortunately, since it was published in a Veterinary Journal, many vets believe this.

The Myth: Urinary and fecal incontinence is a part of Manx Syndrome. It is due to insufficient nerve endings.

The Truth: Incontinence occurs in all breeds of cats; it is not related to the Manx gene. There is no diagnostic for missing nerves except extremely careful and complete autopsy. Incontinence is related to spina bifida. NOTE WELL: Not all spina bifidas are visible externally. In all probability, most cases of incontinence in the Manx are related to spina bifida.

The Myth: The homozygous rumpy is an automatic lethal, and is never born.

The Truth: The Manx gene for taillessness is a variable expression gene. This type of gene is also called an incomplete dominant. The gene is always present, but always variable. It acts very much like the white spotting or bicolor gene. Homozygous rumpy is in fact a meaningless term.

The Myth: It is necessary to use tailed Manx in the breeding to prevent Manx Syndrome.

The Truth: This is demonstrably untrue. A good MANX breeder can point to sound healthy Manx without tails in the pedigree for six generations. A much more important consideration is the length of the upper spine. Breeding excessively for shorter bodies causes the individual vertebrae in the upper spine to be shorter. Bred to the extreme, this causes problems in any breed.

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