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“Do cats in your country have tails?” asked Indah, our guide at the Wonosara Tea plantation. 

She seemed stumped by our inquiry about why cats in Indonesia have stubby tails. The question has been bugging us since Day 1.

Making friends with a stubby ailed cat ont he street in Jakarta, Indonesia
Making friends with a stubby-tailed cat on the street in Jakarta

Stray cats were everywhere in Jakarta, Jogjakarta, and other cities in Java. At first we thought they victims of accidents, run over by scooters that fill the streets. But after seeing dozens of cats with stubby tails the theory seemed and less plausible. 

“Sometimes Indonesian housewives cut the tail of stray cats so they don’t come back to their house”, Indah said after a few minutes. 

I didn’t want to believe it. 

A few more conversations with locals and some further online research eased my worries. Turns out, stubbed tail cats are an actual breed of cats that are common not just in Indonesia but also in Malaysia and other countries in SEA.  

Stray cat enjoying the warm sun rays n Taman Fatahilah, Old Jakarta
Not all stray cats in Indonesia have stubby tails

So while it may be true that some cats lose their tails thanks to the angry Indonesian housewives, some may in fact lose it as a result of an accident, like being run over by a scooter or the like, it sounds like the majority are simply born this way.


Cultural Close-ups is a series of photographs and stories from around the world that go beyond the pretty sights and famous attractions. If you’d like to contribute a photo and a short story to Cultural Close-Ups, please email your submission to [email protected]

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Why Indonesian Cats Have Stubby Tails?

Have you ever encountered cats with no tail?


5 thoughts on “Cultural Close-Up: Why Indonesian Cats Have Stubby Tails”

  1. Indah was just joking with you heheheh xD

    I am an Indonesian myself and this case has kept me wondering since genetic class in High School. Luckily, I’ve found your article, thanks! And I also read another article some times ago about Japanese bob-tailed cats that was brought to Japan from SEA region some centuries ago. I think they may have a strong link with Indonesian snubby-tailed cats. =^v^=

  2. My travels to Indonesia this week (3.8.19-3.18.19 (for work)) brought me to Japara. Jakarta-Cirebon-Semarang-Jepara-Semarang-Jakarta-Tokyo-Boston! I stayed at a beach resort and made friends with quite a few little furry bob-tailed beach dwellers. They were friendly beelined for me out of the three I was there with. I just wanted to know why all of them had the same tail! I wish I could post a video and pictures with them.

  3. oh dont worry, i think the non pure-bred cats with incomplete tails outnumbered the ones with complete tails in Indonesia! my house is a kind of shelter and we have cats with tails of various length and shape lol. some have natural kink at the tip and looks like someone has cut it, but no they’re just naturally that way

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