The Cat in Japan. I love Japanese culture and their love of cats.

Freda Savahl
3 min readOct 31, 2020

A brief history of cats in Japan

Pinterest image of the Japanese Bobtail cat.

Today I write a short story about the history of cats in Japan from research in the literature & the writer Imaizumi Tadaaki.

History records read the domestic cat first came to Japan in 538 AD. Introducing the cat occurred at the same time as Buddhism, for protecting the sacred texts from the damage that mice can cause.

Genetic research shows the domestic cat came to Japan from India via China.

The Emperor Uda (867–931) kept a diary, documenting his domestic black cat’s history. The diary mentions the cat came from China in 884.

The first recorded name of a cat in Japan is Myobu no Otodo, which means Chief-Lady-in Waiting of the Inner Palace. The cat had a special rank at the court, and ladies-in-waiting at the court looked after the kitty. Ancient records tell of cats at the imperial palace had red collars with a white tag & strings.

The oldest Japanese picture of cats drawn by an artist in 1053 shows three cats with long tails, playing with frogs, foxes and, rabbits. Cats had become common in Japan in that era.

Scientists believe mutations in cats occurred because of inbreeding, and cats with short tails became common. People in Kyoto had cats with long tails known as Chinese cats. They called those with short tails in Osaka Japanese cats.

After World War II, people brought different breeds into the country, including Siamese and American Shorthair.

An American lady, Elizabeth Freret, imported three Japanese stubby tailed cats to the US, bred them, registered them as the Japanese Bobtail breed. These are healthy & hearty kitties. They say the breed has no genetic health issues.

Japanese folklore about the bobtail cat varies in different parts of the country. There is so much more on these lovable kitties. Their distinctive voices are almost musical. They are affectionate, & especially good with children.

The kitty holds a special place in the hearts of the Japanese. Good luck ceramic statues of the breed greet visitors in storefronts and homes, one paw raised to invite guests inside.



Freda Savahl

Retired Nurse Practitioner WHC /Contract Provider Deployment Military Services. US Citizen. Immigrant from South Africa 1978.