Koko the Bobtail - Tailless Cats of Singapore
Koko the Bobtail
“Koko, stop scratching the shoe!” my father shouted. An orange figure scampered off quickly making a hasty exit away from the shoe. The culprit was Koko, the then two year old bob-tailed cat who used to be a stray. Tail-less cats or bobtails are in abundance in Singapore. Most of them stray, they can be found in almost every neighborhood in the tropical island, lazing about, stalking the frequent butterfly or scavenging food everywhere.
Little is known about the origin of these cats without a tail. Bobtails have been known to be on the island prior to the British Independence of Singapore, with Sir Stamford Raffles making a written statement about the tail-less cats and how strange they were.
A Japanese Bobtail Cat
Koko the orange furred culprit had no tail at all. He had a small knot at the end of his body which made him look like he was carrying a small ball at his rear end. My brother once asked my father why Koko had no tail. My father, being a keen fan of self-exploration, told my brother he would bring all of us to the library and we could find it out for ourselves. Koko, however, noticing my father was distracted, attacked his next victim; the brand new sofa set.
The trip to the library provided many insights about Koko and his tail, or the lack of it. We found out Koko’s bobtail was a genetic mutation. We found out the very first recording of a tailless cat was recorded in 1810 in the UK. In the 1900’s, bobtails were the key mousers (the feline responsible to get rid of a rat infestation in ships) for ships setting sail out of UK. In one of the ships headed to Singapore or South East Asia, the bobtailed cat must have escaped and have had off springs since then.
Tail-less cats or bobtails are generally friendly cats, even strays. They do not shy away from humans and would shamelessly offer feline affection for some cat chow. While feeding stray cats are not recommended to the public by the SPCA, it is hard not to, especially when the cats come to you and meow their appreciation after some food have been offered. These cats know a thing or two about common courtesy. Though gentle and friendly most of the time, the bobtails do get frisky and attack other cats if they feel their area is being compromised.
Two Bobtail Cats fighting
This explained Koko’s exuberance and obsession to catch things thrown towards him. A ping-pong ball thrown at his direction would be saved acrobatically by him and held upon tightly with his paws. Goalkeepers around the globe in the football world could learn a thing or two about saving from Koko the Keeper. Since his forefathers were mousers on a ship, we thought that Koko had inherited pirate genes as well. He had a knack of stealing of shiny things. Coins, shiny buttons, cuff-links placed on a shelf two seconds ago would mysteriously disappear without any trail of evidence. The furry culprit would then slink back slowly into his corner feigning innocence awaiting his next target.
Koko, however, had a gentle soul. When my brother was down with high fever, the orange rascal would lay beside him, staying up the whole night keeping watch. Without a tail to brush against my brother’s arm, Koko improvised and used his paw, brushing it gently against my brother’s arm ever so slightly once in a while. Koko the tail-less cat became a part of our family for almost eight years. He grew old and passed away naturally in his sleep. He showed that even without a tail, he was no less of a cat than any other felines endowed with one.
The story of Koko was told to me by my friend Hamka. You can actually find a lot of stray tailless cats in Singapore.