Bombay Cat

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Breed: Bombay Cat
Temperament: companionable, easy going
Cost: $500
Lifespan: 13-15 years
Maintenance: low
Recommended for: apartments, elderly


In 1908, when Henry Ford, the American automotive pioneer said that his fellow Americans could have any colour as long as it was black, he was of course talking about the black model T Ford, the first affordable mass produced automobile. Some sixty or so years later, another American, Nikki Horner may very well have said the same thing about her creation, the all-black Bombay cat.

Horner, a cat breeder from Louisville, Kentucky, is said to have wanted to produce a domestic cat that was similar to the native melanistic leopard of India. This ‘miniature black panther’, as it became known, is the product of matings between American Shorthair and Burmese breeds. Over time, the desired type became more consistent and by the mid 1970s, the breed was recognised by feline controlling bodies.

In 1997 an Australian interested in developing the breed, Heather Brown, sought an experimental licence from the Cat Control Council and commenced a breeding program using local lines of British Shorthair and Burmese. Heather says she used locally bred foundation stock in order to prevent the introduction of a debilitating disease that afflicts certain lines in the United States.


Similarities between the Bombay and panther can only be drawn so far. Although both are strong and well muscled cats, the Bombay may be proportionally thicker-set than the sleek and agile panther. Bombays tend to be a little larger than their Burmese cousins, with longer bodies and legs, but the Burmese influence is still readily apparent. Breeders say that although it has a muscular build, the Bombay cat is not stocky. The head is round but retains some foreign influence, especially evident in its expressive eyes, short muzzle and medium-sized ears.

The most striking feature are those beautiful, dreamy, copper-coloured eyes. Large, round and wide-set, the eyes can deliver a penetrating gaze to melt the coolest heart. Naturally, the only coat colour accepted is black, from the tip of its nose to the last flick of the tail. The satin coat is short and glossy and although very soft to touch, it is not as fine as the United States types. Males are considerably larger than females.


As a kitten, the Bombay may initially be very timid. Although, as it matures, you can expect its outgoing and companionable personality to shine through. Now widely bred in the US as an apartment cat, the Australian type continues this philosophy and is very quiet, reasonably undemanding and not destructive. Nicknamed the ‘Velcro cat’, the Bombay is happy to stick with its owner throughout the day, lazing around the house, having a play or sharing the bed.


The offspring of two different pure breeds, such as the Bombay, will often exhibit what’s called ‘hybrid vigour’ – enjoying the positive features of both parent breeds whilst avoiding health concerns which may trouble the purebred parents. This process of ‘hybrid vigour’ is often used in feline breeding (unfortunately less so among dog breeders) and generally it encourages healthy, strong animals.

However the benefits of hybrid vigour are diminished once breeding progresses through several generations, and this seems to be the case with Bombays in the United States. The newer ‘conventional’ type of Bombay cat in the US, with its shorter nose, larger eyes and flatter face, has not only produced a more ‘extreme’ physique, but may have also allowed a genetic fault to emerge: distressing reports of kittens born with severe facial defects have been made.

Modelled on the ‘traditional’ American Bombay, the Australian cat has apparently avoided these genetic issues. It is thought by some breeders that this genetic fault originated from certain American lines of Burmese cats which were used to establish the conventional type, and although still a contentious issue amongst breeders in the US, Australian breeders have wisely decided to not import or breed from any American lines.

Another common characteristic of hybrid breeds is that they also tend to not breed wholly true to type in early matings. Second cross Bombay litters (the progeny of first generation Bombay) will generally produce 50% Bombay types with a possible 25% each of Shorthair and Burmese-looking kittens. Bombays are not just mated amongst themselves and are also crossed back to Burmese in order to maintain and ‘fix’ the type. Litter sizes are small, averaging around four.

Pet potential

This companionable and easygoing breed is ideally suited to those who want an attentive and loving mate. Recommended for apartments and indoors, the Bombay loves both human and other animal friends, and breeders recommend having a mate to keep your pet company. Growing kittens tend to eat a lot compared to other breeds, but don’t despair, as the cat matures its appetite will settle. The short coat is low maintenance and sheds little, though 10 minutes a day of hand grooming will keep the coat shiny and soft. The hybrid influence of the breed, and its apparent freedom from significant health problems suggests that this little black cat will remain a member of the family for many years. Kitten numbers can be limited and demand often exceeds supply. It is not unusual to pay around $500 for a kitten. And just where did the Bombay get its name? Well, you may have guessed that the Bombay was named in reference to one of the largest cities in India, which incidentally has now since been renamed Mumbai. Mumbai cat. Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. Does it?

For more information on the Bombay, email Heather Brown at [email protected]