The Bombay resembles a miniature black leopard, with a glossy jet-black coat and brilliant copper eyes, combining the body style and personality of the Burmese with the solid coloration of the black American Shorthair. This well-balanced breed is medium in size, muscular in development and moderate in body style. The Bombay has surprising weight for its size. The legs are in proportion to the body and the tail, which is straight, medium in length and neither short nor whippy. Adult males weigh 8 to 11 pounds; adult females weigh 6 to 9 pounds.
The head is pleasingly rounded with no sharp angles. The face is full with considerable breadth between the eyes, blending gently into a broad, well-developed, moderately rounded muzzle that maintains the rounded contours of the head but doesn’t have a snubbed look. In profile, there’s a visible moderate stop. The eyes are set far apart and have a rounded aperture. The medium-sized, alert ears tilt slightly forward and are set well apart on the rounded skull. They’re broad at the base and have slightly rounded tips.
The Bombay comes in one color: black to the roots. The lustrous, close-lying coat is fine, short, satin-like in texture and with a shimmering patent leather sheen. The nose leathernose leather and paw pads are also black. The eye color ranges from gold to copper—the greater the depth and brilliance, the better. Allowable outcross breeds are black American Shorthairs and sable Burmese.
The Bombay is a human-made hybrid, the inspiration of the late Nikki Horner, who wanted to leave a living legacy in fur when she went to meet her champion show cats at the Rainbow Bridge. A breeder and exhibitor since the age of 16, Horner bred American Shorthairs, Burmese, Exotics, Himalayans, Persians and Siamese over her long, successful career in the cat fancy.
But Horner decided she wanted a greater challenge-to create her own breed. Looking at the sable Burmese and the black American Shorthair (she was breeding both at the time), she imagined a Burmese with a sleek black coat and snapping copper eyes-sort of a mini-panther.
Her first attempt to breed her dream cat in 1958 was a disappointment. The kittens of those first litters, the product of crosses between non-pedigreed black domestic shorthairs and sable Burmese, were all black, since the black is dominant over the sable color of the Burmese. But the overall look didn’t match Horner’s master plan. The kittens looked more like poor American Shorthairs than like black Burmese. Their coats were too long, their eye color wasn’t bright and their body type, Homer noted, was “big and horsey.”
In 1965, she decided to give her mini-panther another try. This time, she chose her breeding stock more carefully, using a good quality black American Shorthair female and one of her best sable Burmese males. Between 1966 and 1972, Horner bred 27 litters, eventually achieving the look she wanted-a breed with the body type and short, polished coat of the Burmese and the American’s copper-colored eyes and black coat.
But Horner’s success in the show ring with recognized breeds didn’t ensure success for her creation. Burmese breeders wanted nothing to do with the Bombay, and Horner had trouble finding breeders and fanciers who were interested in breeding and exhibiting her cats. Most wanted to wait until the breed was recognized before buying one, and without the support of other breeders, recognition would never come.
Finally, in 1970 CFA accepted the Bombay for registration. Meeting the requirements for provisional show status took until 1974, since Horner had to recruit other breeders, create a breed club and register at least 100 examples of the breed. Finally, the Bombay achieved championship status in 1976. Most of the other associations accepted the Bombay by 1980.
Acceptance didn’t mean popularity, however. At first, the cat fancy was generally unimpressed with the Bombay. Breeders Herb and Suzanne Zwecker were instrumental in bringing the Bombay some of the respect it deserved. They started over with fresh stock, since they thought the original lines were too inbred, and bred a non-pedigreed black domestic shorthair male to one of their sable Burmese females. In due time they produced the breakthrough cat for the breed-Road to Fame’s Luv It Black, a Bombay who was named CFA’s Second Best Cat and Best Shorthair in 1985. While still a rare breed, the Bombay has won over the opposition and gained acceptance with all North American cat associations.
Some Bombay lines have the same health and genetic problems as the contemporary Burmese since the two breeds are closely related and share the same body and head type. Problems include cranial deformities, excessive eye tearing and breathing problems due to the foreshortened nose, and dental disease. In addition, some American Shorthair lines are known to have the inherited heart disease feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HMC), a serious condition that is usually fatal. Since the American Shorthair is an outcross for the Bombay, it’s likely some Bombays have inherited the disease. The symptoms of HCM can be so subtle that the first noticeable symptom is sudden death. However, since HCM is the most common heart disease in cats, many schools of veterinary medicine, such as the one at U.C. Davis, and organizations such as the Winn Feline Foundation are working to find ways to treat and cure the disease. An inherited form has been identified in the American Shorthair, and researchers are trying to find a genetic solution to the disease. Getting a written health guarantee is a wise practice when purchasing any pedigreed cat, but particularly important when buying a breed that may have health problems.
With their short, satiny coats, Bombays need little grooming. However, you might enjoy grooming your Bombay anyway; their fur feels like warm velvet to the touch and they usually like being brushed by their favorite humans. Regular grooming also keeps you in touch with your Bombay’s health and condition.
If you have your heart set on a pet-quality Bombay but are short of cash, ask your breeder for a sable Bombay. Since Burmese are included in breeding programs, a percentage of sables are born, but can’t be shown in many associations. You can often arrange a good price on a sable Bombay. They don’t have the black coloring, but they have the same great personality and sleek coat as their black siblings.
Did you know?
The breed name was inspired by the black leopard of India, and was named after the city of Bombay (now Mumbai) in India. The Bombay has been called “patent-leather kids with the new-penny eyes” for its copper colored eyes and shiny black coat.
Most Bombay owners are more impressed with the breed’s personality than with its show prospects. Bombays strike an appealing balance between the even-tempered, moderate personality of the American Shorthair and the playful, talkative, supersmart Burmese. They are extremely people-oriented and very devoted to their chosen humans (compliments of the Burmese influence), but won’t drive you crazy with a constant dialogue (compliments of the American Shorthair). If they have something to say, however, they’ll make sure they get their feelings across. Fanciers claim that Bombays can win over even the most cat-phobic people with their combination of delightful personality, glossy black coat and hypnotizing copper eyes.
Bombays crave constant attention, and they’ll follow you everywhere to get it. They want to be in the middle of the action—and in your lap. If you don’t want an all-the-time feline, a more sedate breed might be a better choice. Bombays are utterly attached to their owners, making them seem like black shadows, always following their human companions. Bombays will beat you to the door when the doorbell rings because they’re sure the visitor has come to see only them.
Bombays are sweet, very affectionate and agreeable to just about any suggestion, particularly if it has to do with playing a friendly game of fetch the catnip mouse. They tend to love the entire family rather than bond with one person. Highly active, Bombays would rather play with their favorite people than by themselves, and are known for their curiosity and intelligence. They enjoy human games, too—just try to play a peaceful game of Scrabble with Bombays around. They love to help rearrange the letters; after all, it’s a small mind that believes a word can be spelled only one way. They’ll sometimes dash off with a tile just to delight in the chase. But at the end of the day, they cuddle onto laps and into beds, happy to be close to their preferred persons.