black Bombay cat with golden eyes
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Bombay Cat Colors: What Colors Can Bombay Cats Be?

Est. read time: 8 min.

When you come across a black cat, you might think nothing of it other than, “Oh wow, look at that adorable black kitty! I want to give them all the cuddles.” In fact, we would think the same thing.

You might assume that this is any type of shorthair cat you regularly encounter, but perhaps not. Maybe the feline you are seeing is actually the majestic Bombay cat. 

In looks, the Bombay cat is essentially a miniature black panther. From their appearance, high levels of activity, and manner of slinking around the house, this cat could very well be wild. Yet they are a cat breed known for being exceptionally friendly and affectionate (much like the Bengal).

How might you distinguish between a Bombay cat and any other black cat? We’ll explain.

Bombay cat standing

History of the Bombay cat

The Bombay is a combination of the beautiful sable Burmese cat and an American Shorthair. Breeder Nikki Horner wanted a cat that was very similar in appearance to the Burmese but with a sleek black coat—her own miniature leopard. She mated an all-black American Shorthair male with bright copper eyes with a female Burmese cat. 

Eventually a litter of American Bombay kittens was born. They had the short, sleek fur and mannerisms of a Burmese but with an all-black coat, along with the bright golden eyes of the beloved American Shorthair cat.

Though this breed was born in her home city of Louisville, Kentucky, Horner named this cat after the black leopards famously living in Bombay, India (present-day Mumbai).

It was a few years before cat associations recognized the Bombay as an official breed. People behold the beauty and grace of this cat and are mystified by their wildcat appearance. Who wouldn’t want a cat that looks like a black panther but cuddles up next to you every night? 

Adding to their mystique, there aren’t many Bombay cats in the United States or UK. While people find them beautiful and charming, Bombays aren’t as popular as other common cat breeds. If you ever have the chance to spend time with a Bombay, make sure that you do! 

Bombay cat resting head on paws

What does a Bombay cat look like?

We’ve already been gushing over the fact that Bombay cats look like miniature black panthers. They have strong, toned, muscular bodies that allow them to prowl around the house with grace, almost effortlessly. They have black coats that are short and dense, making them very comforting to pet. 

The Bombay is considered a medium-sized cat, but they have a large presence. They are long cats, measuring up to 20 inches in length, which only adds to their panther-like appearance.

A Bombay cat’s coat is unique because it will shimmer in the sunlight. If hit perfectly, these cats basically glimmer. So although they’re all black, they shine in a way that brings even more depth to their coat. 

Bombay cat sleeping on couch

What is the difference between Bombays and black cats?

When we describe the difference between a domestic black cat and a Bombay cat, we are talking about their genetics. A black cat can be any breed of cat and simply refers to their coat color. Bombay cats are a specific breed, where the only color they display is black. So, every Bombay is a black cat, but not every black cat is a Bombay.

Bombay cats are a specific breed known for their athletic and muscular bodies, along with their shimmery, sleek black coats and short, dense fur. Black cats can belong to a variety of breeds and display a variety of coat lengths. You might come across a long-haired black cat or a short-haired one, or maybe even a curly-haired black cat.

Eyes and facial differences

When looking at a Bombay and a black cat, there are a few distinct differences that help clarify which is which. If both cats have short black fur, you might need to move on to a new indicator. A Bombay cat has a thick but short muzzle and large alert eyes that are golden or copper. Black cats have average facial features and can have a wide variety of eye colors. 

It might be easier to tell if a black cat is an American Bombay just by looking at their eyes. If golden or copper, you’re likely staring at a Bombay, though some black cats will have similar eyes and not be a Bombay (like their predecessor the American Shorthair!).

It’s important to note that British Bombay cats sometimes have green eyes. The British Bombay is a mix of the Burmese and the British Shorthair.

Body type and coat differences

The body shape and fur texture also indicate which black cats are Bombays and which aren’t.

Bombay cats were bred to resemble a panther or leopard—they are compact and muscular. They have medium-length tails and rounded heads. Their fur texture is also unique because it is short and thick but has a very specific glimmer or sheen, similar to patent leather.

Other black cats might appear longer and leaner and can have various coat lengths. They might have thin, fine fur or long, slightly wavy hair. 

Additionally, Bombay cats are fully black as per their breed standard. This means their noses, paw pads, toenails, and ears will all be black. Other black cats might sport pink paw pads and nose leather, making it easier to tell if they are a Bombay or not. 

Personality and behaviors

The Bombay cat is easy to spot when you see how they walk. They almost sway from side to side, very much like a panther. Their movements are quiet and graceful, despite their compact and muscular makeup.

Bombay cats are highly intelligent (not to say that other black cats aren’t). Bombays usually find it easy to learn new tricks and commands… if they feel like it. The Bombay has a big personality and might boss you around a bit, but it’s all for love.

They want to spend time with you, learn new games, and seek constant mental stimulation. They’re little shadows that will follow you from room to room, so you’d better be ready to devote a lot of attention to your Bombay. 

Black cats vary greatly in their personality depending on how they were raised, what their breed is, and other environmental circumstances. Chances are, a black cat will be just as sweet and playful as a Bombay, and perhaps less needy.

Bombay cat with tongue out

Caring for a Bombay

Bombay cats aren’t just treasured for their amazing black coats, they are also well-loved for their opinionated personalities and overall lovable qualities.

Like most cats, they prefer clean spaces and don’t want a messy litter box. If you’re someone who doesn’t have time to scoop the litter box every day, consider using a self-cleaning litter box to do the dirty work for you. 

The Bombay is generally an easy cat to groom; they don’t shed often, so a simple weekly brushing will do. 

They do require a lot of care because they like to be involved with your everyday life. They want to play, so having plenty of cat toys, scratching posts, and mentally stimulating games such as food puzzles will keep them busy and prevent obesity-related health issues. 

Bombay cats might enjoy learning how to walk on a leash, but should be kept as indoor cats. Their black coats are both appealing and intimidating to some, and you would never want to risk your cat getting lost or hurt (This is especially important closer to Halloween. Unfortunately, black kitties aren’t always treated so nicely around the holiday!)

These cats love to climb (that’s the black panther in them), so placing cat trees and cat shelves around your house might stop them from knocking down knick-knacks in hard-to-reach places. If they see a ledge they want to sit on, they’ll find a way to do it. 

Bombays loooove to eat, so make sure you are watching their weight. Keeping them active is important, as well as feeding them healthy-portioned meals.

Most people who want to adopt a Bombay cat want to do so because of their beautiful coat color, and we don’t blame them! Meet just one Bombay, and you’ll soon understand all the other reasons why this cat is a great companion.


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