With their short legs and adorable looks, Munchkins will look like kittens for the rest of their lives. This is a cat that is short on height but long on fun. It is the ideal feline companion for people who’ve always wanted a feline version of the Dachshund. It is an extrovert, an energetic feline that is more than ready to give you a lot of excitement watching it play.
History of the Munchkin Cat
Dr. H. E. Williams-Jones was the first to describe the presence of cats with short limbs in 1944. The British veterinarian reported that four generations of these cats seemed “normal” and healthy. Their only difference with other cat breeds is their short legs. In 1956, there were reports of short-legged cats in Stalingrad. In New England, people also reported seeing cats with short legs in the 1970s. These early reports were not followed through, however.
In 1983, a Rayville, Louisiana music teacher discovered two pregnant kitties hiding under a truck after being chased by a dog. Sandra Hochenedel kept one of the pregnant kitties and named it Blackberry. When Blackberry gave birth, half of her kittens had short legs. Hochenedel gave a male short-legged kitten to Kay LaFrance in Monroe, Louisiana. LaFrance named the kitten Toulouse. The modern Munchkin owes its existence to Blackberry and Toulouse.
Since Toulouse remained intact, it was able to mate with other cats in the neighborhood. Soon after, the community reported an increase in the population of short-legged cats. Hochenedel and LaFrance believed that they have discovered a new feline breed. The two contacted one of The International Cat Association’s show judges and the organization’s committee chairman for genetics, Dr. Solveig Pflueger.
Dr. Pflueger conducted a series of studies on the short-legged kitties. He determined that their short-leggedness is due to an autosomal dominant allele. He was also able to prove that the cat did not have any of the spinal problems that are common among short-legged pets like the Dachshund and the Corgi.
When the “new” cat went public on a nationally-televised cat show in 1991, not everyone was thrilled. TICA sponsored the show, which was held at the Madison Square Garden. Critics of the new breed said that the Munchkin will experience the same health problems that affect “some” Dachshunds. A cat show judge in 1994 resigned on-the-spot, calling the Munchkin an insult to cat breeders who have ‘ethics’. This notion persists to this very day. Many people show disdain for Munchkin breeders. They say they perpetuate physical deformities in the animal. The message that breeders are giving to the public is that it is okay to “create” a physically-deformed cat.
Because of this ethical concern, the Federation Internationale Feline, the Cat Fanciers’ Association, and the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy refused to recognize the Munchkin as a breed. Only the TICA, the American Association of Cat Enthusiasts, the Waratah National Cat Alliance in Australia, the Southern Africa Cat Council, and the United Feline Organization recognize the Munchkin.
Quick Facts about the Munchkin Cat
This low-riding feline has many other interesting facts about it. Learn more about this breed so you can make a better-informed decision whether to get it for your family or not.
- Available in Three Leg Lengths
The short legs of the Munchkin are the result of the expression of an autosomal dominant gene. If the cat does not have this gene, then it will have normal leg length like in other cat breeds. If the kitty has the gene but in two different alleles, then it will have moderately-short legs. They are called the Super Short Munchkins. The Rug Huggers have the shortest limbs of all Munchkins.
- They Come in All Kinds of Colors, Shades, and Patterns
Munchkin breeders are very selective when it comes to outcrossing their cats. The rules of The International Cat Association require Munchkin breeders to outcross their cats only to still-unrecognized domestic cats. This is to help ensure that the Munchkin will develop a characteristic of its own. If it has similarities to other cat breeds, TICA disqualifies it in its competitions. Hence, you can expect the Munchkin to be available in all sorts of coat lengths, colors, shades, and patterns.
- Breeding the Munchkin Requires Knowledge of Genetics
Kittens with homozygous Munchkin genes do not develop and grow in the mother cat’s uterus. This is because of gene lethality. Kittens that have different alleles for the same autosomal dominant Munchkin gene will develop and grow into Munchkin kittens. As such, when they grow and mate, they can still produce kittens with normal-length legs. Mating two Munchkin cats can produce 50 percent short-legged Munchkins and 25% normal-legged Munchkins. The remaining 25 will not survive in the mother cat’s womb.
- No Spinal Problems despite Short Legs
In an effort to disprove the notion that Munchkins suffer from spinal problems, several Munchkin breeders had their older cats undergo x-ray examination in 1995. The tests showed that there is not a single one of these cats having bone or joint problems. In other words, they did not show the bone deformities that the detractors of the breed claim the Munchkin will suffer from. Succeeding studies also show that the Munchkin does not suffer from achondroplasia – the condition associated with short legs and an enlarged head. What the Munchkin has is pseudoachondroplasia or hypochondroplasia.
- Don’t Underestimate the Power of the Short Legs
The short limbs of the Munchkin do not often translate to sluggish movement. You would be surprised by how fast and agile this cat is. It is like the feline version of a Greyhound, capable of darting across the room in a blitz. It also knows how to use its long tail, allowing it to turn into a corner with amazing precision and without losing its speed and balance. The only thing that the Munchkin cannot do is to jump onto the window sill, your bed, or your couch. Its short legs prevent it from doing so.
- Can Sit Upright like Rabbits and Prairie Dogs
It might not be an acrobat but there is something that the Munchkin can perform that other breeds cannot. This cat can sit up straight like a rabbit or a prairie dog. It has strong hind legs, allowing it to prop itself without losing its balance. Munchkins display this behavior whenever they see something very interesting. Instead of going straight to the “object” of their curiosity, they would rather sit up straight and look at the object from a safe distance.
- The Magpie Cats
There is another “odd” behavior of this feline breed. Some people call munchkins the magpie cat because of their uncanny attraction to anything and everything that shines. They also like to hoard and hide their things in their secret dens. For some folks, this might signal selfishness in the breed. Lovers of the breed, however, say that this is more related to the cat’s unquenchable thirst to play. It hides its shiny trinkets so that it can play with them at a later time.
- It Holds the World Record for Being the Shortest Living Cat
No taller than the length of your index finger from its junction with the thumb, one Munchkin holds the Guinness World Record for being the shortest cat alive. Lilieput is a Munchkin with tortoiseshell coat pattern living in Napa, California. When you measure this kitty from the top of its shoulders to the bottom of its paws, it only stands 5.25 inches.
- Crossbred with Other Feline Breeds to Produce Munchkin Variants
Because of the unique physical characteristics of the Munchkin, there are now breeders who use it in their crossbreeding programs. For instance, mating a Munchkin with a LaPerm will produce the Skookum. This has the curly fur of the LaPerm and the short legs of the Munchkin. There’s also the Scottish Kilts, a combination of Munchkins and Scottish Folds. This results in a short-legged cat with folded ears. Other notable crossbreeds include the Minskin and Bambino (Munchkin + Sphynx), the Kinkalow (Munchkin + American Curl), the Lambkin (Munchkin + Selkirk Rex), and the Napoleon (Munchkin + Persians, Exotic Shorthairs, and Himalayans).
- Omame and Albert are the Most Famous Munchkins
Two of the most sensational Munchkin celebrities today are Omame and Albert. Omame has its own Instagram and Facebook account where fans can follow the cat’s everyday exploits. Albert is also a famous social media Munchkin celebrity. It has almost half a million followers. One of Albert’s parents is either a Himalayan or a Siamese because of its characteristic brown mask, tail, and ears.
Things You Should Know
Caring for a cat that never seems to grow can pose a few challenges for newbie pet parents. Understanding the basics of caring for a Munchkin is crucial to their wellbeing and happiness.
Munchkin breeders and owners have already proven that the breed is free from the dreaded achondroplasia that its detractors say the cat will have. However, this does not mean that the Munchkin is already free from other health conditions. For one, some cats can develop lordosis which results in the contraction of the muscles in the spine. This forces the vertebra to close in on the cat’s body. What you should know is that lordosis is a rare phenomenon in Munchkins. It is also a disease that is not specific to the breed since other cat breeds can develop lordosis, too.
Another health concern is pectus excavatum or funnel chest. This results in the inward sinking of the chest wall, preventing the lungs from expanding to its full capacity. Again, like lordosis, pectus excavatum is not specific to Munchkins. Other breeds of cats can have it, too.
Outcrossing the Munchkin to other feline breeds can expose it to the diseases of the other parent. For instance, outcrossing it to the Sphynx can result in the development of myopathy, gum disease, and cutaneous mastocytosis, among others.
The Munchkin is a healthy cat, nevertheless. It can live up to 15 years. With meticulous care, they can live even longer.
Because of its small size, you would think that the Munchkin will only need a small amount of food. This is not always the case. This is a rambunctious kitty that never sheds its kitten-like adventurism. In other words, it is a high-energy cat that requires the right amounts of calories. If you are not sure about the number of calories to feed the cat, a veterinarian can help.
To ensure the optimal health of the brain and the heart of this kitty, it is a must that you give it animal-based proteins. These have complete essential amino acids like taurine that you don’t get in other types of proteins. Make sure that the cat food has high-quality animal protein listed as the first ingredient. Be careful with cat food that contains a lot of carbohydrates. While this can supply the cat with the energy that it needs, carbohydrates should not comprise more than half of the food’s nutrient composition.
It is also better to feed the adult Munchkin at least twice a day. For kittens, the frequency of feeding can be as many as four times a day.
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Reputable Munchkin breeders can sell their cats for as much as $1,300; some higher. Kittens are more expensive than adult Munchkins. Because this breed is not inexpensive, one has to keep it indoors. Catnappers and other crooks can easily spot something valuable in the Munchkin. This is a very lovely and unique-looking cat, after all.
Plus, there are many dangers outside the house that can harm the little kitty. Traffic hazards, harmful chemicals, and vicious cat-averse dogs and other animals can threaten the safety and health of the Munchkin. In cases where one has to bring the cat outdoors, it is best to train it to walk on a leash. Supervision is also important.
While breeders and owners alike have already disputed claims by detractors of the existence of spinal problems in the breed, it is still best to be on your toes. Wellness examinations can help detect risk factors that can contribute to the development of a disease. Vaccinations and other preventative treatments are also crucial. These will not protect the cat from ALL diseases but they sure can offer protection from some feline health problems.
The munchkin is an energetic cat. It doesn’t look at its short legs as a hindrance to what it can do. It can also jump to higher places. However, you should take special care to assist it. The adventurous spirit of the Munchkin can lead to a host of problems like injuries.
Its litter box needs frequent cleaning by removing soiled litter every day. A more thorough cleaning of the cat’s litter box every week is also necessary. Putting several pet drinking fountains throughout the house can also help keep the cat hydrated.
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Longhaired varieties of Munchkins need twice weekly combing or brushing of their coat. Shorthaired Munchkins, meanwhile, need only once a week combing. This will help keep their furs smooth and healthy while also preventing the formation of mats and tangles.
Brushing the cat’s teeth every 2 to 3 days is crucial. It helps prevent bad breath and gum disease. Clipping the claws once every 3 to 4 weeks is also necessary. Its ears also require inspection and cleaning every week. Do not forget to include cleaning the corners of the cat’s eyes.
Munchkins are able to retain their kitten personalities throughout their life. The playful and rambunctious kitten you welcomed into your home will still be the same lively and high-spirited kitty when it reaches old age. They have a zest for life that is always a joy to have in any household. They will greet visitors with a loving purr and can also make friends with the pets that guests bring with them. This makes the Munchkin very valuable to fun-loving families.
The Munchkin never considers having short legs as a handicap. It can jump though not as high as normal-legged cats. But what it loves the most is racing. If you have a remote control car, expect this kitty to revel in the opportunity to race. It can outrun longer legged kitties. What is most remarkable about the breed is its uncanny agility.
This breed of cat has a self-assured and confident disposition. They are intelligent, too. Munchkin cats can obey voice commands, making them very easy to train. One can teach a Munchkin to walk on a leash. It can also learn how to play a game of fetch with you. These skills are natural to the breed because of their confident and fun-loving temperament.
It is a sociable pet. It thrives on the relationship that it has with its owners as well as the other pets in the house. The company of others means more playtime and more activities for the little cat.
The Munchkin is an adorable feline breed. Its kitten-like features, behavior, and temperament can be exceptional things to have in any family. At the very least, you will be enjoying the fun-loving nature of this breed for as long as it lives.