Last Updated on February 14, 2021 by Julia Wilson
1. The munchkin cat is a short-legged cat whose origins can be traced back to Rayville, Louisiana when a black short-legged cat named Blackberry who was rescued by local teacher Sandra Hochenedel after being chased under a truck with her sister, Blueberry. Blackberry was pregnant at the time of her rescue and went on to deliver four kittens, two of whom had the same short legs as their mother. A male, named Toulouse was gifted to Kay LeFrance and it is Blackberry and Toulouse who went on to become the founding cats of the munchkin breed.
2. Munchkin cats have achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism which primarily affects the long bones of the limbs. During development, cartilage is replaced by bone in a process known as ossification. We don’t know the exact mechanism in achondroplastic cats, but achondroplasia in humans is caused by a mutation of the fibroblast growth factor 3 (FGFR3) gene which regulates ossification. In affected people, FGFR3 binds to fibroblast growth factors which slows down the growth of the long bones.
3. A litter of kittens born to a munchkin mother can contain both short-legged and normal-legged cats. Cats with legs of normal length are known as munchkin variants.
4. The gene is lethal in its homozygous form (ie; if the kittens inherit a copy from each parent), therefore munchkins must be outcrossed to domestic (mixed-breed) or munchkin variants.
5. The Munchkin gets its name from the munchkins from the 1937 movie The Wizard of Oz.
6. Other names for the Munchkin include ‘Sausage cat, Midget cat and Weiner cat‘.
7. Concerns have been raised over the health impact of short legs on a spine of normal length which may lead to lordosis, a downward dip of the spine, munchkin cats are also susceptible to pectus excavatum (concave chest) which causes the breastbone to sink in, and arthritis.
8. Due to health and welfare concerns, the Cat Fanciers Association, Fédération Internationale Féline (FIFe) and The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) do not recognise the munchkin as an official cat breed.
9. Due to the short legs, munchkins cannot jump as high as cats with normal leg length. There is no reported data as to how high a munchkin can jump. The average height of a munchkin is 7-8 inches from the ground to the shoulders and the average height of a normal-legged cat is 12 inches. Cats can jump approximately 5-6 times their height. Therefore, theoretically, a munchkin should be able to jump between 35 – 48 inches, compared to an average cat who can jump 60 – 72 inches.
10. Munchkins have been crossed with several other breeds of cat to create new short-legged breeds. This includes Genetta-Munchkin/Bengal cross, Bambino or Minskin-Munchkin/Sphynx cross, Scottish Kilts-Munchkin/Scottish Fold cross, Napoleon or Minuet-Munchkin/Persian cross, Kinkalow-Munchkin/American Curl cross, Lambkin-Munchkin/Selkirk Rex cross and Skookum-Munchkin/LaPerm cross.
11. Munchkin cats can have three different leg lengths; standard, super-short and rug-hugger.
12. The lifespan of the munchkin is the same as normal-legged cats and can range between 10-14 years.
13. The munchkin made its introduction to the general public in 1991 via a nationally televised show held at Madison Square Garden.
14. Short-legged cats have been documented a number of times before the munchkin appeared. In 1944, Dr H. E. Williams-Jones noted the existence of four generations of short-legged cats in the Veterinary Record, but in this instance, only the forelimbs were affected. These short-legged are thought to have died out during WWII.
15. Munchkins are sometimes affectionately referred to as magpie cats, due to their supposed hoarding tendencies.
16. Lilieput, a tortoiseshell munchkin from Napa, California was named the smallest cat in the world at a height of 13.3 cm (5.25 inches).
17. Because the munchkin can be crossed with domestics, they can be found in every colour and pattern combination as well as shorthair or longhair.
18. Munchkins have a habit of standing on their hind legs which offers them a higher vantage point.