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Munchkin cats at a glance
- Origin: Louisiana, USA, 1983
- Scientific name: Felis catus
- Lifespan: 12-14 years
- Energy: Medium
- Temperament: Playful, outgoing, easily trainable
- Weight: Males 5-6 kg (11 – 13 lbs), females 4-5 kg (8.8 – 11 lbs)
- Eye colour: Brown, green, gold, yellow, blue and odd
- Coat colours and patterns: All colours and patterns
- Grooming: Requires weekly grooming
- Also called: Weiner cat, American Munchkin, Sausage cat, Midget cat
- Cost: $1,800
Related: Munchkin cat photo gallery
The Munchkin is a short-legged breed of cat who arose from a spontaneous mutation in Louisiana in the early 1980s. They are a playful, outgoing and friendly breed who keeps their kitten-like behaviour well into adulthood.
The Munchkin cat is a relatively new breed of cat discovered in 1983 that is characterised by its short-legged appearance. The breed is the result of a spontaneous genetic mutation.
Originating in the state of Louisiana, a teacher by the name of Sandra Hochenedel rescued two cats who had been chased under a truck by a dog. Both cats had short legs. Sandra gave away a grey cat, called Blueberry and kept the black one, named Blackberry. Blackberry was pregnant at the time of her rescue and went on to give birth to four kittens, two of whom also had shortened legs. One of the short-legged kittens, Toulouse was given to Kay LeFrance. It is Blackberry and Toulouse who became founders of the Munchkin breed.
What condition do Munchkin cats have?
Munchkins have a genetic condition known as achondroplasia which was first observed in a population of cats in the 1930s but these cats disappeared during the war.
Achondroplastic dwarfism is a disorder of bone growth. Cartilage is a tough and flexible tissue which makes up most of the skeleton during early development before converting it to bone (ossification). However, the gene in affected cats prevents the changing of cartilage to bone. Only the long bones of the legs are affected, all other bones are normal in size. The gene responsible is dominant, it needs only one copy from a parent to be passed on, it is lethal in the homozygous form (ie; the offspring receive two of the gene, one from each parent) and affected kittens will be re-absorbed in-utero.
Introduction to the cat fancy
In 1991, the Munchkin was introduced to the general public via a live cat show held at Madison Square Garden. The breed achieved championship status with TICA in 2003
Do Munchkin cats have health problems?
The breed is controversial in the cat world, due to concerns about the short legs and long spine will cause lordosis, a downward dip in the spine. This condition also affects short-legged breeds of dog such as the dachshunds. Supporters claim that the spine of the cat is much different and no such problems occur in the Munchkin. The jury appears to still be out on that. Not every cat body recognises the Munchkin for the above reasons, which includes the CFA, GCCF and FiFE.
The short legs may also predispose the Munchkin cat to arthritis, a painful and progressive degenerative condition of the joints.
Munchkins may not have the flexibility to groom themselves, which is of particular issue in longhaired Munchkins.
Progressive retina atrophy is a group of inherited retinal diseases characterised by progressive bilateral degeneration of the retina, which is located at the back of the eye and is responsible for receiving light from the front of the eye and converting it to neutral signals, which are sent to the brain for visual recognition. The rdAc mutation in the CEP290 is recessive, which means both parents must carry the gene and pass it on for the offspring to inherit the condition. If both parents carry the rdAC mutation, there is a 25% chance for each kitten to be affected with PRA
Did you know?
Other short-legged cats have appeared in the past. Several generations occurred in England in the 1930s but died out during World War II. One also lived in Stalingrad (St Petersburg), Russia in 1953 but that too vanished.
Medium, with short legs. Front legs are 3-4 inches long and hind legs shorter. Everything else about the Munchkin is in proportion to the average cat.
It is still somewhat difficult to define a type due to outcrossing with domestic cats, who come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Munchkin cats can have a long (Munchkin longhair) or short coat and all coat colours and patterns are accepted.
All eye colours which include blue, brown, copper, green and yellow.
Munchkins are playful, outgoing and maintain their kitten-like personality well into adulthood. It is easy to train Munchkins to play fetch or walk on a harness. They are social, loving and gets along well with people, including children and other animals, they make a fantastic family pet.
Munchkin Cat Facts
The Munchkin cat is also known as the sausage cat or midget cat.
- Genetta (Munchkin/Bengal cross)
- Bambino or Minskin (Munchkin/Sphynx cross)
- Scottish Kilts (Munchkin/Scottish Fold cross)
- Napolean or Minuet (Munchkin/Persian cross)
- Kinkalow (Munchkin/American Curl cross)
- Lambkin (Munchkin/Selkirk Rex cross)
- Skookum (Munchkin/LaPerm cross)
The breed name came from the munchkins in the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz.
The Munchkin leg length can come in three sizes; standard, super-short and rug-hugger (also called VW Microbus).
Munchkin love to sit on their hind legs.
A Munchkin by the name of Lilieput from Napa, California is the world’s shortest cat, measuring 13.34 centimetres.
Frequently asked questions
What is the lifespan of a Munchkin cat?
The average lifespan is between 12-14 years which is the same as other cat breeds.
Do Munchkin cats need special care?
No, most Munchkins don’t need special care. Because they cannot jump as high as regular cats, it may be of benefit to provide steps or ramps if they have difficulty jumping on furniture etc.
A weekly groom is necessary for all shorthaired cats to remove loose hair and longhaired Munchkins will benefit from a daily groom.
As with all cats, dental care is important for Munchkin cats, a daily brush with a cat toothbrush will remove plaque.
Do Munchkin cats have knees?
Yes, Munchkin cats have knees like all cats.
Can Munchkin cats jump?
Munchkins can run and jump, however, due to their short legs, they are unable to jump as high as other cats, but that doesn’t slow them down.
How tall is the Munchkin cat?
The average Munchkin stands around 8-9 inches from the ground to the shoulders compared to an average cat who stands around 11 inches tall.