Upon first glance, Munchkin cats might appear to be dachshund-like cats, low to the ground, squat, and a bit chubby. Those who are not familiar with the breed might even wonder if the cat has trouble getting around, as its legs are so short. They have no disability, however – Munchkin cats, also known as dwarf cats, are bred to be extra close to the ground, extra curious, and extra cute. Although Munchkin cats are not recognized by the United Kingdom’s main cat fancier association, they are quite popular in the United States, where they originated. Here, we will discover what is so special about Munchkin cats.
History of Munchkin Cats
As noted above, Munchkin cats originated in the United States, and are not a recognized breed in the United Kingdom. They are a fairly new breed of cat, begun in the 1980s in Louisiana, where a cat lover discovered two pregnant strays with short legs, who gave birth to kittens with both short and long legs. The cat lover gave one of the males with short legs to a friend, and the friend began breeding Munchkins. The cat lovers (who have now developed into breeders) named the breed after the little people of Munchkinland from the movie “The Wizard of Oz.” They also consulted a cat judge and genetics committee chair for The International Cat Association (TICA), who discovered that an autosomal dominant gene caused shorter than normal bones to develop in the cats’ legs. This genetic mutation had occurred spontaneously within the feline gene pool.
The breeders were concerned that the Munchkins’ short legs might cause physical problems, such as hip dysplasia, spine problems, and degenerative disc disease, so they had the cats examined and x-rayed by veterinarians to determine if this was a possibility. Although these problems were not found, the breed is so new that the results were not definitive, and the breeders were cautioned that such problems could develop later.
The Munchkin was introduced at the TICA cat show in New York City in 1991, but not accepted by TICA until 1994.
Munchkin Cats’ Physical Appearance
Munchkin cats are easily distinguishable from their short legs. There are other physical attributes of the Munchkin that are specific to the breed as well.
Munchkins can have short or long hair. If long-haired, the coat is considered “semi-long,” and is silky, with a moderate, medium undercoat. The legs are shaggy and the tail is a full plume. If short-haired, the Munchkin has a dense coat (interestingly, solid color short-haired Munchkins have less dense coats). The coat is semi-plush and resilient, with a medium undercoat and a lustrous appearance.
The body of the Munchkin cat is not compact, but thick. Its back slopes upward from its shoulders to its tail. The chest is well-rounded, with firm hips. This cat is medium boned and not bulky. It is known for its firmly developed muscles as well. Most Munchkins weigh five to nine pounds.
The head of the Munchkin is a modified wedge with rounded contours and is in proportion with its body. Its cheekbones are high and well-defined, with a firm chin aligned with its nose. The nose is medium-length and forehead is flat.
The ears of the Munchkin are proportionate to its head. They are broader at their base and end in slightly rounded tips, towards the top and sides of the head.
A Munchkin’s eyes are walnut shaped and wide spaced, giving them an open, alert expression, angled slightly towards the base of the ears. There is no relationship between the color of a Munchkin’s coat and its eye color.
Of course, the Munchkin has short legs that are evenly set apart. Its upper and lower forelegs are equal in length, and it has round feet, compact in proportion with its body. All four of a Munchkin’s feet point straight forward, with no inward or outward slant.
There are three types of leg lengths among Munchkin cats – standard, super-short, and rug-hugger (the shortest). So, there are some Munchkins in existence that have “standard” length legs. A Munchkin must be born with the autosomal dominant gene in order to have shorter legs.
Fun fact: the Munchkin has the ability to perch on its hind legs, like a prairie dog!
Munchkins carry their tails erect when they are in motion. The tail tapers to a rounded tip, and is not overly thick. It is usually the length of the Munchkin’s body.
Color of Munchkin Cat
A Munchkin’s color, pattern, and hair length varies. The Munchkin can come in any color or pattern, including a Siamese color/pattern scheme.
Personality of a Munchkin Cat
Munchkin cats are typically very outgoing and self-confident felines. Although their bodies might appear small, their intellect and personalities are huge! Munchkins are known to be quite friendly, social, and love people. They are devoted companions who are said to get along well with other people, cats and dogs. Munchkins are playful and enjoy physical activity with their owners as well as with other cats, jumping and climbing despite their short legs. They have also been known to take small objects and hide them away for later use – so if you are missing something, chances are, the Munchkin borrowed it! Although Munchkins love to play, they also love to cuddle with and show affection to their owners. Munchkins are so friendly that they have been designated by many cat experts as one of the best cat breeds for children.
Health Concerns Specific to Munchkin Cats
As mentioned above, the shorter legs that are characteristic of the Munchkin breed have been linked to potential bone and spine problems, although genetic testing has not revealed abnormalities in joints or bones. Other common problems found among Munchkins include hyperthyroidism, pancreatitis, kidney failure, feline lower urinary tract disease, and cancer of the lymph nodes. Other than that, Munchkins are generally healthy cats. The life expectancy of a Munchkin is the same as with any other standard cat breed: 12 to 15 years.
Controversy Surrounding Munchkin Cats
Although the breed was ultimately accepted by TICA, not all cat breeders are in favor of the Munchkin breed of cat. Many of them consider the breeding of cats specifically for shorter legs is unethical and will cause back, hip and leg problems in these cats in the future. Negative attitudes toward Munchkins persist among the cat fancier community more than within the general public. This negative publicity, however, has made Munchkins even more popular, with articles published in national publications creating long waiting lists for those who wanted to purchase a Munchkin.
Today, the Munchkin breed has been accepted by TICA, AACE (American Association of Cat Enthusiasts), and UFO (United Feline Organization) in the short- and long-hair categories. However, they still have not gained acceptance or recognition by the ACFA (American Cat Fanciers Association), CCA (Canadian Cat Association), CFF (Cat Fanciers Federation) and CFA (Cat Fanciers Association). The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF), the premier registration body for cats in the United Kingdom, has stated that it will not recognize any new breed based on abnormal structure or development, and discourages people from importing Munchkins.
Cost of a Munchkin Cat
If you are interested in purchasing your very own Munchkin cat, you should know that, as of 2020, the cost of a Munchkin ranges from $500 to $1200. Depending on things like color, pattern, and leg length, the price can go as high as $3000 per Munchkin.
Munchkin Cats in Pop Culture
Because the Munchkin breed is relatively new, there are few “famous” Munchkin cats. Some of them include:
- Diana in the Japanese tv series “Jewelpet” – a black Munchkin cat with white paws who uses dark magic
- Albert- a famous Munchkin cat on Instagram with blue eyes and an attitude