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The Munchikin cat has unusually short legs, comes in a variety of colors, and has a very loving, sweet personality. This breed is a result of a natural genetic mutation, and is not a man-made hybrid. The mutation is a gene that causes achondroplasia, which makes its legs vastly shorter than those of other cats. The cat's quality of life is not hampered by this genetic mutation, and can do anything any other cat can do, but in a much cuter way. The first Munchkin cat dates from 1983, when a Louisiana breeder discovered a local cat with the mutation. Munchkins live normal healthy long lives and are sociable, affectionate cats. They make great companions. Contact the cat breeders below for your next family friend.
The Munchkin is a breed created by a naturally-occurring genetic mutation that results in cats with abnormally short legs. The shortness of their legs, however, does not seem to interfere with their exuberant running and leaping capabilities. The racy, low-slung Munchkin is built for speed, agility, love, and fun!
The gene responsible for the Munchkins’ short legs has been compared to the gene that gives Welsh Corgis, Basset Hounds and Dachshunds their short stature. Munchkins do not suffer from the many spinal problems that can trouble these canine breeds, however, because the spines of cats are physically different from those of dogs. The spine of a Munchkin cat is usually indistinguishable from that of other cats.
Throughout history and around the globe, for centuries, there have been sightings of short-legged cats, from Russia to Germany to Great Britain. A breeding population existed in Europe in the early 1900s, but the lines died out during and after World War II. The breed was first observed and documented in the United States in 1964 in the town of Westbury, New York.
However, that particular cat was never bred, and another example was not recognized again until 1983, when a music teacher in Louisiana named Sandra Hockenedel found a pregnant short-legged female that became the foundation cat for the breed we now call the Munchkin. Sandra named the cat Blackberry. She gave a short-legged male kitten named Toulouse from one of Blackberry's litters to her friend Kay LaFrance, and it is from these two cats that the breed was established using domestic cats as outcrosses to ensure a diverse gene pool.
The Munchkin was first introduced to the general public in 1991 via a nationally televised cat show held by The International Cat Association (TICA) in Madison Square Garden. Critics predicted that the breed would develop back, hip and leg problems similar to those that plague some Dachshunds. But studies conducted by the chief of the genetics’ committee for TICA determined that Munchkins were physically sound, and the breeding data showed that the short legs in the Munchkin followed a dominant pattern of inheritance like that of the Corgi.
After years of development and much controversy, TICA finally accepted the Munchkin into its New Breed Development Program in September 1994. One veteran show judge – who had Munchkin supporters threatening to burn her house down! – resigned in protest, calling the breed “an affront to breeders with ethics.” However, the Munchkin was triumphantly granted full TICA Championship status in May of 2003.
To fully appreciate these bundles of exuberance, one has to know a Munchkin personally. They are very energetic and have a great cornering speed – just like the sleek race cars that they resemble – and tend to stay low to the ground, although they are also perfectly capable of jumping. These are cats that tend to provoke a reaction because of their short legs. Those who do not really know the breed see only their “handicap,” whereas those who know them have come to love these joyful creatures that know no limits.
Badgers, ferrets, otters, raccoons, and squirrels are just a few of the animals in the wild that have evolved to be naturally low to the ground. Some are diggers, some are climbers and, in the case of otters, some are swimmers, despite their short legs which have come to enhance their survival capabilities.
The Munchkin cat is a small- to medium-sized cat with a moderate "semi-foreign" body type. A male Munchkin cat typically weighs between six and nine pounds, and is usually larger than the female, which weighs between four and eight pounds. There is a slight rise in the spine from the shoulder to the rump. The short legs of the Munchkin cat may be slightly bowed, although excessive bowing results in disqualification in the show ring. The hind legs may be slightly longer than the front. According to the Animal Planet show “Cats 101,” there are three types of legs on Munchkins: “standard, super-short, and rug-hugger.”
For TICA shows, they are separated by fur length into two groups: Munchkin and Munchkin Longhair. The short-haired variety has a medium-plush, all-weather coat, while the long-haired has a semi-long, silky, all-weather coat. The Munchkin comes in a veritable painter's palette of colors and patterns, introduced through the outcross program that maintains the breed's genetic diversity. Grooming is quick and easy. Short-haired Munchkins should be combed once a week to help remove loose dead hair. Comb long-haired Munchkins twice a week to remove dead hair and prevent tangles or mats from forming.
Apart from TICA, other registries that recognize the Munchkin breed include The American Association of Cat Enthusiasts; the UK's United Feline Organization; the Southern Africa Cat Council; Australian National Cats, Inc.; and Catz Incorporated in New Zealand. The breed is not recognized by the Cat Fanciers' Association.
Outcrossing of the Munchkin with other breeds has produced some exotic results. The Munchkin has been crossed with: the curly-coated LaPerm to create the Skookum; the hairless Sphynx to create the Minskin; the Bambino with the extremely curly-coated Selkirk Rex to produce the Lambkin; the Persian to create the Napoleon; and the Bengal to create the Genetta.
These sociable cats are extremely playful, love to run, chase, and play with toys. They relish having others join them in their merry games, including children, dogs, and any of your other pets. Most Munchkins don’t walk—they zoom!
Munchkins are extremely curious and will sit up on their hind legs like rabbits to get a better view of something that has caught their attention. (This same pose is also observed in the Scottish Fold cat, who often sits up on its haunches and even stands up on its hind legs like a ground hog or a prairie dog, either of which it can also resemble.)
Self-assured Munchkins may not jump from the floor to the top of the bookcase in a single bound, but they will show off their jumping prowess and intelligence as they make their way up a path that takes them there in smaller steps. Any concerns about mobility because of their shorter legs are quickly erased as you watch Munchkins dashing around and cornering tightly in whatever game they are playing. Munchkins are also known as “magpies,” often borrowing small, shiny objects and stashing them away for later play.
Oblivious to the controversy that surrounds them, they go on being just what they are – cats – self-assured, happy, and outgoing. They love to wrestle and play with their long-legged feline friends, happily unaware that there's anything different about them. Nor do their feline companions treat them like members of the vertically-challenged. Only humans look at them askance.
Very personable, these cats are friendly and outgoing, never aggressive or destructive. And interestingly, not all Munchkins are born with short legs; equally charming are those with rare long legs. Proficient hunters, Munchkins appreciate a good game of catnip mouse, but when playtime is over, all they want is a warm lap to snuggle into and strokes from a loving hand. While they can be very relaxed and almost inert at times, they may also fly through the house like small rockets – the ideal feline companion for any family seeking a burst of unique excitement from a perfectly wonderful pet.