Napoleon/Minuet cats can be Standard and Non-Standard; however, the distinctive short legs of the Standard Napoleon are developed from a spontaneous autosomal dominant mutation. The short legs do not hamper mobility or survival ability. The ideal Napoleon is a strong cat with excellent boning and musculature, giving the impression of robust power. The face should be round with a sweet, pleasant expression and large, round expressive eyes. The Napoleon should be balanced physically and temperamentally, gentle and amenable to handling.
The Napoleon cat, also known as the “Rug Hugger,” features a whimsical baby-doll face, a plush silky coat, and a low-slung Dachshund-like body. These cats bring an immediate smile to your face and capture your heart with their unique charm. Napoleons are a hybrid cat breed—a mix of Persian and Munchkin, which is another short-legged breed. Combining the older traditional “doll-faced” Persian look with the short legs of the Munchkin, these cats come in a multitude of colors with both long and short coats. The Napoleon is still in the early stages of its development as a breed. Both short and long-legged kittens may appear in any litter. The long-legged cats cannot be shown, but they still make wonderfully charming pets.
The Napoleon shares its history with that of the Persian, which has been a part of cat fancy from its beginnings in the late 19th century. It also shares its history with the modern Munchkin whose roots go back only to 1983, when a woman named Sandra Hockendal rescued a pregnant cat with short legs. Some of the resultant kittens had short legs too, and Sandra's Louisiana plantation became the base of a population of short-legged cats that resulted from a dominant dwarfism gene—“Munchkinism.” TICA (The International Cat Association) recognized the Munchkin for registration status in 1994 and for Championship status, after years of careful monitoring for good health, in May of 2003.
In 1996, Joe Smith started crossbreeding Munchkins with the Persian Breed Group (which included Persians, Himalayans, and even Exotic Shorthairs). Joe was a breeder of Basset Hounds, a lowslung breed of dog, and he became intrigued with the Munchkin and its genetics. He wanted to create a breed that would have universal appeal whether the cat had the signature short legs or the longer legs of the non-standard version. Joe decided to call his new breed the Napoleon after Napoleon Bonaparte, who was famously short in stature. The Persians used were the so-called doll-faced Persians which have a longer nose than the modern Persian and a very open, sweet expression.
Not wanting to “copy-cat” the Persians, Joe opted to craft the breed standard to aim for the look of the "old-fashioned Persian faces of years ago" instead of the pekingese-faced, snubbed-nosed Persians of today. There were other reasons for this chosen mix. The Persian breed is known for its gentle loving nature, so by avoiding the extreme peke-faced Persian breeding, the Napoleons would be striving for a healthier genetic diversity. Plus, there is a huge following of the Persians of old by people who love and prefer that sweet expression yet find it difficult to find it in contemporary Persians.
In 2001 Joe contacted TICA and the new breed was added to the list of Experimental breeds, and by 2002 Joe had met the criteria for the next stage in development and the breed was advanced to Registration Only status. This important step recognized the name and started the breed on the ladder toward championship status.
It takes a long time and a lot of hard work to develop a new breed and there are often frustrations and complications along the way with both the development and the process to get a new breed accepted. In 2008, Joe moved on to other projects and other Napoleon breeders assumed the responsibility of continuing the drive toward full recognition. When the breed was presented to the TICA board in September 2011, the Napoleon reached the coveted next step of Preliminary New Breed, and could begin showing in that class at shows effective May 2012.
The Napoleon is a gentle, extremely affectionate and personable cat. They have the sweetness of the Persian yet the energy and curiosity of the Munchkin. Their big eyes in their delicate faces give them a look of complete innocence, while their inquisitiveness gets them into all kinds of mischief! While mild-tempered, they are also compulsive when it comes to activity and, like the Munchkin, can negotiate the curves of their self-assigned race-track of the day at breakneck speed.
Napoleons are known for their “prairie dog” perch—standing at attention on their hind legs. Their small legs do not limit their mobility at all, but may create a little bit of a waddle when they walk. Napoleons are a sensitive breed with a pleasant disposition. They are lively and active without being overly so, and they love to relax at rest in your arms.
A very cute and social cat, the Napoleon will keep its owners constantly entertained and smiling. The breed usually relates well to both children and other pets, making it a wonderful addition to the family.
When observing this cat, the first thing you notice is the sweet face; the second, its short legs. While derived from the Persian and the Munchkin, the Napoleon is a distinct breed with its own characteristic look. The head is round and has great big eyes, which may be blue or green, and has a longer nose more like the traditional Persians of yesteryear. The standard Napoleon has short legs but the non-standard version with long legs retains the same distinctive features of the head and there is no mistaking the fact that it is a Napoleon.
Round is the word most associated with the breed. The round head has a shape like a pie-plate and big round eyes like marbles. Round cheeks, round top head, round muzzle. The ears are medium to small and also contribute to the round look of the head. The nose has a slight change of direction often referred to as a ski jump nose, meaning it tips up ever so slightly at the end. All of these features combine to present the very endearing, cherubic look of the breed.
A strong cat with an adorable presence, its low-slung body reflects its fortitude. Like the historic figure of Napoleon, it flaunts its short-legged body with great authority. These sturdy cats have formidable, solid boning and excellent musculature kept in shape by their active lifestyle of running around the house and up and down the stairs at great speed.
Since there were many followers of the original Persians who longed for that old-fashioned "look," the recent development of this breed has resulted in great appeal. Between the angelic, wide-eyed expression and those cute little legs, Napoleons have been become quite popular despite the struggles to gain championship status within TICA.
The Napoleon Cat’s most important characteristic is its short legs, which is the gene inherited from the Munchkin. It is a relatively small cat (four to seven pounds). It has a plush coat that can be either short or long. Another important trait is that its skin and coat can hold up to six hairs in one hair follicle, which is why it feels so plush. It has a medium-length tail, short white whiskers, and pointed ears with slightly rounded tips. It comes in an array of colors and patterns, usually solid or bicolor, which include smoke, gray, black, fawn, brown, chestnut, orange, red, and white.
Health and Grooming
The Napoleon has very few health issues, but some can be prone to polycystic kidney disease, which it inherited from the Persian. However, due to its straight rather than “squashed-in” nose, it is not prone to the typical respiratory issues common in Persians. These cats need only a moderate amount of grooming. Shorthairs should be brushed once a week, while longhairs should be brushed about twice a week, to keep them in tip-top shape, and to give both you and them a lot of pleasure!
Barron’s Encyclopedia of Cat breeds, J. Anne Halgren