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All About Munchkin Cats

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Munchkin kitten walking on a couch.

All About Munchkin Cats

With their short little legs and low-slung torso, some people view the Munchkin cat as the feline version of a dachshund and refer to it as “sausage cat.” In reality, Munchkin cats are ordinary domestic cats who have extraordinarily short legs due to a natural genetic mutation. Despite their controversial breed status, Munchkin cats make loving pets that delight their owners with humorous antics like scurrying after toys in a "ferret-like" fashion and sitting upright like rabbits.

History

In 1983, a peculiar mutation called the Munchkin mutation caught people's attention when a Louisiana school teacher stumbled upon two pregnant cats with unusually short legs hiding under her car. Although sightings of short-legged cats had been reported since the 1940s, it was this incident that started the deliberate breeding of these kittens to preserve their unique, short-legged look.

The Munchkin cat breed has been a topic of controversy since it was officially recognized by The International Cat Association (TICA) in 1997. Some people have raised concerns about potential health and mobility problems, while others argue that they shouldn't be treated any differently. Many pedigree cat associations around the world have chosen not to acknowledge the Munchkin cat due to worries about their well-being and the uncertainty surrounding their health. Despite this, little research has been done on these potential issues.

Attributes

The Munchkin is much like any domestic cat in many ways. They tend to enjoy spending time on their owner's lap and love a good cuddle. Known for hiding their favorite items in secret spots only they know about, Munchkins are clever and curious little felines. They have a strong hunting instinct and enjoy chasing after and hunting their toys. One of the characteristics shared by many Munchkin cats is their ability to perch on their hind legs, just like prairie dogs. This could be because Munchkins have slightly longer hind legs compared to their front legs.

Why do Munchkin cats have short legs?

The most notable feature of a Munchkin cat is their short legs, which are a result of a genetic mutation. This mutation is caused by a gene that affects the development of long bones in the cat's legs, resulting in a shorter length. This unique genetic trait, known as dwarfism, is inherited and can be passed down to successive generations of Munchkin cats.

How big do Munchkin cats get?

Munchkin cats tend to be small in size. A fully grown Munchkin cat might weigh between 5-9 pounds or more and range in height anywhere from about 6-9 inches tall.

Personality

These little guys have big personalities. Munchkin cats are sociable and friendly, enjoying the company of both humans and fellow felines. Despite their shorter legs, they are curious, outgoing, and full of energy. They love to play and interact, not realizing they are different from cats with longer legs.

Most cats tend to outgrow their kittenish behavior as they age, but not the Munchkin cat. These little felines generally hold onto their playful nature well into their golden years. They're fun-loving felines who enjoy scaling furniture or zooming around the house one minute and snuggling up in your lap the next. They have a tendency to stash favorite toys or treats for later and possess a strong hunting instinct, making toys on strings and treat-dispensing toys breed favorites.

Munchkin cats are known to be very social and have an insatiable curiosity, but unlike other cat breeds, they don’t approach as quickly to satisfy their curiosity. Instead, they sit on their hind legs and stretch to see what has caught their attention. When they do this, they look much like rabbits that sit on their longer hind legs.

Appearance

While their legs make them shorter than your average cat, Munchkin cats are considered medium sized, weighing on average between five and nine pounds. This breed typically stays small, but besides their short stature, they exhibit many of the same physical characteristics as other domestic cats.

The breed's legs, their most distinguishable feature, are categorized into three types: rug hugger, super-short, and standard. Their short legs may be somewhat bowed, having a slight lift from their shoulders to their haunches because their back legs are slightly longer. The Munchkin can find it hard to jump (although many can), and they move very differently than standard-legged cats, with a much wrigglier, rolling motion.

Various coat colors and patterns appear in the Munchkin cat breed, including calico, pointed, tortoiseshell, tuxedo, tabby, and bicolor. Their coats can be short and soft or long and silky, requiring routine grooming to keep them clean and healthy.

Grooming and Care

A Munchkin cat needs the same basic care as all other cats: access to fresh water at all times, nutritious cat food, routine grooming, regular veterinarian checkups, and engagement with their humans. Don’t forget to trim their nails and provide regular dental care, too!

Munchkins may struggle to reach areas that other cats can easily groom, so regular grooming sessions, either weekly or bi-weekly, are recommended. Long-coated Munchkins will need grooming every day. Remember that a greasy coat can be a sign that your cat is no longer attempting to groom themselves, indicating poor or failing health.

Being a unique breed, Munchkins thrive with owners who spend ample time at home and provide a living space that accommodates their short legs and limited jumping abilities. They are perfect for various types of living spaces, especially smaller ones like apartments or single-story homes. However, don't be fooled by their size – Munchkins can easily get around in larger homes too!

Common Health Issues

Generally speaking, Munchkin cats don’t appear to be any more prone to major health problems than other domestic breeds of cat. Due to their bone development, however, Munchkin kittens are known to be more susceptible to certain deformities. Lordosis is a deformity of a cat’s lower spine, and Pectus Excavatum occurs when the ribs and sternum don’t grow properly. While these are potential concerns, not all Munchkin cats develop these conditions.

Based on ASPCA® Pet Health Insurance policyholder claims*, other health issues commonly seen in Munchkin cats include:

  • Gastrointestinal Issues (vomiting/diarrhea)
  • Anemia
  • Otitis
  • Periodontal Disease

To maintain your cat’s general good health, make sure you’re keeping up with routine exams and offering a balanced diet for a healthy weight. Contact your veterinarian with questions or concerns.

Fun Facts About Munchkin Cats

  • Contrary to popular belief (or concern), the Munchkin cat does not suffer from spinal issues due to their short legs. The only limitation the Munchkin cat appears to have with shorter legs is the ability to jump as high as a cat with traditionally longer legs.

  • A Munchkin holds the current record for smallest domestic cat. Lilleput, a Munchkin cat who hails from Napa, California, holds the Guinness World Record for the shortest stature, standing just 13.34 cm (5.25 in) tall.

  • Munchkins are becoming a popular breed to mix with other domestic cats, resulting in some interesting and fun names. For example, when a Munchkin is mixed with a Sphinx, it is called either a Minskin or a Bambino. Other mixed breeds include the Skookum (mixed with a LaPerm), the Lambkin (mixed with a Selkirk Rex), the Napoleon or Minuet (mixed with a Persian), and the Kinkalow (mixed with an American Curl).

  • Munchkin cats love to collect small, shiny objects. This trait is so prevalent that the breed has been nicknamed "the magpie of the cat world.”

With all the personality of the cats you know and love, the Munchkin cat packs a lot of punch into a small stature, proving that good things do come in small packages.

*Internal Claims Data, 2019-2021

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

An ASPCA® Pet Health Insurance plan can help you with eligible costs for covered conditions like surgery expenses for accidents and help provide peace of mind that your pet can receive the care they need. Check out our online resources to learn more about your insurance options and get a free quote today. The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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