Are Munchkin Cats genetically modified?

Munchkin cats are not genetically modified in the conventional meaning of the term. A genetically modified organism (GMO) is an animal, plant, or microbe whose DNA has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. This does not apply to Munchkin cats. The shortened legs of the Munchkin cat are due to a naturally occurring genetic mutation. Humans didn’t intervene in the initial mutation. But humans have picked up on this mutation and selectively bred cats to ensure that they carry the mutation and therefore are dwarf cats.

Abnormal cat breeds
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Abnormal cat breeds. Munchkin. Photo copyright Helmi Flick


Dwarf cats have standard-sized bodies with short legs. They display the symptoms of osteochondrodysplasia. It is a disorder which affects the development of bone (“osteo”) and cartilage (“chondro”).

The Munchkin Cat is the foundation dwarf cat which has spawned, through hybridization, 13 other dwarf cat breeds. People are attracted by their cute appearance. However, the selective breeding of dwarf cats is hotly debated because of the health implications. They can suffer from two health conditions: lordosis and pectus excavatum. The former is an inward curvature of the spine and the latter is a congenital deformity of the chest cavity in which it is narrower from the top to bottom and the sternum is displaced upwards.

Useful links
Anxiety - reduce it
FULL Maine Coon guide - lots of pages
Children and cats - important

“They can have spinal malformations, lordosis and scoliosis…and they can be born with rib abnormalities” – Dr. Carol Margolis, a veterinarian and lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.

Dwarf cats: 2 health problems

Dwarf cats: 2 health problems. Photos: copyright Helmi Flick. Drawing by PoC.

The concept of genetic modification is normally applied to genetically modified foods which are also controversial. They are also referred to as genetically engineered foods. Genetic engineering is carried out in various ways. Genes are inserted, modified or deleted. The whole process is artificial as a result of human intervention.

Lillieput, a Munchkin 10 years-of-age. Picture in the public domain.

There was no human intervention in the spontaneous genetic mutation of the gene which resulted in dwarfism in the first dwarf cat.

Robinson’s Genetics for Cat Breeders and Veterinarians (Fourth Edition) refers to achrondoplastic dwarfism as a ‘cosmetic’ defect (downplaying it). It appears to have been first discovered in cats in 1931 by Schwangart and Grau. Following that first discovery, short-legged cats were then found, over time, in various parts of the world. They functioned as well as long-legs cats and lived in the wild, say the authors. I’d dispute that assessment. The shortened legs of the dwarf cats must impact their athleticism. They lack the long levers of normal cats which makes them so athletic. That said dwarf cats are still capable climbers and runners.

As mentioned, dwarf cats were selectively bred by breeders. Dwarfism affects long bones more than short bones. The skull, pelvis and spine are apparently not affected (but see below: Grumpy Cat). The authors of this book say that lordosis and pectus can also occur in the general cat population (but less so?).

Munchkinlane Milton P. Hershey

Munchkinlane Milton P. Hershey – Milton is a Solid Cinnamon, longhair, male Munchkin cat. He is a TICA champion.He is now in The Netherlands. Great expression on his face – very wise, seen it done it.

They say that the gene causing dwarfism appears to be an autosomal dominant gene. If dwarf cat is bred to dwarf cat, as I understand it, the kittens are unviable. The gene appears to be a homozygous lethal gene.

Grumpy Cat was a dwarf cat. She was not artificially bred. The mutation just happened. Her facial appearance appears to have been due to the dwarfism which goes against what the authors of Robinson’s say mentioned above.


Manchester a dwarf cat living in Moscow

Dwarf cats 2023 – full discussion

Update February 2023: this page was first published in around 2007 as I recall. The situation regarding the dwarf cat ...
Read More
Munchkinlanes Kinkalow Louie

Kinkalow dwarf cat – full details

Introduction The Kinkalow dwarf cat is a deliberate out-cross (a hybrid) between the founding dwarf cat the Munchkin and an ...
Read More
Plush toy or real cat?

Plush toy or real cat?

This bicolour, grey-and-white dwarf cat looks as if she was bought from a toyshop. You can imagine this being a ...
Read More
Picture of the forelegs of a Bambino cat, a dwarf hairless cat

Picture of the chest and forelegs of a Bambino cat

This is a picture of the chest and forelegs of a Bambino cat and I find it interesting. You would ...
Read More
Kinkalow kitten

Gray-and-white Kinkalow kitten

This is a picture of a cute gray-and-white bicolour Kinkalow kitten. It is quite hard to spot this breed unless ...
Read More
This is what it feels like to live with a long-haired dwarf cat

This is what it feels like to live with a long-haired dwarf cat

This video on Twitter gives you a very distinct feel for what it's like to live with a super-cute long-haired ...
Read More
Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *