Munchkin Cat Breed

This page is about the foundation dwarf cat breed, the Munchkin. The page was first written in about 2010 and has been added to today. It is now a pretty comprehensive page on this breed which, in general, people have learned to reject because it is built upon an inherited defect due to a genetic mutation which appears to be autosomal dominant. Please read on.

Dwarf cat with fluffy tail
Dwarf cat with fluffy tail believed to be a Munchkin. Image in the public domain.
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RELATED: Munchkin Cat

“Most cats, when they are Out want to be In, and vice versa, and often simultaneously.” – Louis J. Camuti – cat quotes. This is true because cats don’t understand doors or the difference between outside and inside. These are human concepts. Below this collage of Helmi Flick photographs, I explain why the photos and Galadrial are so right for this breed of cat.

Munchkin cat Galadrial

The Munchkin is said to be a “normal sized cat in every way”1 with short legs. You can see the leg length very accurately in the larger of the three photographs. And Galadrial is such a normal looking cat. He is a calico cat but this breed can be shown in all colors and categories. There you have it, a classic Munchkin cat.

The Munchkin’s legs are about 5 inches from ground to shoulder blade.

Here are some key facts about this breed:

Note:

1. Legacy of the Cat by Gloria Stephens and Tetsu.

There are more pages at the base of this article

Update September 2, 2023

I feel compelled to update this page many years after it was first written. The world has moved on. In 2010 when the page was written dwarf cats were relatively new on the scene. They never took off in terms of popularity because of health issues. Let’s remind ourselves that dwarf cats are normal cats suffering from dwarfism. This is a congenital condition. It’s a negative to the cat’s anatomy. You might argue that it is a disability.

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

But, in addition to the obvious disability that dwarfism brings to the cat, they suffer from lordosis and pectus excavatum which you can read about by clicking on this link.

Ben the Vet on TikTok, a popular webpage, tells the world that people should not adopt the Munchkin because in essence the breed is simply misconceived. They can’t behave normally eases and he doesn’t want people to indirectly promote dwarf cats.

Like many people – and this is the main reason why some breeds do not become as popular as they might despite their cuteness – I don’t want to see breeds created out of random genetic mutations in the general cat population which resulted, in this instance, in a dwarf cat from which the breed was created.

There is a modern trend nowadays in 2023 to pushback on cat breeds created and developed through selective breeding from defects. Other examples would be the Scottish Fold and the Sphynx, the number one hairless cat. The former can suffer with terrible health issues due to cartilage problems unless the breeder breeds very carefully and does not mate a Scottish fold with a Scottish fold. The hairless cats simply can’t go outside and they need particular protection and caregiving.

In Germany, both these cat breeds and the dwarf cats are regarded as domestic cats created from “torture breeding”. It’s a strong phrase but what the German authorities are saying is that the cat fancy occasionally creates cat breeds which are being tortured by their deficiencies. This is not the way to go. It is not progressive to create breeds like that even if they are attractive to many people.

There needs to be a greater emphasis on an ethical approach to cat breeding and the same, by the way, applies to dog breeding. In fact, there are more issues with unethical dog breeding than there are with unethical cat breeding.

In the world of dogs, the popular French bulldog is the classic example of creating a dog breed which is very attractive to people but which is highly unhealthy. As I recall, the Frenchie suffers from 21 inherited diseases. You’re going to need a very good bank balance to look after the Frenchie as they are called. There are too many dog breeds which are unhealthy with a short life spans due to a breakdown in the management of the dog fancy in terms of maintaining ethical standards among their breeders.

It all comes back to the administration of the cat fancy and dog fancy and how they write the breed standards. If a breed standard states, for example, that a cat must have a flat face and a round head (the contemporary Persian cat) they are, indirectly, insisting that cat breeders create an unhealthy cat because they have breathing difficulties and other issues. This is entirely incorrect. The same goes regarding the dwarf cats.

The primary objective of the cat fancy should be to create cat breeds that are healthy. That’s the first priority. The cat fancy has abdicated their responsibilities towards this first priority and targeted cuteness and attractiveness i.e. appearance over health. This undermines the cat fancy and in the long term it works against the popularity of the cat breeds in my honest opinion.

Dr. Desmond Morris in his book Cat World

I would like to add a few more words in reference to Dr. Desmond Morris’s book Cat World-a Feline Encyclopaedia. He tells us that the Munchkin Cat is a “short-legged American cat discovered in the 1990s”. He goes on to add that the breed was, “Viewed as a freak by most cat societies”. The Munchkin are sometimes referred to as the “Dachshund Cat” or the “Ferret of the Feline World”.

Plush toy or real cat?
Plush toy or real cat? Photo: Instagram page of munchkin_minnie.

The breed was named after the “little people” who appear in The Wizard of Oz. The Munchkin “parallels the Dachshund and the short-legged terrier breeds of dog, but there is a fundamental difference between them. The dachshund and the short-legged terriers were bred for a specific purpose – to go to earth. The short legs were an advantage to them i entering burrows, but the Munchkin Cat has been developed purely as an oddity, whose modify legs offer the animal no serious, practical advantage.”

Comment: my point exactly. This cat breed has been created because of their cute appearance. The sausage dog was created for a specific, utilitarian purpose as a working dog. There is a difference. Although, in typical style, the dog fancy has tended to overdo the selective breeding of the dachshund and made the breed too low to the ground and too long and sausage-like. This is extreme breeding to which the cat fancy is predisposed.

Dr. Desmond Morris goes on to add the following, “Critics of this breed, and there are many, point out that, apart from its lack of lithe feline grace, the Munchkin has great difficulty in grooming itself and also runs the risk of suffering from premature ageing of its unnaturally long spine. Despite the claims made for it by Penny Squires, these critics feel it is unlikely that this new breed (his book was published shortly after the breed was created) will ever obtain wide popularity as a pedigree show cat.”

That’s exactly what happened. Dr. Desmond Morris was entirely correct.

Achondroplastic dwarfism [cosmetic]

I would like to refer also to Robertson’s Genetics for Breeders and Veterinarians, which is the default book to go to about cat genetics. Mr Robinson says that “various short-legged cats were found over time in various parts of the world. These cats lived in the wild and apparently function as well as long-legged cats.”.

He says that, “details were given at that time for the mode of inheritance”. At the time it was unclear as to whether the condition was inherited or due to environmental factors.

He says that the anomaly “appears to be cosmetic only”. This is incorrect as there are disabilities and diseases associated with dwarfism in domestic cats. I have referred to them above. Dr. David Biller in the study of these cats “concluded that this form of chondroplasia affects the long bones with less apparent changes in the forelimbs. The skull, spine and pelvis were not affected in the cats he studied.”

Importantly, he states that “Two congenital bone problems were found to occur in this breed but they are also in the general cat population. The two problems are lordosis which is a downward dip in the spine starting just behind the shoulder blades and pectus which is an inward displacement of the caudal sternum and costal cartilages.”

Robertson also states that, “The gene causing dwarfism appears to be an autosomal dominant gene, due to the decrease in the size of litters when short-legs cats are bred to short-legged cats, the gene also appears to be a homozygous lethal gene.

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