Originally, the main purpose of this page on this well known cat was to present the rather technical TICA breed standard in a more readable manner for people who are not in the cat fancy. It has been gradually extended since then. What better way to do this than by presenting Helmi Flick’s fine photograph annotated with parts of the breed standard. I also look at genetics and other people’s views. Please visit my original page on this breed or if you might like to see more of Galadrial in large format. Or, in a hurry? See a Quick Guide but come back!
Note: this page was written in 2012 and republished at the date above.
The dwarf cats, generally, are controversial but many people like the dwarf breeds and the Munchkin is the best known and founding breed. The controversial nature of this breed (breeding from a genetic defect – dwarfism) means that many cat registries neither recognize the Munchkin cat nor any of the dwarf cat breeds, of which there are many (please go here and scroll down to see links to them all). Our visitors like to hear from people who have first hand experience of this cat breed.
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Just to remind ourselves, the Munchkin cat breed started, in Rayville, Louisiana, USA when Sandra Hochenedel found two cats that looked like ferrets under a pick up truck trying to escape a bulldog. They were both pregnant. Well that is the story I heard1. One cat was grey, the other black. Sandra called the grey one Blueberry and the black one Blackberry. She gave Blueberry away and kept Blackberry who had her kittens. One of the kittens was a dwarf male cat, which she named Toulouse after the well known French artist, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, who had short legs. Interestingly Toulouse-Lautrec’s congental health problems were a result of inbreeding; his parents were first cousins. He had a disorder that was similar to achondroplasia, which is the disease that makes dwarf cats what they are (read more on this). Anyway back to the cats!
Toulouse was given to a friend, Kay LaFrance (very aptly) of Monroe, Louisiana. He spread his seed. There have been many other examples of naturally occurring dwarf cats but all are practically unknown to history.
As I mention on the original page on this breed, it is said that the dwarf cats are generally healthy (a study concluded this); perhaps more healthy than the Scottish Fold as an example (which is accepted by the most conservative of cat associations, the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA)). Yet the only associations accepting the Munchkin is The International Cat Association, by far the biggest to accept this breed (TICA) and the Southern Africa Cat Council and the Waratah National Cat Alliance in Australia (I am not aware of any others but please advise). For TICA to accept this breed and allow it to progress to the level of Championship Breeds indicates that a body of cat fancy experts have agreed that this cat is generally healthy, as stated. Championship breed level is the highest level progressing from Preliminary New Breeds, Advanced New Breeds, Non-Championship Breeds.
Perhaps one factor in TICA registering and progressing this breed to championship status in 2003 (once the health issues were out of the way) is its popularity. There is no denying that the very cute and cuddly appearance appeals to a large number of cat lovers. And you know, it has been a long journey since the creation of the breed in the 1980s to the present state of full acceptance by one of the major cat associations.
As an aside, I received an email from a Munchkin cat breeder, Fiona Douglas, in Victoria, Australia, who says this (make what you will of it). I have published it verbatim for accuracy and it is of public interest to cat breeders:
The Victorian (Australia) Governing Council of Cat Fanciers (or similar wording) also accepts Munchkins. On a less positive note, I wish to draw your attention to new legislation in the State of Victoria (only) that has possibly made the perpetuation of the Munchkin breed illegal. The Heritable Diseases law (under the Animal Welfare Act) came into place in June 2009. It names just three diseases of cats which are illegal to perpetuate (effectively): Munchkin, Scottish Fold and cats with PKD. As a Munchkin breeder, you can imagine the shock (dismay?) of this, especially considering the genetic robustness of this breed, outcrossed (as they are) to long legged cats and as a result arguably having the most robust genetic health of the entire cat fancy! The outlawed condition they have linked to the Munchkin is ‘hypoplasia’ so I am busy trying to determine if hypoplasia is different to the Munchkin genetics.
We must recognize the determination and stamina of the breeders at The Dwarf Cat Association. They have gone on to produce rexed (curly haired) and curled eared Munchkin cats. All the dwarf cat breeds, links to which can be found on this page, are founded on the Munchkin.
Short History Timeline:
|1983||Sandra Hochenedel discovers dwarf cat.|
|1991||Introduced to public at TICA cat show.|
|1994||TICA accept Munchkin cat into New Breed development program.|
|2003||TICA grant Championship status.|
More on TICA Breed Standard
So, back to TICA breed standard. The large image touches on this standard. All colors and patterns are allowed as are all divisions and all categories. Galadrial, above, is a Calico cat or in more accurate language a Tortoiseshell and White cat (see Tortoiseshell cats). Out of an available 100 points, the head (and ears etc.) and body shape take 80% of the points. The remainder goes to the texture (10%) and length (10%) of the coat. The body is described as, “thick semi-foreign”. A foreign shaped body is one that is slender and athletic (my words). The only cat body shape more slender and thin is an “oriental” body shape. So, a semi-foreign, I would suggest, is between foreign and the more sturdy semi-cobby. The lines should be long and boning medium. And the body should not be compact. The back of this cat slopes gently outwards from shoulders to the tail. The chest should be well rounded. See a page dedicated to cat body types.
TICA breed standard further says that the muzzle should be, “gentle with moderate contours” and in proportion to the head. If the whisker pads are prominent this is acceptable. The Munchkin cat nose should be of medium length and a slight bump is deemed acceptable. The neck should have firm musculature. The boning of the Munchkin cat is medium but not too bulky. The feet are round and compact and in proportion to the body. They should point forward and not to the side.
Some Genetics – courtesy Wikipedia (modified) under license
In the charts below (Punnett squares) the letter M represents the dominant Munchkin gene while the lower case m represents the recessivenormal gene. The charts show the chances of a mating resulting in the creation of a Munchkin cat.
Kittens that carry two copies of the Munchkin gene (MM) don’t survive. Those that carry 1 Munchkin gene and 1 normal gene (Mm) will become Munchkins. Offspring that have two normal genes (mm) will develop as normal cats. Mm Munchkin offspring will pass on the Munchkin gene to their offspring. Normal mm cats will not do this. They don’t have a copy of the Munchkin gene.
Mating two Munchkins:
For each kitten born from this mating, there is a one in four chance that it will be non-viable (born dead), a one in four chance it will be normal, and a one in two chance it will be a Munchkin cat.
Mating a Munchkin with a normal cat:
For each kitten born from this mating, there is a 0% chance it will be non-viable (unless it has a different, unrelated condition), a 50% chance it will be normal, and a 50% chance it will be a Munchkin.
Gloria Stephens – her viewpoint
Gloria Stephens, the author of Legacy of the Cat has been:
- a full Allbreed judge
- on the ACFA Jurisprudence Committee
- on TICA she has been:
- Allbreed Judge
- full instructor
- judging administrator
- genetics instructor
- genetics committee member and
- judiciary committee member
Cats have always been a part of her life. I’ll refer to her comments about this cat where they add to the above and other pages on this site. Her view on dwarf cats and the Munchkin cat is this. She first had “misgivings” about the Munchkin cat. She says that she felt sorry for the cat. She was unsure whether this cat could lead a normal life. Gloria says that she changed her mind when a Munchkin became a cat companion. She found that her Munchkin was, in summary, a very athletic cat and became a treasured companion. In describing this cat she says that the legs are thicker than those of long-legged cats. At the time she wrote her book, Legacy of the Cat (published 2000), Gloria mentions that the body conformation was still under discussion; to be either semi-foreign (as mentioned above) or semi-cobby (the next size/shape up so to speak).
Gloria makes the point that the Munchkin cat has a slightly comical gait. As for the front legs, one foot is placed in front of the other when walking. The rear sways from side to side. The head is almost an equilateral triangle (see the Japanese Bobtail breed standard for a head that is an equilateral triangle plus explanation). The Munchkin, Gloria says, has a great temperament; a very sweet cat. They can stand on their hind legs and look around a little like Meerkats.
What TICA says about the Munchkin cat
TICA have recognised ths breed since 1994. This is a highly summarized version of TICA’s comments on this cat breed:
- surprisingly they say this cat is built for speed. The cat must be, on average, slower than normal leg length cats (my comment).
- full of energy
- their short legs make them more able to manoeuvre
- highly playful
- love to run and chase
- small to medium in size (5-9 lbs – see largest domestic cat breed)
- no spinal problems as seen in similar dog breeds such as Corgis and Dachshunds.
Some more – updates
What about the well the known charactertistic of the Munchkin cat to adopt the meerkat position? What I mean is to sit up on his or her bottom and use the tail as a stabiliser. All cats do this from time to time but dwarf cats do it more often and can hold it for longer. Margie Gardner, a Munchkin breeder in Flinctone, Ga, USA, says this is because they have short legs.
Yes, that must be the case, but the underlying reason is because they want to see better, be taller, it seems to me. Adopting the meerkat position (see picture of my three legged boy) allows the cat to see further and more clearly. It also makes the cat taller and more noticeable. It attracts our attention.
I wonder, therefore, if a Munchkin cat does this deliberately for these reasons. And if it does, that begs the question whether it happens instinctively or if the cat is consciously aware of its short stature. Now that is a very philosophical point to ponder!
Chris Robbie another breeder of Munchkins says that they are very agile and can jump as high as her Ragdolls (question: how high do her Radgolls jump?). They may be more agile than Ragdolls. Playing devils advocate, it may the case that Ragdoll cats are a little less agile than the norm for domestic cats.
The outcrossing programme has helped to maintain the health of this breed while introducing a wide range of coat colours and patterns. Munchkin cats can be long and short haired and double and single coated.
What Other Visitors Have Said
Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page…
Litter of Munchkin Kittens
These are photos of my first litter from my male Munchkin that I imported from New Zealand. There are three little standard boys and one non-standard girl….
My Munchkin cat is like no other
I adopted Sasha in April 2000. I remember thinking she was cute but not the kitten I would have chosen. However, I was happy because I had a new forever …
I adopted an abandoned Munchkin dwarf cat
Although my Munchkin dwarf cat has a sweet personality and is completely healthy I still feel that she has a disability compared to my other 4 cats. Muchkins …
I would love to adopt a munchkin kitten. I live in the city Perth, Western Australia. I do own 2 female kittens that are sisters and are just over 3 months …
I Love Munchkin Cats
I have been raising Munchkin kittens for 6 years now and I love them. I have one female and I allow her to have kittens twice a year. I don’t know …
My Munchkin Cat Tokyo
I used to work at a questionable pet store while trying to work my way through college. At the pet store, there were many different exotic animals and …
Munchkin Cat Tinkerbell Up For Adoption
My neighbor had a litter of Munchkins and gave me one. Her name is Tinkerbell. She is mostly white, but her face is calico and she has a few patches …
My Munchkin Cat – Mac Mac
Mac Mac is a Munchkin in the color of Blue and White now at 2.5 years old. His father is a Munchkin and mother is a British Shorthair . Mac Mac …
My Munchkin Cat Na Na
A few months ago, I fell in love with a cat with short little legs. Her name is Na Na. Her father is a Munchkin and her mother is a Scottish Fold….
What Kind of Cat Do I Have?
I bought my cat from a Munchkin breeder. The advertisement said: Nonstandard Lynxpoint and White Munchkin Boy. When I look at pictures of different …
My female Munchkin cat nursing her offspring
I am really interested in this breed. I became aware of the existence of this breed in 2006. Late huh… hehe… But then I tried to find one as pet. But …
My Munchkin Cat
Just wanna say, this breed is so interesting. Thanks God I found this breed as a pet… Updated post…the following added next day Yes. I’m here …
Sad Mommy Lost Her Munchkin
I am not one of these wealthy people that buy an expensive breed. I could never spend thousands of dollars on any pet just to buy in one lump sum. I never …
I found your information quite interesting in spite of the facts are incorrect in a couple of places. The Munchkin breed does, occasionally, inherit a …
Munchkin Cat Jumping
Hi, I’d just like to add to this page by showing the best Munchkin cat jumping videos (and more) that I can find and there are certainly a healthy number …
Windrunner Cattery Munchkin Breeder
I bred my first Munchkin litter in 1994, but succumbed to public opinion and quit until 1998, when I decided to breed what I liked, not what the public …
Shannon and Cooper: Munchkin Kittens Not rated yet
We adopted our kittens from friends (2 separate ones) and I have never smiled or laughed so hard in my life since these 2 crazy kitties, came into our …
My Munchkin Experience Not rated yet
My parents first introduced me to Munchkins when they saw a story on Inside Edition. We are a huge cat family, so we thought they were too precious. I’…
I Found a Munchkin Cat Not rated yet
I FOUND THIS KITTEN AT WORK. IN FACT THERE WERE 2 OF THEM. A MALE AND FEMALE. I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT WAS WRONG WITH THIS KITTEN. IT HAD SHORT LEGS AND HAD …
Long Time Dwarf Cat Owner Not rated yet
I bought a dwarf kitten in 1998. He was born 3/31/98, to a breeder in Hookset N.H., whose name escapes me. You just can not fully appreciate this animal …