Munchkin cats have become increasingly popular in the world of designer breeds. They are adorable tiny bundles of fur with very short legs. Much of their recent popularity has been fueled by the fact that they are owned by celebrities.
But they are also intelligent and congenial cats which are much loved by their owners. The breed brings some unique attributes which result from very short legs and a seemingly long torso. Breeders say that they are built like race cars and have the speed and cornering skills to match.
They are loads of fun, too. The breed also carries considerable controversy, which all prospective owners should understand. For most, they are an adorable, companionable breed-regardless of the breeding controversies which surround the breed as a whole. Here are twenty fun facts to know about the unique and cuddly Munchkin cat:
1. The first Munchkin cat in modern times was named Blackberry; who was discovered by accident.
The year was 1983. Sandra Hochenedel, an American school music teacher in Rayville, Louisiana, found a stray pregnant cat cowering away from a bulldog. The cat was hiding under a truck and Sandra was able to catch it and take it home.
Sandra named the cat Blackberry. When Blackberry gave birth, a male kitten with short legs was born. Sandra gave the kitten to Kay LaFrance, her friend. Kay named the male kitten Toulouse. It is believed that all Munchkins are the descendants of Blackberry and Toulouse.
This short-legged breed of cat takes its name from the Munchkins who lived in The Land of Oz. Dorothy discovered them when her house landed right in the middle of Munchkin Land. Her unexpected discovery was just as surprising as Sandra’s unplanned discovery of Blackberry and her little boy kitten with short legs.
2. Munchkin cats do not have spinal abnormalities- even though their legs are short.
In fact, researchers conducted extensive testing on Munchkin cats in 1995, and no issues related to their spines, bones, or joints were discovered. These cats do not suffer from any problems and are generally healthy.
The only problem they do tend to have is that they are not able to jump as high as the longer-legged feline breeds. They may need a boost to get up and down to places they want to go.
It’s a simple fix used by owners of short legged dog breeds such as Dachshunds- just pick them up and plop them down when they are struggling to access a sofa, chair, or bed. In fact, it is the similarities of Munchkins and Dachshunds which led critics to predict that Munchkins would develop the same kind of back, leg, and hip problems Dachshunds tend to have.
For many years, the two breeds would be compared for their short-legged similarities. But unlike Dachshunds, Munchkins have not developed the problems critics expected.
3. Munchkins come in three leg lengths.
It will bring a smile to many faces, as Munchkin cats are born with three different lengths of legs and have earned cute names which describe them. The “standard” category includes those who are not born with the heterozygous gene which causes shorter legs.
Their legs are comparable in length to other cat breeds. The “super-short” Munchkin cats are born with the heterozygous gene (a cell which contains two different gene alleles) have moderately short legs.
The “rug hugger” Munchkins are those who are born with the shortest legs. Munchkin cats are those who are born with autosomal dominant genes, and this genetic factor is what contributes to the shorter legs.
The way it works in simple English, is that this gene causes the cat’s long leg bones to grow to shorter lengths. Breeders consider mating two cats with short legs dangerous. They don’t want to create problems so severe that the breed would be harmed. Instead, breeders mate different breeds of cats with Munchkins to help keep the short-legged kittens healthy.
4. Munchkins can sit upright like prairie dogs and rabbits.
They can relax onto their hind legs, settling into their haunches in a posture that resembles that of prairie dogs sitting upright or rabbits pausing to scout out their surroundings. This unusual posture is possible for Munchkin cats because their hind legs are just a bit longer than their front legs.
There is an anecdote about a Russian cat with very short legs who adopted this posture regularly. The cat lived in 1950s Russia and earned a measure of fame because it always sat this way. It was given the name “Stalingrad Kangaroo cat” and is one of the more famous of short-legged cats.
5. The breed was first introduced in 1991 at a nationally televised TICA show.
The International Cat Association held the show at Madison Square Garden, and Munchkins were severely criticized due to their unusual physical structure.
While the viewing public was formally introduced to the breed, the TICA judges were not as curious and accepting as many people were. Some people took the position that the breed was like Frankenstein.
One TICA judge officially resigned after stating that the breeders who created Munchkins had no regard for ethics and called the new cats outrageous. By 1994, TICA had accepted the breed as part of their New Breed Development Program.
There are still breeders who lodge complaints about the controversial cats, and because of the controversies, several recognized cat fancier associations still do not officially recognize Munchkins as a breed.
6. The controversy over breeding Munchkins has polarized cat fancier associations.
The genetic mutation which causes the short-legged Munchkin cat is called achondroplasia. Some call these cats “midget cats”, and many critics and experts warn that deliberately breeding cats who will be born with this deformity is cruel.
But, there are just as many who view the cats as being essentially strong because cat fancier rules require that they not be bred with purebred cats-only common cats.
Two organizations which have not recognized Munchkins as an official breed include the American Cat Fanciers Association and the Cat Fanciers Association. Adding to the controversy is the fact that breeding two Munchkins has been found to result in a high rate of mortality at birth.
Though disagreement continues over the two most common health issues of potential lordosis and spinal malformations, some experts believe that the breed is also more likely to suffer form scoliosis and osteoarthritis.
There are veterinarians who also are concerned that once the trend of having a Munchkin slows that the cats will be abandoned and end up in shelters. For these reasons, the controversy continues.
7. Paris Hilton owns two Munchkin cats.
She’s named them Munchkin and Shorty. The two fluffy, cream-colored cats have a few triangular markings in light rust and orange which help to distinguish one from the other. They could be twins, as their coloring is so similar. Hilton is one celebrity owner which has contributed significantly to the popularity of the breed. The hotel heiress includes her cats as part of an extended family. She posts often on Instagram with photos of her varied pets, which also include miniature dogs.
8. Munchkins have been crossed with several other breeds to create derived breeds.
The list of breed crossings is intriguing due to the unusual sounding names:
- The Munchkin crossed with the LaPerm created the Skookum. The Skookum is small with short legs and curly fur like the LaPerm.
- The Munchkin crossed with the Scottish Fold created the Scottish Kilts. The Scottish Kilts have both folded ears and short legs.
- The Munchkin crossed with the Sphynx created the Minskin and the Bambino. Minskins are hairless like the Sphynx with short legs. Bambinos, which look like baby kittens, also have short legs and may have fur or be furless. The Italian word for “baby” is “bambino”.
- The Munchkin crossed with the American Curl created the Kinkalow. Kinkalows have folded ears and short legs.
- The Munchkin crossed with the Selkirk Rex created the Lambkin. Lambkins have very curly hair with short legs.
- The Munchkin crossed with Persians, Himalayans, and Exotic Shorthairs created the Napoleon. Napoleons have the sturdy bone structure and long, fluffy hair of this cat group, along with the short legs characteristic of the Munchkins.
9. Some owners call Munchkin cats “magpie cats”.
The main reason is that Munchkins are known for their attraction to shiny objects and for the tendency to hide their shiny toys where they can find them when they want to play with them later. It’s in their nature to be outgoing and they are also intelligent.
They know those shiny playthings are special and they want to make certain to keep them. Magpies are birds which were long considered to be thieves of shiny trinkets. Stories in European folklore are filled with the idea that magpies are compulsive stealers of sparkly things.
New research has shown that they are truly frightened by shiny objects. If this new wave of knowledge catches on, Munchkins may soon lose their “magpie cat” nickname.
10. Albert the Munchkin Cat is famous on Instagram.
Albert has had easily more than 450,000 followers. He’s pictured in all sorts of cute clothes, but its his unique nose that has captured most of the attention. It’s mostly black, and for some viewers, it resembles the shape of a skull. It dominates his adorable face but cannot hide the beauty of his decidedly blue eyes.
Albert most likely had parents who were Siamese or Himalayan, because he sports the brown ears, tails and mask so typical of those breeds. But, he also has exceedingly short legs and a fluffy, cream-colored coat of fur which looks soft to the touch.
He’s often seen with his favorite brand of clumping litter. But, he can also be seen lounging in a cozy cat bed, perched on his red pedestal, or sporting his favorite hoodie and headphones. When he’s not modeling the latest fashions, he’s walking along the window sill or batting his cat friends in the nose. That’s Albert for you.
11. Google listed the Munchkin cat as one of the top 10 cat breeds searched by Long Islanders.
When Newsday asked Google to reveal which cat breeds were most often searched on Long Island, Google provided the data. Searches from Suffolk and Nassau indicated that the most-searched included: 1. Maine Coon, 2. Sphinx, 3. Bengal, 4. Siamese, 5. Ragdoll, 6. Persian, 7. Savannah, 8. Russian Blue, 9. Scottish Folds, 10. Munchkin cat.
The Long Island favorites closely follow favorite cat breeds around the globe, though many of the top ten have been in existence for generations. The Munchkin cat is a newer breed, and not as tried and tested as the others.
12. Munchkins come in many different colors
They also come in short-haired and long-haired versions. The reason is that they are mixed with other breeds of cats to keep the Munchkin breed stronger. Whatever color and pattern of fur is seen in other cats is also seen in Munchkins.
They are often found in single colors such as white, seal, fawn, chocolate, blue, cream, red, and lilac. They are also found in tabby stripes, red and cream, or tortoise. It’s most common to find them in any variety of mixtures.
13. Omame is another famous Munchkin cat from Japan.
Omame is a gorgeous charcoal gray cat with white toes on his front paws and white mitten back paws. He also has a white tummy, which he like to show off because he’s most comfortable sprawled on his back with his paws up in the air.
He just celebrated his third birthday with plenty of photos on Facebook and Instagram. He has his own email- firstname.lastname@example.org where fans can contact him. He welcomes posts on Facebook. He’s so popular that a larger than life-size cat toy has been made which looks just like him-only bigger. He loves drinking from his favorite cup, but more than that, he really likes curling up on his favorite cat bed or the softest spots he can find.
14. Munchkins often look like kittens for their entire lives.
These tiny and adorable cats often go by the nickname “Sausage Cats”. It’s not a critical nickname. It comes from their very short legs holding up long bodies. In spite of the unusual combination of torso and short legs, they are so small that they can look like kittens as long as they live.
For this reason, they have been increasing in popularity. Children who have longed to have a kitten to call their own can have one that stays that way. Families with Munchkins can enjoy kitten hood far longer than other cat breeds, because these compact cats never seem to grow up.
Most owners feel enduring affection for them, and don’t mind extra pampering. Some discover that they enjoy carrying their tiny cats around as if they were tiny dogs. Munchkins can need help getting up and down in certain spots and helping them can be one way of giving them love for a lifetime.
15. Munchkins can be very expensive.
Breeders vary in terms of their prices, but these cute little kittens can start at $300 and range up to $1,300. These numbers are on average, and some breeders will charge less or more. Their location can be a factor in the price.
But, with all Munchkin breeders, it’s important to ask the breeder for records about the kitten’s parents. A breeder who has successfully bred many Munchkins will know exactly the health of its parents and be able to provide this information.
Kittens can inherit health conditions which are not breed-related. Never buy a Munchkin from a breeder who cannot give specific details about how the kitten was bred, as Munchkins depend upon specific genetic combinations for healthy breeding results.
16. Though Munchkins are a mutation, they are not a new one.
In 1944, Dr. H.E. Williams-Jones, a British veterinarian, created a report describing four generations of cats with short legs. The report noted that the cats were all similar and healthy. The only difference between this line of cats and so-called normal cats was the length of their legs.
The line Dr. William-Jones followed disappeared sometime during World War II. Other records have noted incidences of cats with short legs, and these have occurred at varied times and around the world.
Notable records including seeing this trait in 1956 Stalingrad, in 1970 New England, and most recently, in 1980s Louisiana, when Blackberry was rescued by Sandra Hochenedel. Sandra gave a male kitten born to Blackberry to her friend Kay LaFrance. LaFrance allowed the kitten, named Toulouse, to breed with other cats, and soon the population grew in modern times.
17. Munchkins are very, very curious.
They have a reputation for being extremely social. They enjoy running, chasing toys, and playing with children and dogs. They will often lead a game of chase and can zoom past longer legged cats easily.
Owners say that their low to the ground build gives them not only greater speed, but agility too. They can jump, contrary to popular opinion, but they really like to use their considerable cornering ability to speed round obstacles in their way.
They run low to the ground and speed just like race cars. Coupled with their boundless energy, Munchkins have insatiable curiosity. But unlike regular cats, they don’t creep in so quickly to satisfy their curiosity.
What they do instead, is sit on their hind legs and stretch up to see what has caught their eye. When they do, they look much like rabbits sitting on their longer hind legs. Their confidence prompts them to take in the view and then head off exploring.
18. Munchkins are easily trainable.
This is not the case for many cats. But Munchkin breeders know that these adventurous cats can be trained to walk on a leash. They can also be taught to play fetch with a variety of objects and toys.
They will obey voice commands as well as dogs do. Breeders say that these skills come easier to Munchkins because they tend to be self-assured, confident, and quite intelligent.
They tend to keep their kitten personalities as long as they live, and this makes them funny, yet full of their youthful defiance long into their adulthood. They are highly sociable and enjoy being in the company of their families. They do well when people come to visit, and are also know to tolerate well pets which accompany guests.
19. Munchkins can suffer from a few difficult medical conditions.
Some Munchkin kittens develop lordosis. This condition is where the muscles of the spine don’t grow long enough. When this happens, the spine can sink downward in the kitten’s body. It can be fatal in some cases.
Munchkins can also have “funnel chest” or pectus excavatum. This is a deformity of the breast bone which causes it to sink inward. To be fair, these conditions are not specific only to Munchkins.
The breed also tends to have relatively long lives. They typically live until they are 12 to 15 years old. Though they can also have bow-legs, they behave just like cats with regular length limbs. The only problem some Munchkins have, is that they may not be able to jump as high as their longer-legged feline friends.
20. Guinness World Records declared Munchkin Lilieput the shortest cat in the world.
Lilieput measured in at 5.25 inches tall at the shoulder when measured from the floor, and underneath her paw. Lilieput hailed from Napa, California and was nine years old when officially measured for Guinness World Records.
The date was October 19, 2013. Her owner was listed as Christel Young. Christel found the tortoiseshell colored cat when Lilieput was a stray and about two years old. Christel was a professional pet sitter.
She saw the tiny Munchkin stray and made the decision to adopt her. To put Lilieput’s size into perspective, one writer noted that Lilieput would have been just a half inch taller than a can of regular-sized soda.
Christel applied for the Guinness World Record website. Lilieput took a lot of criticism from the public once she became famous. Though she had celebrity status, many thought of her as a “freak” because she looked so different from normal sized cats. After Christel was interviewed for the Napa Valley Register, many curious readers wanted to meet Lilieput. Though some strangers still viewed her as “weird”, many more came to accept the little cat.