Demystifying All the Myths about Munchkin Cats

munchkin kittens

Most people believe that Munchkin cats must be bred as a breeder seeks out the short kegs that make this cat breed cute. However, these felines can be naturally-occurring. Two healthy cats could produce a litter of average-sized kittens, but one of them could be a Munchkin. It is dependent on if one of the parents has a dominant gene that results in such an occurrence. The American Munchkin cat dates back to the early 1980s when Sandra Hockenedel, a music teacher, rescued a stray in Rayville, Louisiana. The cat gave birth to a litter of similar-looking kittens, and the music teacher gifted her friend, Kay LaFrance, with one. LaFrance allowed her cat to roam outside, and her property soon filled up with other short-legged kittens. In 1990, the two women connected with the chairperson of TICA (The International Cat Association), Solveig Pflueger. Since then, the breed has been the subject of research because it was new, and people barely knew about it. Many myths have been dispelled, and below are a few to help you understand the facts about the Munchkin cats.

Munchkin Cats are an Unhealthy, Illegitimate Breed

On Reddit one user posted that only self-absorbed people would ever consider Munchkin cats as a healthy cat breed. The person explained that the cats are deformed due to being bred with other deformed cats. As a result, the only outcome is deformed felines whose sole purpose is to appeal to the fashion sense of those who believe Munchkin cats to be cute. The user argued that normally if a person bred deformed people to create a new race, they would be in jail. Yet, when breeders do the same to cats, it is considered adorable, all in the name of adhering to aesthetics and lifestyle preferences. We have seen celebrities like Paris Hilton showing off her Munchkin, but the Reddit user believes that anyone who likes Munchkin cats is poison, and breeders should be in prison. The user reasoned that the Munchkin cats have a less-than-quality life since they are not healthy.

Breeders, on the other hand, believe that breeding these cats is no different from mating short-legged Dachshunds. After all, the Munchkin cats are not sick; all they suffer from is a genetic mutation. The short legs are a result of a dominant gene mutation. The gene is called a lethal gene because should two Munchkin casts mate and both parents pass on the dominant gene, the kittens do not survive. For this reason, breeders mate the cats with regular-sized cats or those short-legged cats without the lethal gene; if only one parent passes on the lethal gene, the kittens survive. Apart from being born with the lethal gene and having short legs, the Munchkin cats are relatively a healthy breed. According to Pet Press, although they have an odd walk, they can live up to between 12 and 15 years.

The only health concerns associated with their short legs include lordosis and pectus excavatum. Lordosis is a rare spinal condition characterized by the spine sinking into the body. In severe cases, kittens do not survive beyond three months because as a cat grows, the spine exerts pressure on the vital organs comprising the heart, trachea, and lungs. However, this condition is not exclusive to Munchkin cats only because other breeds suffer from the same. Pectus excavatum, a chest bone deformity that causes the breastbone to sink into the chest cavity, is not specific to Munchkin cats. Although researchers believe some breeds are genetically predisposed to the condition, no cat breed is exempted from the malformation that mainly affects male cats.

They Can’t Be as Agile as Long-Legged Counterparts

One of the many myths about Munchkin cats is their short legs limit how fast they can move or how high they can jump. However, this breed will behave as any other cat, meaning it will jump on any object it can reach. They always find a way to get to where they want, be it on the kitchen counter or the furniture. Still, you should not expect them to jump as high as the regular-sized felines; the leg length determines how high they can jump. Munchkin cats have three different leg lengths. Those with the longest legs, measuring between 3 and 4 inches shorter than an average cat’s legs, are called Rug-Huggers. A Rug-Hugger is believed to be a crossbreed between a Persian and Munchkin cat; thus, it possesses the short legs of a Munchkin while inheriting the beauty of Persian cats. Standard Munchkin cats have the longest legs, measuring an inch shorter than an average cat’s legs, while those with super-short legs fall in the middle; their legs are two inches shorter than an average cat’s.

Consequently, logic dictates that you would expect a Standard Munchkin cat to jump higher than the Super-Short Munchkin cat due to leg length. Regardless of leg length, all Munchkin cats can at least reach the sofa height. However, how high they can jump is determined by their leg length. Other factors such as weight, age, and health play a role as well. A heavy cat will not jump as high as its lighter counterpart; similarly, older cats cannot reach higher objects compared to their much younger energetic Munchkin cats. Munchkin cats can hardly compete with other breeds when it comes to jumping, but they take the prize where climbing trees is involved. According to Pet Educate, Munchkin cats are as skilled and sometimes considered better climbers than the average cat.

Although running may be a problem since they cannot run as fast as other cat breeds, climbing has been observed to be their best defense when they are in danger. When chased by predators outside, Munchkin cats climb on trees or whichever object they can find, and a low entrance cat tree is an ideal investment should you choose to adopt a Munchkin cat. Their short legs do not even affect their balance, so they can stay up hidden in the trees until the predator is gone. Their ability to climb fast is because they are a small and light breed; they only weigh 9 pounds at most.

They Suffer from Feline Dwarfism

Contrary to popular belief, Munchkin cats are not the original dwarf breed. According to Basepaws, the naturally occurring short legs in the cat breed was thought to be due to achondroplasia. However, achondroplasia results in short legs, disproportional and undersized felines. Other symptoms of achondroplasia include enlarged joints, larger-than-normal head, poor or stunted growth, spinal deviation, among many more. While Munchkin cats are undersized and have short legs, their bodies are not disproportionate. They have a head proportionate to the body and do not have mobility difficulties since, as mentioned above, they are as agile as other average-sized cats.

Feline dwarfism is classified into three types: selective dwarfism, pituitary dwarfism, and osteochondrodysplasia. It is important to note that Munchkin cats suffer from pseudoachondroplasia. Osteochondrodysplasia symptoms include skeletal deformities and poor bone growth caused by abnormal bone and cartilage growth and development. Usually, a cat with osteochondrodysplasia has short legs and a normal size body. However, Munchkin cats suffering from osteochondrodysplasia have slightly bigger-than-normal heads, curved spines, and bow legs. They also suffer from mobility issues, lung and heart defects, physical abnormalities, and neurological disorders.

Pituitary dwarfism is very rare and only occurs when a cat does not produce enough growth hormone. Such felines become dwarfs because the pituitary glands are underdeveloped. The glands could have a cyst, tumor, or infection hindering the production of the growth hormone. The growth hormone affects other bodily functions meaning that dwarf cats that lack it will have slow mental growth, softer teeth, retain soft kitten hair for longer than usual, and will be unable to grow as fast as their counterparts. Such dwarf cats are likely to have hyperthyroidism and hypoadrenocorticism due to hormonal imbalance. The felines also barely live to attain adulthood. Although Munchkin cats stay small, it is not due to stunted growth from pituitary dwarfism but because of the genetic mutation.

Selective dwarfism, on the other hand, entails breeding cats intentionally seeking the genetic mutation that result in the dwarf kitten. Going by the history of how Munchkin cats came to be, they can fall under this category. The breeding has been regarded as unethical because animal rights activists believe that the mutation causes health problems for the cats. For this reason, even if TICA recognizes Munchkin cats as a breed, other cat organizations do not because they fear doing so would encourage unethical breeding. However, according to the research, Munchkin cats are not predisposed to any health issues because of the gene mutation.

Breeding Them is Cruel

Besides the Reddit user who seemed agitated by anyone who likes Munchkin cats, other people believe that the breed should not be bred because it is cruel. According to Metro, one vet, Andrew Prentis, warned that breeding cats yet you are aware of the physical defects is cruel. He explained that the cat has evolved over thousands of years to be a healthy, efficient, and athletic breed; therefore, it is disappointing that anyone would want to breed them to have no legs for aesthetic purposes. Animal rights groups share the vet’s opinion, adding that it is selfish to buy Munchkin cats because they are in vogue. A PETA spokesperson argued that the rise in demand for such designer cats resulted in animals suffering from a painful condition such as lordosis. The spokesperson added that people prefer designer cats; therefore, breeders keep breeding them for a profit, leaving other cats in shelters waiting for adoption.

While all these are valid reasons why breeding a cat should not be encouraged, it makes you wonder why TICA officially recognized the Munchkin cat as a breed. Different organizations have varied rules regarding which cat should be recognized as a breed. Usually, every cat organization must determine genetic health, viability and create a uniform standard for each breed. TICA normally takes a year to register a new breed litter before taking in an in-house committee to research and review the validity of the traits. Health is a major concern; thus, being genetically sound and capable of breeding is a priority. Despite being introduced to the public in 1991, it took three years for Munchkin cats to be formally proposed as an official breed. The proposal was met with mixed reactions; one TICA judge even resigned, saying that the breed was an affront to any ethical breeder. Eventually, TICA recognized the breed, but other cat organizations remained firm in their decision not to acknowledge it.

Still, many other cat breeds have been crossbred with Munchkin cats to create healthy cats. According to Hepper, the Minskin, resulting from the crossbreeding of the Munchkin cat with the Sphynx cats, the Burmese and the Devon Rex, are a healthy breed. They can live up to 14 years. The Minskin cats are great for those allergic to cats since their lack of fur makes them hypoallergenic. Skokuums, created by crossbreeding the Munchkin cat with the LaPerm cat, have a lifespan of 15 years. The only downside to cross-breeding with the Sphynx cats is that the crossbreed has a higher chance of developing a heart condition, HCM (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy), inherited from the Sphynx parent. Perhaps one reason that led TICA to accept Munchkin cats as a breed while others looked away was that they are more accepting of color variations within breeds since Munchkin cats come in a wide variety of patterns and colors. Therefore besides the health concerns that have been said to be one of the reasons why other cat organizations will not recognize the Munchkin cats, some like CFA (Cat Fanciers’ Association) are very careful when taking in new breeds and colors.

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