They are domestic cats with a peculiar characteristic: they are short-legged cats. This striking trait makes them frequently compared to dogs such as Basset Hounds or Dachshunds.
Many consider it the cat equivalent of the Dachshund; but unlike these dogs, their peculiarity does not seem to represent a major health problem. So much so that they can run, jump or climb as easily as any other cat would.
Like hairless Sphynx cats, which are also unusual in appearance, people either love them or hate them at first glance, but their appeal has been increasing over time.
Origin of the Munchkin cat, the dwarf cat
The Munchkin cat was not created by human intervention, but arose as a whim of nature. Before World War II, cats with short legs were seen in Germany, Great Britain, and Russia.
The cause of dwarfism (chondrodysplasia) is a hereditary disease, which is probably based on an autosomal dominant inheritance, that is, a carrier is enough to keep young animals with short legs.
The feline dwarfism suffered by these cats can generate osteochondrodysplasia, genetic disorders of the bone and cartilage, which manifests itself in significantly short legs.
Early breeding of the Munchkin cat
After World War II, the Munchkin lost track, until it was finally rediscovered in the 1980s by Sandra Hochenedel in Louisiana, who found Blackberry and Blueberry, two pregnant short-legged cats.
The Blackberry cat would be the progenitor of the current Munchkin. Sandra Hochenedel gave one of the short-legged kittens, Toulouse , to Kay LaFrance in Monroe, Louisiana, where this kitten slowly but surely created the Munchkin population.
Short-legged cats were first discovered by breeders in 1991 during a TICA (International Cat Association) exhibit in Madison Square Garden. It will be recognized as a breed in 2003 by the TICA.
Appearance and physical characteristics of the Munchkin
The Munchkin are medium-sized cats with a wedge-shaped head, the ears are large and vertical. They are cats with large, expressive, walnut-shaped eyes that are slightly tilted. All colors are allowed for hair and eyes. The tail is of medium length and slightly rounded at the tip.
The main characteristic of the Munchkin cat is, of course, the short, muscular legs. The front legs are sloping, and the back legs are usually longer than the front ones.
Males usually weigh 3 to 4 kilograms and females 2.5 to 3.5 kilograms.
Behavior of the Munchkin cat
Munchkins are considered sociable, lively and playful cats, very affectionate and sometimes very talkative.
The personality of this breed of cat is especially endearing. The Munchkin is usually very outgoing, adores people (including children), other cats, and even dogs.
They are curious and intelligent cats who enjoy puzzle toys and learning tricks. They have been compared to magpies because they have an affinity for shiny things like jewelry, which they have been known to steal and keep.
One of the characteristic behaviors of many Munchkin cats is their ability to perch on their hind legs. This preference could be due to the fact that their hind legs are slightly longer than their front legs.
Munchkin cat, health problems
Almost all cat breeds have some problems that can be endemic, but no major health-related problems have been found in this breed.
It is important to remember that it is a very recent breed compared to other more established breeds, such as the British Shorthair. With short legs similar to the Dachshund, a breed well known for short leg problems, the Munchkin cat appears to be free of similar problems.
Possible diseases and limitations of the Munchkin dwarf cat
As they are cats suffering from chondrodysplasia, they have an increased risk of premature malformation of the intervertebral discs, which can cause a herniated disc.
An increased risk of osteoarthritis is also possible due to pressure from the body on the shortened legs. They may also suffer from an increased tendency to lordosis (curvature of the spine) and pectus excavatum (congenital funnel chest), although this has not yet been proven.
It is a rare spinal condition in which the muscles of the spine do not fully grow. This causes the spine to “slightly collapse” and bend toward the body. If it is severe, a kitten may not survive.
Most breeders do not consider it a specific genetic problem for this breed, so it is not considered a specific Munchkin abnormality.
The Pectus Excavatum
It is characterized by presenting a concave deformation with marked sinking of the caudal end of the sternum and the costal cartilages, which promotes a dorsoventral stenosis of the chest.
It is a genetic deformity known as “funnel chest” . However, it is not specific to this breed, being debatable to think that a Munchkin cat has a greater propensity to acquire this condition.
Critics of this breed often point out that these short-legged cats lack mobility, grace, and elegance and cannot move as much as a “normal” cat would. But this can be an advantage, not being able to jump on the kitchen counter or tables or spoil the curtains. Also, this breed of cat is said to be perfect for small apartments.
How long do Munchkin cats live?
Surely if the health problems were important, their lifespan would be short, or at least shorter than the average of other feline breeds.
However, their life expectancy is around 12-14 years, and that is remarkable. There are many breeds that perform much worse with this metric in mind.
Any search on the Internet also does not show forums of veterinarians complaining about health problems specific to this breed, so it is assumed that the average years of life are similar to other breeds.
Peculiarities of the Munchkin cat pup
The Munchkin cannot be homozygously mated, because they come from a dominant genetic mutation. This gene is known as the “lethal” gene, because if two Munchkin cats mate and both pass on the dominant gene, the kittens will not survive. Only heterozygous (mixed-breed) Munchkin are viable.
Breeders breed dwarf cats with or regular-sized cats that are shorter and do not have the Munchkin gene to produce kittens with short legs that can sell for a high price.
To mate, they interbreed with different breeds of cats. For example, there is a crossing with the Persians, the Napoleon, of the crossing with the Sphynx, the Minskin. Crossbreeds with Scottish Fold cats are also common.
Munchkin cat care
Hair needs some maintenance help, as its short legs make it more difficult to reach certain areas during grooming. Short-haired cats should be brushed weekly and long-haired cats should be brushed a couple of times a week. Regular brushing helps prevent hairballs and mats. You must keep your cat’s claws trimmed.
They have no trouble running despite their shorter legs, but they cannot jump as high as other cat breeds. Still, they will jump and climb, so providing a cat tree can help them reach heights safely. As they are curious and active cats, provide interactive cat toys and make time to play with your cat every day.
In general, they can get along well with older children, other cats, and dogs. It is recommended to spay or neuter your cat if it is not going to be used for breeding.
Munchkin dwarf cat price
As with other exotic breeds of cats, there are not many Munchkin cat farms in the world. This means that due to the scarce supply and complications in its breeding, it is not a cheap or easy cat to obtain. The price of the Munchkin cat is in the range of 600 – 700 euros.
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