Feline Breed Spotlight: Munchkin
The Munchkin cat came from a natural genetic mutation causing a cat to have short legs. The gene for the short, turned out legs has a dominant inheritance pattern, similar to Corgis and Dachshunds. This is a new breed of cat, recognized by The International Cat Association in the late 1990s. Even though the breed is new, short legged cats are not a new thing. There are reports of short legged cats from around the world since the 1940s. In the 1980s a stray cat gave birth to a litter with some short legged kittens. One male from this litter, as well as the mother cat were the basis from where the breed known today originated from. Breeding programs for new breeds have a genetics committee to monitor breeding data to oversee the development of the breed. Outcrosses to domestic shorthairs and longhairs are used to ensure a diverse gene pool as this breed continues to develop.
Munchkins are an outgoing, friendly, active cat. They like to play with their owners, kids, dogs and other cats. Jumping is not their strong suit, but what they lack in jumping ability they make up for with speed. These cats are very agile and always seem to be on the go, running, playing and hunting in the house. They also crave companionship. When they are done running around, there is nothing they like better than a warm lap to cuddle up on. They tend to sit up on their hind like a rabbit to get a better look around when something catches their eye. This breed is known for an unique personality quirk- they like to hunt, collect and steal away small shiny items (like magpies!).
Both pure-bred and mixed-breed cats have varying kinds of health problems that may be either influenced by genetics or environmental factors. The creation and breeding of this breed has been met with much controversy. Breeding for the genetic mutation that causes short legs is said to be no different than breeding short-legged dogs like Corgis or Dachshunds. Others oppose the breeding of this cat because the genetic mutation of short legs considered a physical defect. Regardless of what side of the fence you are on about this breed, it seems that Munchkins are generally healthy and do not appear to have any major documented health problems. This is a new breed, so that could change as breeding continues.
Some cats might face a condition called Lordosis, while others might be susceptible to Pectus excavatum. These conditions can also occur in normal-sized cats and breeding programs are being monitored for correlations between the short-leg genetic mutation and these health problems.
Lordosis: This a condition in which the cat’s spine does not grow correctly. It is a rare health issue, where spinal muscles do not grow to the correct size and the spine of the cat begins to sink down inside the body. This condition is almost always fatal and will be apparent within the first 3 months of their life.
Pectus excavatum: This is a condition where the sternum and costal cartilages are deformed. The middle of the chest appears to be flat or concave, rather than slightly convex. Surgery is usually done to correct this condition.
Obesity: Like their canine counterparts with short legs, keeping a Munchkin at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to protect their overall health. Carrying excessive weight puts extra and unnecessary strain on their backs.