The Munchkin is a speedy little bundle of joy. This relatively young feline breed is infamous for its short legs, intelligent mind, and friendly, people-oriented demeanor. The characteristic short legs of the Munchkin cats are determined by the Munchkin "M" gene. Sporting either short, plush coats or medium to long silky ones, these energetic kitties come in all coat colors and patterns.
The Munchkin is a small to medium-sized cat, typically weighing anywhere between 5-10 pounds (males are slightly larger than females). Their coat can be short and plush or medium-long and silky, and they come in all coat colors and patterns. The most prominent character of Munchkin kitties are their very short, stumpy legs. This signature feature makes their bodies appear disproportionately elongated, hence their loving nickname as the “Sausage Cat”. Their hind legs are often slightly longer than their front legs, giving them a discrete rise from the shoulder to the rump. Their legs can be slightly bowed, but excessive bowing and cow-hocking are not typically seen in Munchkins.
The first known record of a short-legged cat dates back to 1944, when a British veterinary report noted four generations of healthy short-legged cats. Although this line disappeared during World War II, short-legged cats were also spotted in Russia during 1956, and in the U.S. in the 1970s. In 1983 Sandra Hochenedel, a music teacher from Louisiana, rescued a pregnant cat whom she named Blackberry. Half of Blackberry's litter of kittens were short-legged. It is believed that these kittens were the official founders of the modern Munchkin breed we know today.
Munchkins may come in small packages, but these cats are brave, confident, and very intelligent. Munchkins are also extremely sociable, friendly, and playful. Their curiosity never fades and they always seem to be engaging in new games and mischief. They do well in homes with children and other pets.
There has been some controversy over whether or not the Munchkin "M" gene mutation causes health complications in this breed. Initially, it was believed that the Munchkin gene was associated with achondroplasia, a bone growth disorder. However, the physical symptoms of achondroplasia include an enlarged head as well as short legs, which is a combination of features not observed among Munchkin cats. Another study (Wedderbum, 2008) identified two possible conditions that may occur more predominantly in the Munchkin breed: Lordosis (excessive curvature of the spine), and Pectus Excavatum (hollowed chest).
Little speedsters. Although Munchkins may not be able to jump as high as an average cat,
they distinguish themselves with lightning-speed cornering skills. Being closer to the ground comes with its advantages!
Their name is thought to be Hollywood-inspired. Some think that the name of this short legged breed has a connection to the characters that Dorothy meets who are called 'Munchkins' in L. Frank Baum's 1939 book, The Wizard of Oz. Others say that The International Cat Association (TICA) founder and member, Dr. Solveig Pflueger, popularized the name.
Other terms of endearment. In addition to "Sausage Cat", the Munchkin has also been called the "Dachshund of the Cat World".
Not accepted as an official breed by many organizations. TICA officially recognized the Munchkin cat as a breed in 1994 and gave it official championship status in 2003. The breed is also recognized by the Southern Africa Cat Council, but is neither recognized by Cat Fancier's Association nor the Fédération Internationale Féline.
Munchkins may enjoy rearranging and moving your things. Though every cat is an individual with different personality quirks, Munchkins have been said to be like "thieving magpies" (even though Magpies have since been vindicated) in that they enjoy stealing and hiding objects, including shiny ones.