Named after the ‘little people’ in the popular 1939 movie ‘The Wizard of Oz’, the Munchkin cat is not a true miniature cat, but rather, is a dwarf that is characterised by its very short legs. Munchkins are typically a medium sized cat with legs in three different lengths, referred to as standard, short and ‘rug huggers’ (very short). As the Munchkin breed is outcrossed to domestics it is very difficult to define a type. Size, coat colors, and patterns are many and varied, and they are available in both short and long haired versions.
Despite their short legs, the Munchkin cat will run and jump just like any other domestic cat and have been compared to a ferret as a result of their fast movement on the ground. They are described as energetic, affectionate and playful, with many examples of the breed keeping their kitten like playfulness well into adulthood.
The Munchkin breed is highly intelligent and sociable. They get on well with children and other animals and are an ideal family pet. They are usually very good at learning tricks and enjoy the challenge of puzzle toys that holds treats.
Did you Know?
The Muchkin’s short legs are the result of a naturally occurring genetic mutation which has nothing to do with any human intervention. The gene has often been compared to that which gives Welsh Corgis and Dachshunds their short stature. Many cat fanciers became concerned the Munchkin could be susceptible to the same spinal problems these dog breeds are prone to. Fortunately, the spine of the Munchkin is very different, so should not succumb to these spinal issues.
In the 1940s a UK veterinarian noted several generations of cats with short legs which seemed to disappear during WWII. However, in 1953 short legged cats were spotted in Stalingrad. In 1983, Sandra Hochenedel of Louisiana discovered a short-legged cat and named her Blackberry. Blackberry’s litters almost always consisted of a half and half mix of short legged versus normal legged kittens, and the modern day Munchkin breed was born.
Munchkins have a charming way of sitting up on their hind legs which reminds many people of a rabbit. This trait earned the Stalingrad cat the nickname “Stalingrad Kangaroo Cat”.
They are also referred to as ‘magpies’, for their habit of borrowing small, shiny objects and hiding them away to play with later.
Caring for Your Munchkin Cat
Munchkin cats require little in the way of special care and just need the same amount of exercise, sleep, and play as any other domesticated cat. Longhaired Munchkins will benefit from daily grooming in order to prevent matting.
Munchkins typically live 12 -14 years, but this also depends a lot on their heritage.
If you have a Munchkin cat in your life, please share your experiences below.
Image: Nickolas Titkov via Flickr.