Being a lifelong fan of the Wizard of Oz, I’ve always had a fascination for anything small. The scene where Dorothy lands in Munchkin Land is one of my favorite parts of the movie. Those little people are adorable with their tiny little bodies and high-pitched voices. So a Munchkin cat would probably be pretty sweet too, right?
When I first heard about them, it made me really curious to find out exactly what a Munchkin cat is, how they came to be, and what a person would need to know if they owned one.
A New Breed
The first time that the general public became aware of Munchkin cats was in 1991, when they were introduced on a nationally televised cat show, however, they weren’t officially recognized as a breed until 1994 by the TICA (The International Cat Association). Even today they still aren’t recognized as an official breed by the Cat Fanciers Association, or the American Cat Fanciers Association.
The first Munchkin cats were not exactly welcomed with open arms in the cat fanciers’ world, because people were not enamored with their physical appearance. In fact, many breeders felt that it was unethical to breed a cat with what they considered to be physical deformities.
Munchkin cats actually came about as a result of a spontaneous gene mutation which causes the long bones in a cat’s legs to be shorter than usual. Breeders can never mate two Munchkin cats together because each parent would be a carrier of the gene and their offspring would not survive. It takes careful genetic testing to breed a healthy Munchkin cat. Long-legged cats can carry the gene and be mated with each other or with a short-legged Munchkin, which will produce a healthy litter of Munchkin kittens.
The First Munchkins
Short-legged feral cats were first spotted in the 20th century in Russia, Great Britain, and New England. Then in the 1980s people started breeding them officially. Today’s Munchkin cats in America are all descendants of a pregnant stray cat that was rescued in the 1980s in Louisiana. The cat’s rescuer let the cat roam around outdoors occasionally and it wasn’t long before she had lots of short-legged cats running around.
Are They Healthy?
Some people believe that because of their short legs and slightly “deformed” appearance they might be subject to more health problems. However, that’s not necessarily the case. In fact, they are considered to be a fairly healthy breed of cat. While their gait may be rather funny looking and they might have more difficulty jumping up on high surfaces, it doesn’t affect their health. In fact, in my opinion having a cat that doesn’t jump up quite so high would be a plus!
Occasionally Munchkin cats may have a curvature of the spine which could cause some back problems, or if it is very severe, could even be fatal. But on average they can live around 12 to 15 years.
Large Variety of Sizes, Colors and Patterns
Of course what makes a Munchkin cat unique is it’s short, stubby, bow legs. But that is the only feature that really distinguishes them from a regular cat. They can be short-haired, long-haired, and nearly every color under the sun.
They are generally in the small to medium size range, often weighing anywhere from 5 to 10 pounds when full grown. They require little grooming, a good combing or brushing once a week or so will help cut down on shedding, and prevent mats and tangles.
The great thing about Munchkin cats is that they are very sociable. They love to play with toys, kids, and other pets, even dogs. Munchkins have a very curious nature and will often sit up on their hind legs to check out whatever has caught their attention. They love to explore and check out everything in their surroundings. And while they may not be able to jump from the floor to the top of the refrigerator in a single leap, they are still able to jump pretty well and they are smart enough that they can figure out a way to get up to wherever they want to go, maybe just in smaller increments.
Bottom line is, these sweet little cats are very lovable and will quickly capture your heart.
Adopting a Munchkin Cat
First of all, I believe if at all possible it’s always better to rescue an animal than it is to get one from a breeder. So first of all I checked out my two favorite websites for finding adoptable animals, petfinder.com and rescueme.org. On both websites you can search for adoptable pets by type, breed, gender, age, and location.
Unfortunately, there were not that many Munchkin cats listed right now on either site, in fact there were none in my area (Phoenix, AZ) on Petfinder, and only one on Rescue Me. Actually, there were only a handful of Munchkin cats available for adoption in the entire United States. But the thing about these sites is that the information can change on a daily basis, so my advice is to check back often. Sooner or later you will find the right pet for you and your family. If you are not in the United States, I would suggest doing a Google search and thoroughly doing your homework before chossing a cat.
However, if you have your heart set on adding a Munchkin to your family right away, a great resource is catsnow.com where I found quite a few for sale. But it’s going to cost you. While many of the cats listed did not even disclose the price, the ones that did were anywhere from $500 up to $1000.
How do you feel about Munchkin cats? Do you think they appear deformed, or do you feel like they are absolutely adorable? The debate is still ongoing, so I’d really love to know your opinion.