This relatively new breed is the result of a dominant genetic mutation. A woman named Sandra Hochenedel discovered two short-legged cats beneath a pick-up truck in 1983, both of whom were pregnant. A male kitten from the resulting litter of the black cat, named Blackberry, was gifted to a friend living in Monroe, Louisiana, which went on to spread its genes amongst the local domestic cats. As the gene for producing short-legs is dominant, as many short-legged cats were born as normal-legged cats, increasing the new breed’s prevalence. Many cat enthusiasts question the ethics of developing a breed with unnaturally stumpy legs, and it is currently not recognised by the Cat Fanciers Association as an independent breed.
The Munchkin is similar in appearance and structure to the Domestic Shorthair, with a round face and muscular body, a slightly tapering nose, wide-spaced triangular ears and striking eyes. The coat is typically short and close-fitting, permissible in all colours and patterns. A long-haired variety is seen, although it is less common and is classified as a different breed. The most characteristic trait of the Munchkin is its short legs, which render it low to the ground, without impeding its ability to hunt and climb. Many people are against selective breeding when it comes to the Munchkin, as they believe suffering is caused to the cat in terms of its health and mobility.
Despite people claiming the Munchkin’s movement is hampered by its short legs, there is no evidence to support this. On the contrary, the Munchkin appears completely able to jump and climb just as well as other cats, and is not noticeably restricted in what it can and can’t do. Owners, breeders and enthusiasts have described the Munchkin as a gentle, friendly and sweet-natured cat that bonds well with its humans. Highly intelligent and inquisitive, this breed needs both mental and physical enrichment if it is to remain happy in the home. On average, a healthy Munchkin at full maturity with weigh up to 10 pounds, with a typical life expectancy of 12-15 years.
It is widely speculated that the gene for short legs results in severe spinal and joint deformities, although research does not support this. Health complaints documented in the breed include chicken pox, a hollowed chest and a few reported cases of spinal curvature, although this occurs with no great prevalence.