Sunday, July 6, 2008


Munchkin is a feline breed that is unique for its very short legs. This is owing to a genetic mutation and thus there is debate as regards the origin of this cat, since the mutation could have occurred at any point in time in the past. Notable cases though, existed in Europe around the middle of twentieth century. Like so many other pet breeds, the Munchkins also went into obscurity with the advent of Second World War. It was not until nineteen eighties that Munchkins were again reported, this time in United States. The short-legged creatures were seen with great intrigue by observers and named 'Munchkins', after the dwarfs in the Oz series of books by Lyman Frank Baum. The short leg size, or hypochondroplasia, was soon established as being a result of the genetic mutation. Since the gene is lethal in homozygous formation, Munchkins are outcrossed with other cats including domestic felines, Abyssinians, Persians, Siamese etc to produce healthy litters, with kittens having heterozygous alleles for the said gene.

Aside from their short legs, Munchkins have a normal physique. The rest of their body is not miniature and they are compact, sturdy animals. They are medium in size with normal musculoskeletal development. No restrictions exist on color and pattern of coat or eyes. Hind legs are longer than the forelegs and the medium length tail narrows towards its tip. Even as the short limbs don't allow these cats to jump high, they are said to be good at moving and turning at a rapid pace.

There is lots of controversy over the continued breeding of Munchkins. Many believe that doing so is propagation of a genetic defect and malformation (achondroplasia/hypochondroplasia). As such Munchkins are not recognized by most cat fanciers and are not eligible for registration in most bodies around the world as a distinct breed. Some think though that Munchkins are normal apart from their short legs and can lead a life like other regular cats. Some select organizations accept them and claim that their following is growing with the passage of time.

The cats themselves are quite sweet in their nature. They are gentle and loving and often behave like kittens even as they age. Since they can't evade and defend themselves properly in encounters with stray cats and dogs, they should be kept indoors. They are social and intelligent cats and prefer to be around people all the time. The cute cats love to play with their toys and have fun all day long. Whatever the fate of this breed is in the coming decades, the adorable Munchkins need all our understanding and affection.


Everycat said...

Try as we might and as sweet natured as they are, we cannot see that deliberatly breeding a cat with legs so short it cannot fend for itself if outside is sensible or humane. Opportunist propagation of this defect just would not last if not perpetuated by breeders keen on novelty and money. These cats do suffer from some awful problems, litters often contain several severely deformed kittens who cannot survive.

Very sad.

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