The Munchkin cat is a relatively new breed of cat discovered in 1983 that is characterised by its short-legged appearance. The breed is the result of a spontaneous genetic mutation. Originating in the state of Louisiana, a teacher by the name of Sandra Hochenedel rescued two cats who had been chased under a truck by a dog. Both cats had short legs. Sandra gave away a grey cat, called Blueberry and kept the black one, named Blackberry. Blackberry was pregnant at the time of her rescue and went on to give birth to four kittens, two of whom also had shortened legs. One of the short legged kittens named Toulouse was given to Kay LeFrance. It is Blackberry and Toulouse who became founders of the Munchkin breed.
Munchkins have a genetic condition known as “achondroplastic dwarfism”, which is seen in humans too. It was first observed in a population of cats in the 1930’s but these cats disappeared during the war. The condition affects the long bones of the legs, with all other bones in the body unaffected. The gene responsible is dominant, it requires only one copy from the parent to be passed on. The gene is lethal in the homozygous form (ie; the offspring receive two of the gene, one from each parent). As a result, you can not breed Munchkin to Munchkin and domestics are used to outcross to. When mating a Munchkin to a long-legged cat, approximately 50% of the litter will be short legged.
In 1991, the Munchkin was introduced to the general public via a live cat show held at Madison Square Garden. The breed achieved championship status with TICA in 2003
The breed is somewhat controversial among cat fanciers, many of whom have concerns about the breed worried the short legs and long spine will cause lordosis, which is a downward dip in the spine, which is a condition that affects short legged breeds of dog such as the dachshunds. However, it is claimed that the spine of the cat is much different and no such problems occur in the Munchkin. The jury appears to still be out on that. Not every cat recognises the Munchkin for the above reasons. Notably the CFA, GCCF and FiFE.
The Munchkin cat is named after the Munchkins from the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz.
The Munchkin is a medium sized cat with shorter than average legs. The front legs are around 3 inches long, the rear legs are somewhat longer. Everything else about the Munchkin is proportional to the average sized cat. Care must be taken with outcrossing to avoid bowing of the legs in the breed.
It is still somewhat difficult to define a type as they are outcrossed to domestics, which themselves come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
The breed comes in almost every coat colour and pattern and in both short and long hair.