Have you met the Munchkin cat? His Dachshund-like silhouette, triangle-shaped ears and large eyes have captured the hearts of cat lovers across the nation. And, not to mention, has caused a bit of controversy in the feline world.
The Munchkin cat is a medium-sized kitty who resembles many other felines except for one very unmissable trait: short, stubby legs that conjure up visions of Welsh Corgis and Dachshunds. As with any odd trait, the Munchkin’s short legs are the result of a genetic mutation.
Here’s where the controversy comes in. While The International Cat Association began recognizing the Munchkin cat in 1995, it’s the only cat organization to do so. Some believe that the breeding of Munchkins is unethical because it encourages the breeding of physical deformities; therefore, the Munchkin cat is still unrecognized by the Cat Fanciers’ Association and American Cat Fanciers Association.
Experts have weighed in on the issue and given the Munchkin cat a clean bill of health: Aside from their short and stout legs, caused by an autosomal dominant gene that results in long bones in a cat’s legs growing shorter, they’re no different than your average housecat.
This brings us to the next controversy: the Munchkin’s origins. Though short-legged cats (not necessarily Munchkins) were spotted as early as the 1930s, today’s Munchkin cat is the result of an accidental 1983 finding in Louisiana, where a music teacher named Sandra Hochenedel rescued two Munchkins from a Bulldog, only to learn that they were both pregnant.
She kept one — a little lady named Blackberry — and when her kittens were born, she gifted one to her friend Kay LaFrance, who worked with Solveig Pflueger, TICA’s Genetics Committee chairperson, to discover more about the breed and make it recognized by the world.
Does the name Munchkin cat have anything to do with The Wizard of Oz? Yep! Kay LaFrance established a colony of Munchkins on her Louisiana plantation. As the cats reproduced, the town was full of them — resembling the munchkins from L. Frank Baum’s writings.
Munchkins can jump but only to an extent. Will a Munchkin cat make it onto your bedroom bookcase? Not likely. But they’re capable of making it onto kitchen counters when they feel the urge.
The Munchkin’s real strength is speed. They have an insane amount of energy and a knack for speed and agility, taking corners like a furry race car and staying low to the ground to get the most traction.
You know how magpies like to beg, borrow and steal small, shiny objects, squirreling them away for a rainy day? Well, Munchkin cats do, too! In fact, some refer to Munchkins as magpies due to this quirky characteristic.
Munchkins are frequently found sitting up on their hind legs like a rabbit in order to get a better glimpse of something that has caught their eye.
The Munchkin cat craves company: kids, dogs, other animals, complete strangers — there’s never enough! They live for a game of chase or a catnip mouse prime for hunting but will never turn down the offering of a warm lap for cuddling.
If you thought the typical cat breed was curious, the Munchkin cat is curious on a whole different level. He can, and will, explore every nook, corner and cranny of your abode more than once — and likely pilfer a pretty something each and every time!
Thumbnail: Photography by Tetsu Yamazaki.
This piece was originally published in 2017.
Editor’s note: This article appeared in Catster magazine. Have you seen the new Catster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? Subscribe now to get Catster magazine delivered straight to you!
Erika Sorocco has been writing about cats for 12 years. She currently shares her home with two finicky felines (Minky and Gypsy), one crazy pup (Jake) and not enough closet space. Find her online chatting about beauty, books, fashion and fur babies at cateyesandskinnyjeans.com.