Munchkins are an unusual breed of cat. The breed was developed in 1983 by a piano teacher in Louisiana who, after seeing two cats chased under a truck by a dog, took one in. The pregnant cat gave birth to a litter of kittens, half of which had short legs. Their short legs mean this breed can find mobility more challenging than other cats.
Some cannot jump very well at all, while others can jump seemingly as well as other breeds of cats. There is no definitive answer to how high a Munchkin cat can jump because it really does depend on the individual, but the honest answer is that most cannot jump as high as cats with standard legs.
Munchkin Cat History
Having seen a Bulldog chase two pregnant cats under a truck in 1983, a piano teacher and animal lover in Louisiana took in one of the cats. When the litter of kittens was born, half of them were born with a genetic defect that meant they had short legs. In 1994, the TICA officially recognized the Munchkin breed, and it gained championship status in 2003.
However, because the short legs are a result of a genetic mutation and because there are mobility and physical problems inherent in some cats of this breed, a number of fancies and registers do not accept the breed. The Cat Fanciers Association (CFA), for example, does not recognize the breed.
When it comes to the gene that causes the short legs, it is an autosomal dominant gene. This means that it can be inherited by male and female kittens from a parent of either gender. This also means that if two parents carrying this gene reproduce, the genetic mutation is lethal. Therefore, Munchkin cats cannot be bred with other Munchkin cats. They must be bred with cats that do not have this gene present, which will result in approximately half of the litter being born with normal legs and half being born with the Munchkin legs.
Although some registers refuse the Munchkin on grounds of ill health, some refuse it because the resulting Munchkin is technically a crossbreed between a Munchkin and some other breed.
About the Breed
Many people buy and own Munchkins for the love of the breed, and not to show. This, in itself, can be a challenge and most experts recommend that the breed not be kept by novice cat owners. This is especially true if the resulting cat cannot jump or has limited jumping capabilities.
Specific Needs of the Munchkin
Elements of the home may need to be adjusted for the cat. Food and water should be placed on ground level, and because of the cat’s inability to get away from any potential threats, the Munchkin may be best kept as an indoor cat. If a Munchkin is allowed to jump freely, it can suffer injuries to its legs and back.
3 Facts About the Munchkin Breed
1. It Could Have Got Its Name from the Wizard of Oz
The origin of the breed’s name is somewhat disputed. Some claim that the breed was given its name when one of the breed champions was appearing on TV and when asked what the breed’s name was, didn’t have an answer and came up with Munchkin on the spot. In another account, cat geneticist Solveig Pflueger gave one of the short-legged kittens to his daughter, who named it Mushroom the Munchkin after one of the Munchkins from the Wizard of Oz.
2. They Can Suffer Ill Health
The short legs of the Munchkin arise as a result of a genetic malformation, and this same malformation, as well as the resulting shape of the breed’s body, can cause some health problems. Perhaps the worst such problem is a condition called lordosis. Kittens with lordosis have muscles around the spine that grow too short. This essentially means that the spine grows too low in the cat’s body. The problem can be fatal in some instances.
3. Unsurprisingly, the World’s Shortest Recorded Cat Is a Munchkin
It’s unlikely to be too surprising to many people, but the world’s shortest cat, according to the Guinness World Records, is a Munchkin. Lilliput is a tortoiseshell Munchkin from Napa and measures just 5.2 inches to the tip of her shoulders.
Munchkins are a distinctive and instantly recognizable breed of cats. They have short legs, but the rest of their bodies are usually the same proportion as those of other cats. They are the “Sausage Dogs” of the cat world. The short legs are caused by a recessive gene that is passed on by either one of the parents, but never both, and it can cause other health problems. Because of the health problems and because breeding Munchkins requires that a Munchkin be bred with some other breed, the Munchkin is not universally accepted by registers and fancies.
And while some Munchkins can jump reasonably well, many are unable to jump at all or are only able to jump to very low heights and owners do need to make allowances for this.
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