MUNCHKIN CAT BREED
The cat fancy’s version of downsizing the Munchkin has cat fanciers on both sides hissing over whether the breed should be recognized. While most new breeds have to face periods of resistance before acceptance can occur, the battle over this breed is particularly heated because it raises questions regarding where “unique variety” ends and “abomination” begins. This point has been previously raised within the cat fancy concerning breeds such as the Sphynx and the Manx. The word (or words to that effect) was even applied to the Siamese when it made its debut in London in 1871.
Short-legged cats have been documented as early as the 1930s in England. According to reports, these short-legged cats survived for four generations before World War II took its toll on the cat population of Europe. One such cat was also reported in the Soviet Union in the 1950s and dubbed the “Stalingrad Kangaroo Cat” for its tendency to sit up on its haunches. But the breed as we know it today began in Rayville, Louisiana.
In 1983 music teacher Sandra Hochenedel discovered two cats hiding under a pickup truck where they had been cornered by a bulldog. Hochenedel rescued the cats and took them home, later noticing two things both were pregnant, and both had short, stubby legs. She kept Blackberry, the black cat, and gave away Blueberry, the gray.
When Blackberry produced her first litter, Hochenedel gave one short-legged kitten, named Toulouse, to her friend Kay LaFrance, who lived in Monroe, Louisiana. Since LaFrance’s cats were allowed free access to the outdoors and were not altered, a feral population of Munchkins occurred around Monroe, where they apparently competed very well with their long-legged friends for prey and mating opportunities.
Hochenedel and LaFrance contacted Dr. Solveig Pflueger, chairperson of TICA’s genetics committee. Her studies determined that the short legs were the result of a dominant genetic mutation affecting the long bones of the legs. This mutation apparently occurred spontaneously within the feline gene pool. Any cat that possesses this gene will exhibit the short legs. A cat that has received the Munchkin gene from one parent will produce Munchkin kittens at an approximate ratio of one Munchkin to one normal kitten.
Other breeders joined the cause, and in 1991 breeders tried to gain acceptance from TICA for the Munchkin, named for the little people in The Wizard of Oz. They were turned down on the basis that not enough was known about the breed. They tried again in September 1994 and this time was accepted. As of May 1, 1995 the Munchkin was recognized for New Breed and Color status in TICA. When the acceptance was announced, TICA member Katherine Crawford resigned her ten-year position as judge, saying that the breed was an affront to any breeder with ethics. Others shared her sentiments, feeling that the short legs will cause crippling back, hip, and leg problems in the future; although no evidence exists that the Munchkin is prone to such problems. Breeders had their oldest Munchkins X-rayed and examined for signs of joint or bone problems. No problems were found, but the breed is still in its infancy, with the oldest Munchkin only 14 years old at the time of this writing.
According to Laurie Bobskill, breeder and president of the International Munchkin Society, 19 separate Munchkin-like mutations have been found in the United States, all unrelated to Blackberry’s lines. Breeders find this encouraging, because it gives credence to the contention that this mutation is a viable variation of Felis catus.
Ironically, the controversy surrounding the breed has contributed to its growing popularity. Because of articles in The Wall Street Journal, People Magazine, and other publications, public demand for Munchkins has been great, the waiting lists long, and the supply limited. The sports car of the cat fancy is commanding sports car prices, too, and breeders want to ensure that disreputable people don’t take advantage of the Munchkin’s popularity by using unethical breeding practices.
For their part, Munchkins, oblivious to the controversy surrounding them, go on being just what they are cats self-assured and outgoing. They love to wrestle and play with their long-legged feline friends, happily unaware that there’s anything different about them. Nor do their feline companions treat them like members of the vertically challenged. Only humans look at them askance.
Fanciers assert Munchkins can do anything an ordinary cat can do, except leap to the top of the bookcase. They can get on the kitchen counter, but they take the scenic route. Munchkins are also known as “magpies” often borrowing small, shiny objects and stashing them away for later play. Proficient hunters, Munchkins love a good game of catnip mouse, but when playtime is over, they want a warm lap to snuggle into and strokes from a loving hand, like any domestic.
Because of the small gene pool, outcrossing will need to occur for many years to keep the breed healthy. For that reason, the conformation may vary in these early years as new genes are introduced. Any domestic longhair or shorthair that is not a member of a recognized breed is an acceptable outcross. Color, pattern, and hair length will vary as well, and the Munchkin can come in any color or pattern, including the Siamese pattern. Munchkins with long flowing tresses also exist and are recognized by TICA. The conformation for the Munchkin Long-hair is the same except that the Longhair bears a semi-long silky coat that sports a full flowing plume on the tail.
- N/A Activity
- N/A Playfulness
- N/A Need for Attention
- N/A Affection
- N/A Need to Vocalize
- N/A Docility
- N/A Intelligence
- N/A Independence
- N/A Healthiness and Hardiness
- N/A Grooming needs
- N/A Good with children
- N/A Good with other pets
General: (TICA standard)
Shortening and mild bowing of the long bones; spine is unaffected and similar in form and flexibility to that of other domestic cats; short legs do not hamper mobility or survival ability.
Body: Torso deep and moderately broad; length medium-long; size medium; boning medium to substantial; chest rounded without an excessively prominent sternum; musculature medium to substantial; shoulders broad.
Head: Almost equilateral triangle to modified wedge with rounded corners; profile: gentle rise from bridge of nose to flattened forehead above eye ridges; muzzle break slight; nose medium length; slight bump is acceptable; chin firm but not unusually prominent.
Ears: Triangle shape; moderately large and full at base; set at corner of the head; ear furnishings desirable on Longhair.
Eyes: Walnut shape; size large; outer corners slightly upward; set wide apart, giving an open, alert expression; no relationship between coat and eye color; deeper, more vivid colors preferred.
Tail: Medium thick, tapers to rounded tip; length in proportion to body.
Coat: Shorthair: length medium; texture all-weather; density moderate; undercoat medium; lustrous, with natural protective appearance.
Longhair: semi-long; texture silky; density moderate; all-weather; undercoat medium; ruff longer than body hair; shaggy britches; flowing full tail plume.
Color: All categories, divisions, colors; white lockets or buttons permitted.
Disqualify: Excessive bowing of legs; paws pointing inward or outward; excessive dip behind shoulders; prominent or protruding sternum; any sign of lameness; inability to walk or stand normally.