Dwarf Cat: Genetic Mutation Redefined

Studio image of a dwelf-cat
Jeremy Vaughn
Written by Jeremy Vaughn

Dwarf cats are stealing the spotlight with popularity—probably due to their perceived cute and delightful appearance. By outcrossing the Munchkin—the founding breed of short-legged cats—with a variety of several other breeds, breeders have come up with a number of dwarf cat breeds. One such breed is the Dwelf cat. With the Munchkin features remaining constant, what makes the Dwelf different?

Did you know that any size around 5lbs to over 12lbs is normal for a cat? Did you know that cats on the lower end of this range are not necessarily dwarfs? While a cat’s size could be influenced by factors such as health, nutrition, and their environment among others, dwarfism in cats is as a result of genetic mutation typically manifesting as distinctively shortened legs.

dwelf kitten on a red background

Based on that definition, Dwelf cats are the epitome of genetic mutations. While other dwarf cats may only have short legs as their defining feature, Dwelf cats also have hairlessness and curly ears going for them. Their appearance is their main selling point, but let’s not forget that they are also friendly, playful, and an absolute delight to be around.

We have gone to great lengths to expound on everything that makes this breed stand out from the rest. Below are our findings. We’ve also made sure to include information on how to properly care for a Dwelf cat if you decide to adopt one.

Breed Characteristics

  • Adaptability: Average

  • Grooming: High Maintenance

  • Health: Below Average Health

  • All Around Friendliness: Good

  • Exercise Needs: Above Average

Cat Breed GroupSemi-Hairless, Crossbreed
Weight4 - 7 pounds
Lifespan12- 15 years

A Dwelf cat is one cat that could look cute, ugly, a little scary, or even alien depending on how you look at them. They are hairless, though some could be covered with fine hair that is not easily noticeable just like their Sphynx parent. Their coat is rather smooth and feels like suede but has wrinkles that are especially pronounced around the forehead, shoulders, neck, and thighs.

The head is long and wedge-shaped. It’s hard to miss their well-defined cheekbones and the outstanding whisker pads that may or may not have whiskers. In other cases, the whiskers are short and scanty.

Studio image of a dwelf cat pregnant

Sitting on their head are fairly large and alert ears that curl towards each other just like with the American curl or the Highlander. The cats possess a pair of wide open, almond-shaped eyes that are slightly slanted. They also have a stout and strong muzzle.

These cats have small, thickset, and muscular bodies that are almost kitten-like. They weight anything between 4 and 7 pounds. Their stocky appearance can be attributed to their solid neck, wide chest, and the short legs. This generally makes the cats look longer than they are tall.

The forelegs are shorter than the hind ones and may appear bow-shaped. The paws are oval-shaped with outstanding knuckles and stubby paw pads. The entire anatomy is completed by a long, flexible tail that narrows towards the tip. Dwelf cats make great companions since they are very friendly and interactive. They get along with children and other pets.

Main Highlights

  • The Dwelf was developed by crossing a Sphynx, a Munchkin, and an American Curl.

  • They draw their name from their dwarfish stature and elf-like appearance.

  • For cats with short legs, these cats are agile, and they do well at physical activities in general.

  • The cats thrive in people’s company and especially when involved in the family’s activities.

  • They are smart and therefore require mental stimulation.

  • These cats suffer common problems that come with hairlessness such as vulnerabilities to harsh weather. Therefore, they are mostly indoor cats.

  • The Dwelf cats have been acknowledged by The International Cats Association (TICA) under their Experimental New Breeds class.

  • The breed is still under investigation in terms of possible health problems, but we do know that it is possible for them to suffer from lordosis (inward curvature of the spine) or pectus excavatum (caved-in chest). To minimize the risks of such health problems, only adopt a Dwelf cat from a registered and reputable breeder.

  • They require regular baths with soap and water to clear out the accumulated natural oils which, in other cats, is buffered by their hair.

  • These cats are small with some weighing up to only half the size of normal cats.

  • The cats inherit the hairlessness of a Sphynx, the short leggedness of a Munchkin, and the curly ears of an American Curl.

  • They require around the clock high-calorie feeding due to their need to regulate body temperature. More precise information on the diet and portion should be obtained from the breeder.

  • The cats’ life expectancy is estimated to be around 12 to 15 years. This is still under investigation since the breed itself is fairly new and still in its experimental stage.

Breed History

The Dwelf cat breed was developed in America by crossing the Munchkin, the Sphynx, and the American Curl. They got their name from the blend of elf-like looks and dwarfish stature.

Obviously, the Sphynx’s hairlessness is the most dominant feature of the Dwelf cat, but many other hairless breeds claim their share of this trait. On the other hand, the short legs they inherited from the Munchkin and the curly ears they got from the American Curl are hard to miss.

Image showing a Munchkin cat sitting on wooden table

The breed attracted some kind of controversy since all the breeds involved have several mutations that could lead to skeletal problems. It leads to worry that the breed might have inherited all of their parents’ health issues and would go on to live disease-ridden lives. However, the breed is quite new and is therefore still undergoing some development.

The International Cats Association (TICA) acknowledges the breed under their Experimental New Breeds class. It is also recognized by The Dwarf Cat Association, or rather, the Designer Cat Association.


Dwelf cats are small and kitten-like, even when they are fully grown. This is specially made more prominent by their shortened legs. While their weight ranges from 4 to 7 pounds, most of them weigh about half the size of a normal-sized cat. They can also become overweight if their diet encourages it.

Personality and Character

If your family has lots of time to spend on a feline friend, this might just be the perfect breed for you. This cat breed has no problem being handled. With traits often described as dog-like, a Dwelf is faithful, friendly, and interactive.

These cats prefer being in people’s company and do not thrive very well in solitary confinement. They don’t take kindly to being left out of what everyone is doing. Despite their short legs, they can be quite acrobatic. If you are up for some feline entertainment, you just need to provide your Dwelf with some toys, sit back, and enjoy.

Studio image of a Tica Dwelf Kitten

Dwelf cats are very smart, and they are just the right candidates for mental stimulation toys. While they don’t take to a new environment immediately, they get along with everybody in the family when given time to adjust. Their intelligence and curiosity help them to find their way around the home.

Don’t think for a moment that their short legs limit them; these cats are energetic and agile. They run, bounce, and find creative ways to climb onto tall surfaces. While they don’t pester you for attention, they appreciate and reciprocate when showered with affection.

Health and Potential Problems

Being a fairly new breed, investigations are ongoing to identify possible health issues among other things. In spite of this, health problems such as lordosis and pectus excavatum are genetic disorders associated with the small-limb type of dwarfism and cannot be ruled out. Lordosis is the inward curvature of the back which makes a cat appear humpbacked. This can be linked to breathing and cardiac distress, or infections like pneumonia. If it is mild, the cat will still be able to lead normal lives.

a Dwelf Kitten sitting on a cat tree

Pectus excavatum, on the other hand, is a condition that causes a sunken chest. In severe cases, the reduced chest space exerts pressure on the heart and lungs. This may also lead to breathing and heart issues. Being hairless, Dwelf cats are likely to suffer from skin infections due to the accumulation of oils which would otherwise be absorbed by the hair. This only happens if the cats are not regularly washed.

Hairlessness also exposes them to harmful UV rays or extreme cold. The naked skin is also susceptible to yeast infection and possible injury. Other possible health issues are those to which they are genetically predisposed due to their lineage. Talking to the breeder will keep you in the loop on what to expect once you bring your kitty home.

Care Features

Dwelf cats are affectionate but only if they receive the same. This strengthens their relationship with their owner. Spending time with your cat and treating them nicely greatly improves their quality of life, and in return, you get a lifetime friend.

Shielding your cat from too much sunlight will protect their skin. When spending a prolonged period in the sun, feline sunscreen products which are available at pet shops and veterinary clinics would be a great option. Warm sweaters, blankets, or igloo-type beds and teepees can help keep the cat warm at night.

adorable-dwelf-kittens-tica-sitting on a towler

Since Dwelf cats spend more time indoors, they are likely to get bored and lazy. To ensure that your cat remains occupied and active, provide toys and set up play areas that are sheltered from the unfriendly weather.

Essentials like litter boxes, water, food, cat furniture, and observation areas among others should be made available to ensure that your cat lives a fulfilled life. In addition to this, cleanliness should be observed to keep the cat’s surroundings fresh and habitable. Lastly, their hairlessness exposes the cats to injuries. Therefore, keeping the environment generally safe would go a long way.

Feeding Schedule

The predatory nature of Dwelf cats automatically means that their ideal food should be meat-based. In addition to this, all hairless cats require a high-calorie diet due to the need to regulate their body temperature. A bigger portion of the cat’s food should, therefore, contain proteins and fats.

Dwelfs are not able to digest carbohydrates well. Foods too rich in carbohydrates may make them overweight, putting them at risk of diabetes. When buying food for your cat, it is good to ensure that the food is ideal. Specific varieties made for hairless cats are also available in the market.

side view of a dwelf cat and a yellow apple behind him

Once you buy the food, let your cat taste it and observe the reaction both during and after feeding to ensure the cat likes and tolerates the food. It would be a great idea to consult your vet or breeder for better recommendation of your cat’s nutritional requirements.

Armed with this knowledge, ensure that the right amount of food and water are accessible at all times. Avoid giving snacks to your cat as this might interfere with their nutrition. If you need to change the food, do so a little at a time to avoid rejection or upsetting your cat’s tummy.

Coat, Color, and Grooming

A Dwelf’s coat color can vary from white to chocolate brown with the occasional black. They are completely hairless though they may have some fine hair with a suede feel. Therefore, body oils which would otherwise be absorbed by their hair may end up collecting on the skin.

These oils may clog the pores and cause skin infections. It is for this reason that the cat needs regular baths with warm water and a mild shampoo. Regularly grooming your cat not only keeps them clean but also helps to stimulate circulation. Once every 2 to 3 weeks would do it, though it can be more frequent depending on the state of your cat’s skin.

Close-up image of a female dwelf

Sponging between baths can help keep the buildup at bay since overdoing the bathing can dry out the skin and cause dermatitis. While you are at it, be sure to clip overgrown claws and clean out all the parts of the cat’s body.

The ears should also be gently cleaned off of excess wax. Their teeth should also be brushed with vet-approved toothpaste to keep off periodontal diseases. Before using any products during this process, it would help to consult your vet first to know what is safe and what is not for your cat.

Children and Other Pets Compatibility

When living with a family that has time to spare for them, the Dwelf cats reciprocate the affection. They love human company and are sources of great entertainment if given the opportunity. They are especially suited for families that are home often. While these cats are bad at being alone, they don’t demand too much attention when in the company of their family. Their adaptability, when introduced to a new environment, is a bit moderate but once settled they get along with all. They play interactively with children and have no problem sharing space with other pets.

Wrap Up

A Dwelf cat is a fairly new breed. It was developed from the Sphynx, the Munchkin, and the American Curl. These cats possess very distinct features and traits from their multiple parents. While this breed is still in its experimental stage, many have warmed up to the small designer cat with funny looks and high maintenance requirements.

The cat takes some time to fit into a family but eventually does with the right environment. They are friendly to all, including children and pets. They would be ideal for a family that can offer them companionship in return. The cat requires regular grooming, around the clock feeding, and protection from harsh weather.

Close-up image of a dwelf kitten sitting

Being a new breed, a lot remains to be seen concerning aspects such as health and lifespan. If you decide to get one of these, we recommend that you try out reputable breeders who have made an effort to ensure that their cats are healthy and will not withhold any information concerning any particular cat breed. Better still, it would be wise to request an investigation on your kitty prior to adoption to ensure that you are in the loop on all you need to know.

Are you prepared to care for the high-maintenance Dwelf cat and get a one-of-a-kind companion in return? Or would you prefer a cat that’s easier to care for yet no less unique appearance-wise? Your feedback is important to us. Please share any concerns that you might have. Feel free to even share your experience with a Dwelf cat if you have any.

About the author
Jeremy Vaughn
Jeremy Vaughn

Jeremy Vaughn is a member of Canadian Professional Pet Stylists, who lives in Winnipeg. Creating new looks for cats and other pets is his passion. Jeremy shares his house with the wife and wonderful Siamese cat.