ALL CAT BREED PROFILES

Munchkin Cat: The Magpies of Cats

Munchkin-Cat with a bowll full of food in front of her
Steve Corelli
Written by Steve Corelli

Cats are famous for having powerful legs. They can jump several times their own height. Although this is an admirable quality that has helped them survive alone for thousands of years in the wild, as household pets, this trait usually leads to mass destruction. Cats love to climb to the top of your shelves, cupboards, curtains, and the like—knocking things over as they go. If you live in a house with many fragile and expensive antiquities, or if you live in a crowded place and you need a petite pet, the Munchkin cat is up for the task.

Munchkin cats are different than other breeds for their distinctive and unusual body. Their short and stubby legs are their most famous feature. Despite their fragile appearances, however, they love to play wrestle with others. Their obsession with collecting shiny objects has earned them the title of “magpies of the cat species.”

Munchkin_cat on a wooden table

Like any other cat, they love chasing mice or really anything that moves, but at the end of the day, what they really want is to cuddle with you while you watch TV. If you’re looking for a cat with personality and spunk, yet, also with an affectionate side, the Munchkin is a good choice for you.

In this article, you’re going to find out everything you need to know about the Munchkin cat. From their personality to health, history and grooming, you’ll be given a rundown on what the Munchkin breed consists of. Keep on reading if you want to learn more about this adorably interesting breed.

Breed Characteristics

  • Adaptability: Above Average; not to be allowed outdoors

  • Grooming: Moderate; depends on whether the cat is long-haired or short-haired

  • Health: Below Average; possible spinal conditions

  • All Around Friendliness: Very Good

  • Exercise Needs: Moderate

Cat Breed GroupShort-Haired / Long-Haired, Natural Breed
SizeSmall
Weight6 to 9 lbs
Lifespan12 to 15 years

You’ve probably seen the Munchkin cat on social media or birthday cards, and there’s a good reason why—they’re overwhelmingly adorable. The Munchkin cat is very unique in appearance. Their stubby, short legs are a result of a natural genetic mutation. A pregnant stray cat named Blackberry was the first recorded Munchkin cat. Though they were seen in England as early as the 1930s, most of them died during World War II. However, they made a reappearance in 1983 in a Louisiana town.

The breed was quite controversial at the time as the TICA did not want to accept the Munchkin breed, saying there was insufficient information about it. After some time, TICA finally gave in; in 1995, the Munchkin were accepted as their own breed. The controversy around the Munchkin breed did an amazing job at publicizing it, making it a beloved favorite among the cat community today.

Munchkin_cat sitting on a road

Munchkin cats are a favorite of many as their big eyes, and stubby legs melt everyone’s hearts. Though they’re stubby, their personalities are ginormous. They love being wrestled with and handled; they are full of energy. If you have any children or animals, you don’t need to worry as Munchkin cats love to socialize with anyone who will pay attention to them; they’re divas.

Though they love attention, they’re also highly intelligent and are always looking for something to keep their brain going. They love playing games and solving tricks and puzzle toys. Even though they may look like quirky cats, don’t be fooled; they’re much smarter than you think.

Main Highlights

  • The breed developed by a spontaneous genetic mutation.

  • They’re best known for their stubby and short legs.

  • The first Munchkin cat was a pregnant stray named Blackberry.

  • No one really knows how the Munchkin breed got its name. However, it’s believed that the word “Munchkin” was inspired by The Wizard of Oz.

  • This breed has been coined the Magpies of the cat world for their love of collecting shiny objects.

  • The Munchkin cat is the world’s shortest living cat.

  • They can sometimes sit “ferret-like.”

  • Munchkin cats come in all shades, patterns, and colors.

  • They’re extremely opinionated.

  • The breed has only recently been accepted by the TICA but not the CFA.

  • They’re extremely playful and sociable cats.

  • Munchkin cats love to be wrestled with and handled.

Breed History

The Munchkin is somewhat of an interesting breed. This breed developed from a natural and spontaneous genetic mutation and not purposely done by humans. Reports of short-legged cats started to become a common appearance in Britain (1944), Russia (1956), New England (1970) and Louisiana (1980), but the first documented Munchkin cat was a pregnant stray named Blackberry—found in Louisiana in 1983.

Sandra Hochenedel, a music teacher, came across the pregnant stray and rescued her. One of Blackberry’s male kittens was given the name Toulouse. Hochenedel decided to give Toulouse to her friend, Kay LaFrance, who also lived in Louisiana.

Studio image of a Munchkin Cat

LaFrance kept Toulouse as an outdoor cat; thus, within no time, the entire town was full of Munchkin cats. It’s believed that their name derived from The Wizard of Oz. LaFrance believed that Toulouse was a new breed of cat, thus, contacted The International Cat Association (TICA).

Dr. Solveig Pflueger of the TICA studied Toulouse and discovered that his short legs were due to a dominant genetic mutation which affected the length of the leg bones. Soon, breeders became more curious about the Munchkin breed and urged the TICA to recognize it. However, TICA denied the breed as they felt they didn’t know enough about it. Though, in 1995, TICA finally declared the Munchkin as a new breed of feline.

Size

The Munchkin is a medium-sized cat. Even though they have stubby and short legs, the rest of their body is regular in size and quite long. Their walnut-shaped eyes and triangular ears give them a quirky look when paired with their legs. Munchkin cat weight is usually between 6 and 9 lbs.

Munchkin kitten sitting out in the summer sun

Their short legs are due to a naturally-occurring genetic mutation, not from human manipulation. This same gene is responsible for other breeds with short legs such as the Dachshund and the Welsh Corgis. Though, a cat’s spine is designed differently than of a dog’s. Thus, they do not suffer spinal problems which commonly occur in canine breeds.

Personality and Character

Don’t be fooled by the looks of this cat. Despite their short legs and watery, large eyes, Munchkin cat personality is full of spunk and opinion. These stubby-legged cats are extremely confident, outgoing, and not one bit intimidated by others around them.

These cats are extremely friendly and playful. They love to wrestle and tumble around with those they call their friends. Their love of chasing and collecting shiny and tiny objects are why they’ve been called the Magpies of the cat species.

Tabby Munchkin cat reaching out for the window

So, don’t freak out if you can’t find your earrings or necklace; your Munchkin cat has it safely stored away to play with later. Though they love chasing shiny objects and rodents, they also love sitting in your lap, cuddling after a long day at work.

Health and Potential Problems

It was believed that Munchkin cat health would be similar to that of canines with short legs. People believed that these cats would suffer huge spinal issues similar to what Daschund and Welsh Corgis experience.

Munchkin cat chewing on drum stick

However, with time, it’s been proven that the Munchkin don’t really go through major spinal issues similar to that of their canine equivalents. Though this doesn’t mean Munchkin cats don’t go through spinal issues at all, due to the flexibility of their feline spine, they would not experience issues to the extent that canines with short legs do. Still, you will want to keep an eye out for issues such as:

  • Lordosis: the most common health issues Munchkin cats may face. Lordosis is a condition in which the cat’s spine does not grow correctly. What happens is that the spinal muscle does not grow to the proper size. Thus, the spine starts to sink down into the cat’s body. This is a fatal condition. Though other cats can experience this, it’s more common in this breed than others.

  • Improper Breeding: if a breeder takes two short-legged Munchkin cats and breed them together, the entire litter will not survive. The genetics that caused short legs are fatal when the gene is given to a kitten twice.

Care Features

Munchkin cats are affectionate and loving. They love attention, and they like to receive affection whenever possible. Their playful and outgoing personality means they love to socialize with humans and other animals. These cats are not to be left alone for prolonged periods of time; they need to be given attention.

fluffy Munchkin-cat walking on a wooden wall

If your Munchkin cat is an indoor cat, make sure they’re given ample space to jump around. Yes, they have short legs, but that doesn’t stop them from jumping from place to place. We don’t recommend allowing your cat to go outside the house—despite what LaFrance did with Toulouse—because, for all that they are just as energetic as your average long-legged kitty, they don’t run as fast. If they encounter danger, they may not be able to get away fast enough.

Feeding Schedule

Like most cats, the Munchkin is a carnivore, which means that you’ll want to provide them with a diet that consists of high proteins and fats. Stay away from carbohydrates as they’re unable to digest them properly.

white munchkin kitten playing with a rope

For a proper feeding schedule, we highly recommend that you consult your vet. They’ll be able to recommend you food which may be specifically designed for your cat. Especially if your cat has underlying health conditions, you’ll want to ensure that the food you give them is high-quality.

The feeding schedule of Munchkin cats depends on a couple of factors. You’ll need to look at whether they’re an indoor or outdoor cat, if they’re neutered or spayed, and if they suffer from any health conditions. Typically, healthy Munchkin cats love eating small meals and snacks throughout the day.

Coat, Color, and Grooming

Munchkin cats come with either long hair or short hair. Thus, the grooming needs will vary depending on the length of hair your Munchkin has. To groom your long-haired Munchkin cat, you’re going to need to use a fine-toothed comb for daily brushing. Though they do groom themselves, they’ll need some help as they won’t be able to reach some spots.

To brush them, you’ll need to use a splitter brush, as it will be easier for you to get rid of knots and mats of fur. These generally occur more during shedding seasons in spring and summer. When it comes to bathing, they’ll need regular baths just like other breeds. A monthly bath is enough for them to get squeaky clean.

munchkin-cat sitting at the window

Short-haired Munchkin cats are generally easier to take care of as they don’t need as much attention as long-haired Munchkin cats. Though, this doesn’t mean you don’t have to groom them. They’ll need to be brushed/groomed twice a week, especially during the shedding months. As for baths, having a monthly bath is more than enough.

The coat of Munchkin cats can vary in color and length. This is because Munchkins are usually bred with a wide number of breeds—since they can’t be bred with fellow Munchkins lest the litter receives the fatal gene—thus, the cat’s coat color and texture can vary widely.

Children and Other Pets Compatibility

Munchkin cats are well-known for adapting to their environments quickly and easily. Thus, if you have children or other animals, you won’t have a problem blending your Munchkin cat into the family. Since they love to play, they’ll be ecstatic to frolic with your children and other pets. Though, they are attention seekers, so, they’ll want all the attention put on them when playing.

Wrap Up

The Munchkin cat is a curious and quirky breed that loves to be given attention. If you’re able to spend time to play and hang out with them, they’ll make an exciting addition to your home. Since they love attention, they’re perfect for homes that have children, other animals, or elderly as they’ll be able to act as a warm, playful, and loving companion. If they’re not given enough attention, they’ll let you know that they’re not pleased.

Though their legs are short, this doesn’t mean that they don’t try to reach counters and shelves. They’re extremely active cats, contrary to popular belief, and will always try to jump even though their legs cannot take them there. Can you blame them for trying?

Munchkin Cat walking on a road

In addition, they’re fairly low-maintenance especially if you’re getting a short-haired Munchkin. This is definitely a breed you shouldn’t ignore—especially if you want an affectionate and playful companion around the house. They’re easy to take care of, have quirky and unusual personalities, but will also make sure you’re given all the love in the world.

Do you think the Munchkin is the breed for you? If you don’t find dwarf cats interesting, and yet you’d still like to adopt a cat that sports a unique appearance due to a genetic mutation, check out this breed. Since the mutation only affects their hair, you won’t have to be worried about it impacting their health. Let us know what you think in the comments section below! If you already have a Munchkin, we’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences about this breed!

About the author
Steve Corelli
Steve Corelli

Steve Corelli is a Pet Nutrition Expert from Allentown, Pennsylvania. He is the author of many nutritional strategies for different breeds and a member of some Pet Food development teams. His Maine Coon Stephan, as you might guess, is always well-fed.

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