They may be short, but their fame and love are certainly high and rising! The Munchkin is a speedy little bundle. This young feline breed is famous for its very short legs, intelligent mind and friendly, people-oriented personality. They are commonly surrounded by concerns regarding potential health issues associated with their height and physique. Here is everything you need to know about your furriend, the Sausage Cat!

Main features

The Munchkin is a small to medium-sized cat, typically weighing anywhere between 4 and 9 pounds (males being slightly larger than females). Their coat can be short and plush or medium-long and silky, and all coat colours and patterns are allowed. The most prominent character of Munchkin kitties are their unbelievably short and stumpy legs. Because of this, their bodies appear disproportionately elongated, hence their loving nickname of“Sausage Cats.” Their hind legs are often slightly longer than their front legs, giving them a discrete rise from the shoulder to the rump. Their legs can be slightly bowed, but excessive bowing and cow-hocking are not typically seen in Munchkins.

The characteristically short legs of Munchkin cats are determined with an autosomal gene called the “munchkin gene” – “M“. Because this gene is dominant, it is expressed in both homozygotes and heterozygotes. A homozygote is a carrier of two identical copies of a gene (MM). A heterozygote carries two different copies of a gene – a munchkin gene and a healthy gene (Mm). Homozygotes (MM) are not viable and do not develop in the womb. Only heterozygous kittens (Mm) are viable. Because this gene is dominant and only heterozygous forms are viable, we can usually find both short-legged and normal-legged (non-standard) variants in the litters of Munchkin cats. Non-standard variants are not allowed to be shown.

Gray Munchkin Kitten

Origins

The first known record of short-legged cats dates back to 1944 when a British veterinary report noted four generations of healthy short-legged cats. Although this line disappeared during the Second World War, short-legged cats were also reported in Russia and New England in 1956 and the 1970s, respectively. Finally, in 1983, Sandra Hochenedel, a music teacher in Louisiana, rescued a pregnant cat who she named Blackberry. Half of Blackberry’s litter was short-legged. It is believed that the modern Munchkin cats are descended from Blackberry and one of her kittens, Toulouse.

Health

The Munchkin has been followed by quite a lot of controversy regarding potential health complications associated with its stumpy legs. Initially, it was believed that the Munchkin gene was associated with achondroplasia. However, achondroplasia is associated with enlarged heads as well as short legs – a combination of features not observed among Munchkins. Thus, the form of “achondroplasia” observed in Munchkins is often referred to as pseuodoachondroplasia instead. It is also important to remember that this genetic variant exists only in the heterozygous form, as homozygotes for this gene are not viable at all. Furthermore, according to a report from 2008, there are two conditions with possibly increased incidence in the breed: lordosis (excessive curvature of the spine) and pectus excavatum (hollowed chest) (Wedderbum, 2008). Apart from this, because outcrossing to domestic cats is allowed in breeding programs (only to non-purebreds!), this breed is relatively genetically diverse and healthy.

Gray Munchkin Kitten with floppy ears

Personality

Don’t let their size fool you. Munchkins may come in a small package, but these cats are brave, confident and intelligent. They will explore every corner and win every heart over. Munchkins are very sociable, friendly and playful. Their curiosity never fades away, and they always seem to be on the run engaging in new games and mischief. They get along with children and other pets very well.

Eight common stereotypes about Sausage cats

Because this is a relatively young breed, followed by an immense amount of controversy, there are naturally TONS of rumors and misconceptions about them. Here are the top 8 totally unjustified stereotypes about Munchkins we dug out and deciphered for you!

1. Munchkins are laid-back cats because they’re physically impaired. Although Munchkins may not be able to jump as high as an average cat, they can make up for it with lightning-speed cornering skills. Being closer to the ground may not be an impairment – it could come with a few advantages!

2. Munchkins must be kept indoors. Most cats are recommended to be kept indoors because outdoor cats are exposed to many dangers and have shorter life expectancies. While you may want to keep your Munchkin indoors to protect them from cars and other animals, they can still enjoy the occasional supervised romp outside.

3. Munchkins need to eat from special dishes. Unless you typically serve your cat’s food on a pedestal, your Munchkin should be just fine with a standard food dish.

4. Munchkins require extra grooming. In terms of grooming, your Munchkin will require just as much care as any other cat. Short-haired Munchkins require weekly grooming, while long-haired variants might require just a bit more attention to remain mat-free.

Orange tabby and white munchkin cat

5. Munchkins have anger issues that stem from frustration. Munchkins are just like all the other cats, so yes, they can develop certain behavioural issues. However, if provided with adequate care and lots of love, most Munchkins are very happy kitties. If your Munchkin is aggressive or depressed, you should consult with your veterinarian who can help you identify and address the problems. For a few tips on how to train a kitty to overcome behavioural problems, we recommend this article.

6. Munchkins talk too much. In reality, it is nearly impossible to predict how vocal a cat will be just by looking at its its physical characteristics.Although some breeds seem to be chattier than the others, this is mostly individual and depends on the cat itself.

7. Munchkins enjoy hiding objects. While some cats are interested in playing peek-a-boo, especially with shiny objects, your Munchkin most likely won’t turn out to be a kleptomaniac. Just like any cat of any breed, the Munchkin may like to paw around your personal items, but this is not a problem that can’t be addressed with a bit of cat-proofing of the house.

8. Munchkins are genetic mutants with a lot of health problems. Your Munchkin has very cute and very short legs, but unless they are a cat in the wild, this won’t cause too much inconvenience for them at all. There have been some speculations of this trait being associated with certain health problems, such as achondroplasia and osteoarthritis, but they have been largely discharged. Lordosis and pectus excavatum may have a higher occurrence rates within the breed, but apart from this, because outcrossing to domestic cats is allowed in breeding programs (something rarely allowed in breeding programs), this breed is genetically relatively diverse and healthy.

orange tabby and white munchkin cat

Although short, the Sausage cat is an unbelievably speedy little bundle. Famous for their adorable appearances and charming personalities, these cats are becoming increasingly popular. Do you have a Munchkin of your own? Share your photos with us!

Reference

1. Wedderburn, Pete (October 2008). “Cat breeds–Trophies with hidden problems”. Journal of Small Animal Practice. BSAVA Companion. 49 (10): 7–9. doi:10.1111/j.1748-5827.2008.00680.x