The Munchkin cat, also known as “sausage cat,” is a cat breed that arose from a spontaneous genetic mutation that made the long bones in their legs grow shorter. Although Munchkins are a relatively newer cat breed, short-legged cats have been around since the 1940s.
Read on to find out more about Munchkin cats and see the most popular ‘mixes’ of the Munchkin breed.
If you want to know more about your Munchkin cat, a great way is with a DNA test – take a look here.
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A brief history of the Munchkin cat
The short-legged cat isn’t a new breed, with their species documented as early as the 1940s, where a British veterinarian wrote about the first four generations of short-legged felines in 1944. However, this line abruptly disappeared like many other species during the Second World War. Short-legged cats emerged again soon after in parts of Russia in 1956.
But it wasn’t until over two decades later that the Munchkin breed arose by accident in the early 1980s when a Louisiana school music teacher Sandra Hochenedel discovered two pregnant short-legged felines under her car.
She kept one of them and named the cat Blackberry. Shortly after, Blackberry gave birth to a litter of kittens born with short legs. Hochenedel gave one of the kittens to her friend, Kay LaFrance, where she named the kitten Toulouse.
Today’s Munchkin lineage descended from Blackberry and Toulouse.
How Munchkin cuties are made
The special Munchkin cat is a result of a dominant genetic mutation. This dominant gene is referred to as a “lethal” gene. The gene is called lethal because if a male Munchkin mates with a female Munchkin, they may pass on the dominant gene onto their offspring and the Munchkin kitten won’t survive. However, Munchkins can still be born naturally, sometimes due to genetic mutations.
Breeders around the world breed Munchkins with regular or naturally shorter domestic cats that don’t carry any Munchkin genes. Breeders do this to produce Munchkin babies with distinct short legs. This process of breeding became effective because only one parent had the dominant gene.
The different Munchkin cat breed mixes
Although Munchkins are genetically modified and are a distinct breed of their own, here are the official and most popular short-legged cat mixes:
The short-legged and nearly hairless Bambino cat is a crossbreed between a Munchkin and Sphynx cat. This breed was established in 2005 by Pat and Stephanie Osborne from the Holy Moly Cattery. Its name ‘Bambino’ is an Italian word that translates to ‘small child,’ fitting the cat breed perfectly.
The Dwelf cat is a rare breed that mixes a Munchkin, Sphynx, and an American Curl cat. The Dwelf is a relatively new breed that features the short legs of Munchkins, hairlessness of Sphynx cats, and curled ears of the American Curl cat.
The Genetta cat is a newer breed with people from Pawstruk Cattery still working on developing them. This feline is the crossbreed of a Munchkin cat, Bengal, and Savannah, making them appear like miniature tigers. They have the short legs of the Munchkin and the Bengal and Savannah’s spotted coat.
Minskin cats have the same mix as the Bambino, a Munchkin cat and a Sphynx, alongside additional breeds, the Devon Rex and Burmese cat. They have short legs from the Munchkin and the Sphynx’s hairlessness, but unlike the Bambino cat, Minskins have fur on their limbs from the Devon Rex and Burmese cat. Paul McSorley established this breed in 1998, where he named the adorable feline the Minskin.
The Lambkin is a small cat with a prominent lamb-like coat. It’s a crossbreed between a munchkin cat and Selkirk Rex cat. It has short legs and curly fur from the Selkirk Rex. Terri Harris established this breed in 1991. The word ‘lambkin’ means a young lamb.
The Kinkalow breed is a mix between an American Curl and a Munchkin cat, possessing the Munchkin’s short legs and the American Curl’s signature curled ears. It’s a similar cat breed to the Dwelf, just that it has more fur. The Kinkalow, like the Lambkin, was also established by Terri Harris four years after discovering the Lambkin.
The Napoleon breed is a mix between a Munchkin and a Persian cat. It has the small legs from munchkins and the unique facial features of a Persian cat. They were established in 1995 by a former judge from the American Kennel Club called Joe Smith. Its name comes from the past French ruler Napoleon Bonaparte who was short in stature.
The Skookum breed is rare, and they’re a unique mix of a Munchkin cat and a LaPerm cat. Roy Galusha established the Skookum breed in the 1990s in the United States. This feline has similarities to the Lambkin with its short legs and curly fur. The word ‘Skookum’ originates from a Native American tribe named ‘Chinook,’ meaning that something’s brave and strong.
Common questions about Munchkin cats
Do Munchkin cats stay small?
Munchkin cats will stay small even in adulthood because they’re a genetically modified cat breed made to remain short and tiny throughout their lifespans. Even though they’re a small cat breed and can’t jump as high as other cats, they’re usually quick and active. They’re the perfect cat breed for owners looking for a kitten-like companion.
Is it cruel to breed Munchkin cats?
Although their unique feline traits may seem appealing, most Munchkin cats suffer from a genetic disorder due to their legs being unusually shorter than the average cat. Experts have warned that it’s cruel to breed cats despite knowing they have physical defects. However, despite this, these cats tend to be relatively healthy and rarely experience any health issue.
Do Munchkin cats need special care?
Munchkin cats don’t require any additional medical attention care as they’re generally healthy and active felines. However, if a Munchkin cat has long hair, they may need more grooming requirements common with long-haired cat breeds. Long-haired Munchkin cats may require daily grooming to keep their fur untangled and clean.
Originally, the Munchkin cat was a result of spontaneous genetic mutation with no human intervention. But experts found that it is not possible for two Munchkins to have an offspring because of their dominant “lethal” gene. That’s why breeders use regular or naturally small-sized domestic cats to mate with a Munchkin. This way the kittens survive.