cat is a relatively new
created by a random mutation that produced a cat with extremely short legs.
Munchkins have short or long coats in a wide variety of colours. Somewhat
surprisingly, because of their short stature munchkins are particularly adept at
climbing and jumping. They are usually raised as indoor cats, although they are
reported to be extremely active, agile and fast runners. Those who have spent
time around barns have proven to be extremely good hunters. The mutation only
affects the length of the legs.
The breed was begun in 1983 when Sandra Hochenedel found an extremely
short-legged black cat living under a trailer in Louisiana. The cat, Blackberry,
was pregnant and half of her kittens were born short-legged. One of Blackberry's
kittens, a tomcat named Tolouse,
became the father of a breeding program and helped establish the breed in North
The Munchkin breed is not recognised by all registering associations and is
specifically banned by the Fédération Internationale Féline
FIFe and other European registries, but it is accepted by The International
Cat Association (TICA).
The munchkin gene is an
autosomal dominant one. Thus far to date, there have been no viable kittens that
are homozygous for the munchkin gene, possibly because of gene lethality.
Kittens that are heterozygous for the munchkin gene will be 'standard' munchkins. The
remainder have normal length legs, but since it is a dominant gene these
long/traditional legged cats cannot pass on the trait of short legs. Nor would
this trait be passed on if the long legged kittens were crossed to another
breed. Because only heterozygous munchkin cats survive to pass on the gene all
litters can be a mix of standard and non-standard munchkins.
At one time it was theorized that this short legged trait was due to the same
locus of genes that cause
achondroplasia in humans, however all attempts to prove this to date, have
failed. It is now believed to be the equivalent of hypochondroplasia which is
much milder than achondroplasia. Achondroplasia affects more than the long bones of the legs. The munchkin
cat is shorter than a standard domestic, but in all other respects it is
identical, genetically and in size and overall appearance.