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What is a Munchkin cat?

The Munchkin cat


Munchkin cat

The Munchkin cat is either the newest breed of cat, or not actually a breed of cat at all, depending upon whom you ask. (It’s actually both.)


The Munchkin cat, an impossibly adorable creature, is also either the result of a genetic accident, or a deliberate breeding, depending upon whom you ask. (It’s actually both.)


And depending upon whom you ask, the Munchkin is either the result of a genetic disease that shouldn’t be perpetuated, or the cutest thing to ever happen to cats.


Whatever you think or believe, there’s no denying it: the Munchkin is a ridiculously adorable feline.


Read to learn more and make your own informed decision about Munchkin cats.



Munchkin: the youngest cat breed?


There are old cat breeds, and then, there is the Munchkin.


The Egyptian Mau, a spotted beauty of a cat, was found mummified in the tombs of the pharaohs.


The Korat, a cat from Thailand prized for its silver coat and enchanting green eyes, was probably first documented in the 1300s.


The Persian, a longhaired feline stunner, was smuggled out of Iran along with other exotic valuables: spices and jewels, in the 1600s.


The Munchkin is the newest kid on the kitty block, only just recognized as a breed in 1997 by The International Cat Association (TICA).[1] The Munchkin is so new that the jury at the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) is still out as to whether this unusual cat qualifies as breed unto its own.


While 1997 marks a milestone in the Munchkin’s history, short-legged cats have been around a bit longer.


The history of the Munchkin cat


Short legs in cats keep cropping up


munchkin cat

During the 1940s, a veterinarian in the U.K. noticed and documented several generations of short-legged cats. But these cats were probably different from today’s Munchkins. They had short front legs, but the hind legs seemed to be of normal size. The cats were called Kangaroo Cats, and they died out during World War II. Note that whole lines of pedigreed cats died out during wartime, too, not just these Munchkin-like strays with short front limbs.


A short-legged cat appeared in a housing project in Brooklyn, New York, in or around the 1950s. She had short legs and a short tail, plus an unusually shaped head and ears. She produced kittens, and for a while, there was a short-legged posse of kitties running around New York. This line of cats is now referred to as The Flatbush Mutation, although they all eventually died out, too.


A short-legged cat was seen in Stalingrad in 1953, standing on its hind legs. The German author who witnessed the cat called it the Stalingrad Kangaroo Cat.


There seemed to be another witnessed population of short-legged cats in Pennsylvania in the 1950s,[2] and then again in New England in 1970.[3]


Blackberry founds the Munchkin breed


Today’s official line of Munchkins comes from a cat called Blackberry, who was found as a stray in 1983, by a music teacher in Louisiana. Blackberry was pregnant when she was found, and half of her litter of kittens had short legs. The music teacher called these short-legged kittens “Munchkins” after the Little People in The Wizard of Oz.


One of Blackberry’s short-legged male kittens was allowed by his adoptive family to run free, and, since he wasn’t neutered, a population of short-legged cats began to appear in the neighborhood. These cats were given the alternate name of Louisiana Creole Cat.


Other short-legged cats were later identified, including a black kitten called Sam I Am, in New Haven, Connecticut, who was later registered as a Munchkin “foundation stud cat."[4] 


This just means that Sam I Am had the characteristics of a Munchkin cat, even if he didn't have a pedigree. Since the breed was still in the early stages, Munchkin-type cats were included in breeding programs for genetic diversity.



The short-leg mutation will probably continue to show up in cats


Genetic mutations happen all the time in living things. Sometimes they’re spontaneous, meaning that they’re naturally-occurring errors in DNA, and sometimes they’re caused by outside agents, such as radiation or chemicals.


Some spontaneous mutations are beneficial to the organism and they live on, through natural selection. Others die out, quite possibly like the short-legged mutation in those cats in the U.K., Brooklyn, Pennsylvania, and New England, because they don't provide any benefit that helps the animals survive.[5] Breeders artificially keep spontaneous mutations, like short-leggedness, alive.


But it’s likely that short-legged cats will continue to show up in the cat population, from time to time, due to spontaneous mutations.



What does a Munchkin cat look like?


The most noticeable characteristic of a Munchkin cat is his short legs. Otherwise, he’s a typical small-to-medium-sized cat, weighing 5 to 9 pounds, with males tending to weigh slightly more than females.


The legs of a Munchkin cat are about half as long as a typical cat’s limbs.[6] A Munchkin’s front legs may bow slightly and his hind legs are slightly longer than his front, making his back slope slightly down.


Munchkins come in all coat lengths, colors, and patterns. While most have a plush coat, there are longhaired varieties, too, which have semi-long, silky fur.


What is a Munchkin cat’s personality?


munchkin cat

Yes, the Munchkin cat is physically adorable. But it’s the personality of the Munchkin that is most endearing.


Although every cat is an individual, a Munchkin is typically a true extrovert, who loves people including children, other cats, and even dogs.


They’re curious and intelligent cats who enjoy puzzle toys and learning tricks. They’ve been compared to magpies because they have an affinity for shiny things like jewelry, which they’ve been known to steal and stow away.


Their shorter legs do not slow them down. They can chase, jump, corner, and zoom.


(Read about why cats get the zoomies here.) 


They have a particularly charming habit of sitting up on their hind legs, like a prairie dog or rabbit, perhaps to get a better view.[7] 


What is the genetic story behind the Munchkin cat?


basset hound

Blackberry’s short-legged kittens were formed due to a spontaneous, natural genetic mutation.


This mutation is similar to that which produces short-legged dogs, like dachshunds, basset hounds, and corgis, and is a form of dwarfism called pseudoachondroplasia.


Pseudoachondroplasia is an inherited disorder that shortens the long bones of the legs, but does not affect other body systems. Other forms of dwarfism in cats, including achondroplasia, can cause more serious problems such as head or facial deformities, and heart, lung, joint, and spinal problems.


Note that short-legged dogs were bred specifically for this short-leg trait because it helps them perform their jobs better. Short legs on a corgi, for example, enable these dogs to turn on a dime, a helpful skill in the important work of herding sheep.


Bassets, bred for scent tracking, need to be low to the ground for continuous sniffing.[8] The word “basset” is actually derived from the French word “bas,” meaning “low.”[9]


Short legs on these dog breeds make them more useful to humans, but it can come at a cost to the dogs themselves. The elongated spine of a daschund, for example, can cause intervertebral disc disease, also known as IVDD, which can ultimately lead to paralysis.[10]


Cats have unusual spines that differ from dogs. (Read about the feline spine in “Why do cats arch their backs?”). Munchkin cats do not suffer from IVDD.


Munchkin cats need one “normal” gene


Munchkin cat

The gene that produces a Munchkin cat is an autosomal dominant gene. This means that a Munchkin cat needs to have only one “mutant” gene to have short legs.


In fact, a Munchkin cat actually needs one “normal” gene to be born at all.


If two Munchkin cats are bred together, some of the kittens formed from the mating will likely end up with two Munchkin genes. These kittens will not develop in the womb, and the resulting litter will have fewer kittens than normal. Only kittens who have either two normal genes, or one of each, will survive.


A litter produced by a Munchkin cat who has been bred with a typical cat, should produce both short- and normal-legged cats.



The controversy over Munchkin cats 

Should the Munchkin be a separate breed, as TICA says it should, or is it unethical to breed cats with a “genetic disease,” as other cat registries argue?


The debate centers around the question of the genetic mutation that results in this unusual cat. Is the mutation disadvantageous to the cat, and thus should be discouraged? Or is it simply a genetic difference?


munchkin cat

So far, Munchkins seem to enjoy a normal cat lifespan and have few structural problems related to their short-leggedness.


Compare the relative good health of the Munchkin to other accepted breeds, such as the Manx cat, and the Scottish Fold, which can have devastating problems related to the genetic mutations that give these breeds their unique looks.


But there are two conditions that seem to be more prevalent in the Munchkin, and which may be related to the mutation itself:


Lordosis is excessive curvature of the spine behind the shoulders. The problem seems to be related to the muscles that hold the spine in place, not the actual vertebrae. This little dip, however, can affect the depth of a cat’s chest, causing compression of the heart and lungs.


Pectus excavatum, a hollowed chest, is another problem that seems to be associated with Munchkin cats.


While some breeders claim that any random cat could suffer from either of these two conditions, it’s notable that both are also found in humans with pseudoachondroplasia. Responsible breeders will be careful to exclude cats with lordosis or pectus from their breeding programs.


What breeds are related to the Munchkin?


Some breeders have gone a little crazy, combining the short legs of the Munchkin with the special traits of other cat breeds. Some of these crosses have some pretty fanciful names. A Munchkin crossed with:



And then, there are Munchkin crosses who are then crossed again with other cat breeds, including:


  • Dwelf, which is a Bambino and American Curl cross, and
  • Chinese Tank, which is a Minuet and British Shorthair cross.[11]


But TICA only recognizes Munchkins which are the product of outcrossings with cats that are not a specific breed. According to TICA, “a Munchkin is a unique breed and should never resemble a miniaturized version of another breed.”


Love Pinterest? Here's a Pinterest-friendly pin for your boards!

Munchkin cat Pinterest-friendly pin 


DAwn and Timmy
Dawn LaFontaine

Dawn LaFontaine is a lifelong animal lover who always seems to have a little pet hair in her keyboard. Her blog, Kitty Contemplations, helps cat guardians better understand and care for the special beings they share their lives and homes with. Her cat-products business, Cat in the Box, sells beautiful, well-made, and award-winning products that she designed to meet the biological needs of cats.



[1] “Munchkin Cat.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 15 Feb. 2023,


[2] Hartwell, Sarah. Short-Legged Cats,


[3] “Munchkin Breed.” Welcome to TICA - The International Cat Association, TICA Cats, TICA Pedigreed Cats, Pedigreed Cats, Pedigreed Cats Registry, Household Pet Cat Registry, Domestic Cat Registry, Savannah Cat, Bengal Cat, Persian Cat, Maine Coon Cat,


[4] Hartwell.


[5] “Spontaneous vs induced mutations.” | Take Online Courses. Earn College Credit. Research Schools, Degrees & Careers,


[6] Fawcett, Kirstin. “7 Short Facts about Munchkin Cats.” Mental Floss, Mental Floss, 26 Jan. 2023,


[7] “Munchkin Cat Breed Info.” Petfinder,


[8] “Munchkin Breed.” Welcome to TICA.


[9] Wu, Jade, et al. “Capitalizing Dog Breeds.” Quick and Dirty Tips, 14 July 2022,


[10] “6 Signs of a Dachshund Back Injury.” South Seattle Veterinary Hospital,


[11] Cats, Munchkin. “Available Kittens - Pure Traditional Munchkins.” Munchkinlane Cattery


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  • Hi Juanna. It is customary to make a deposit with a breeder to “reserve” a kitten, sometimes even before a kitten is born. It’s much more important to find a responsible breeder, than to be concerned with the timing of payments. Of course – and I have to say this because I have a personal commitment to the mission of rescue – the best place to find a new cat or kitten is at your local shelter. You will save a life, while finding the best friend you will ever have.

    Dawn LaFontaine
  • I have been looking to buy a munchkin kitten
    But their a lot of websites and are asking to pay before delivery
    Iam in Santa de NM area
    Please if you know of any local
    Breeders would be greatly appreciated

  • Lyle – Thanks for commenting!! They are ADORABLE. I think you will be hard-pressed to find one in rescue. If you’re going to get a cat from a breeder, look for a TICA or CFA registered cattery. There are many unscrupulous cat breeders out there and you don’t want to contribute to animal cruelty inadvertently.

    Dawn LaFontaine

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