You may have seen some videos of the short-legged Munchkin cat, or “sausage cat,” on the Internet. This breed has gained popularity and has become a buying trend in recent years among cat owners. While these cats may look cute, their adorable, stout physique may come at a price. In this article, we will discuss Munchkin cats in more detail, the controversy regarding these cats, and health problems they commonly develop.
What Is a Munchkin Cat?
Munchkin cats are a medium-sized breed of cat known for their characteristically short legs and long body. You might liken the Munchkin cat to one of the “hot dog” dog breeds such as the Dachshund. They tend to have a relatively thick body and round chest. These cats can have long or short hair coats that can be any color.
Though they are purposefully bred due to their popularity, Munchkin cats occur naturally. Their short legs result from an autosomal dominant gene. Munchkin cats cannot survive if they inherit this gene from both parents, so they are only bred with regular cats. The offspring have a 50% chance of being Munchkins. If they do not physically express the Munchkin gene, they do not carry it.
Do Munchkin Cats Have More Health Problems Than Other Cats?
The Munchkin cat has been the source of some controversy since being officially recognized by the International Cat Association in the 1990s. Critics claimed that these cats can suffer from back and hip problems similar to those experienced by short-legged dog breeds. Therefore, the fact that some breeders selected for the “munchkin” gene was controversial. While Munchkin cats have not been shown to have the same spine problems that short-legged dogs tend to have, some still view the practice of breeding animals to emphasize certain physical characteristics as irresponsible.
But do Munchkin cats have more health issues than other cat breeds? It depends on who you ask. Munchkin cats have limited mobility compared to other breeds. While some say that Munchkin cats aren’t able to jump as high as other cats simply because their legs are so short, others argue that they avoid jumping because it causes them pain. In spite of their physical limitations, however, you may be surprised to learn that, unlike “short” dog breeds, Munchkin cats actually have a relatively long life expectancy of 12 to 14 years. Since other indoor cats tend to live 10 to 15 years on average, we can conclude that the Munchkin cat’s genetic deformity does not necessarily take a toll on its ability to live a full life.
While breeders might point out that other cats can have some of the same health problems that Munchkin cats tend to inherit, it’s important to know exactly which health conditions they are susceptible to before bringing one home. Below, we will go over some of the most common health problems Munchkin cats develop.
8 Common Munchkin Cat Health Problems
Lordosis is a condition that is characterized by a curving spine in your cat’s lower back. Kitten Munchkins are susceptible to this condition, which is caused by the spinal muscles growing too short.
2. Pectus Excavatum
The term pectus excavatum literally means “hollow breast” in Latin. Based on the name, you may be able to guess that this condition has to do with your cat’s chest. Specifically, this term refers to a defect in which an animal’s sternum and ribs grow improperly. Animals with this condition have a relatively good prognosis as long as they are diagnosed young; the best time to perform surgery is between 8 and 12 weeks of age.
You may be familiar with osteoarthritis, as it is a condition that plagues people and animals alike. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that results in the breakdown of the tissues in your cat’s joints, such as the bone and cartilage. Some of the first signs that your cat is suffering from osteoarthritis are changes in your cat’s gait or even lameness in one or more limbs. You might also observe your cat jumping up and down from furniture less frequently. Your vet is likely to recommend multiple different approaches to treat your cat’s osteoarthritis, such as weight management, medication, dietary supplements, physical therapy, and environmental modifications. Less commonly, your vet may even recommend surgery.
Hyperthyroidism is the overproduction of your cat’s thyroid hormone, which results in a metabolic rate that’s higher than average. Hyperthyroidism is most common in older cats and is characterized by an increased appetite in combination with weight loss. Over time, hyperthyroidism can contribute to other complications such as high blood pressure, or hypertension, and a type of heart disease known as thyrotoxic cardiomyopathy. There are many different options for treating hyperthyroidism, including oral medication, radioactive iodine therapy, a prescription diet, and surgery.
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Pancreatitis is characterized by inflammation of your cat’s pancreas. In most cats, there is no obvious underlying cause for this condition, so Munchkin cats are not necessarily more likely to develop pancreatitis than other cat breeds. However, it is important to be aware of the signs of this condition, as it can be fatal if left untreated. Look for nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, pain in the abdomen, lack of appetite, and lethargy.
Uremia is defined by high levels of urea and amino acids in the bloodstream. Uremia is usually accompanied by a kidney injury or an obstruction of your cat’s urinary tubes. When your cat is unable to properly expel its urine, it can lead to a buildup of toxins in their bodies. Symptoms include loss of appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, and depression. While this condition can be successfully treated, it is important that it is caught early. If you think your cat may be experiencing uremia, contact your vet right away.
7. Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease
Feline lower urinary tract disease, or FLUTD, is a catch-all phrase for several different conditions of the urethra and bladder in cats. Your cat may be experiencing FLUTD if it is displaying any of the following symptoms: urinating in small amounts, crying while urinating, failing to urinate in the litter box, frequent licking of the genitals, or blood in the urine.
The symptoms listed can have many different causes, such as urinary stones, a urinary infection, or a urethral obstruction. Your vet will examine your cat and consider its symptoms in order to determine the cause of your cat’s FLUTD and come up with a suitable treatment plan.
Also known as lymphoma, lymphosarcoma is a type of cancer that occurs in the lymphocytes, which are cells that play an important role in your cat’s immune system. In cats, lymphosarcoma occurs commonly in the intestines, chest, and kidneys. Just like human cancer patients, animals with lymphosarcoma are commonly treated with chemotherapy. Chemotherapy can be administered orally, intravenously, or subcutaneously.
Your pet’s quality of life with chemotherapy depends on how aggressive the cancer is; if your cat’s lymphosarcoma is low-grade, your cat can have a relatively normal quality of life. However, while lymphosarcoma can be treated, like other cancers, it cannot be cured. Even if your cat goes into remission, the cancer is likely to return at some point down the road.
Munchkin cats are not the only breed that suffers from the health conditions listed above, but in some cases, their abnormally short legs and long bodies may increase their risk of developing health problems down the road. While the “munchkin” trait is naturally occurring in some cats, some people prefer to avoid buying a cat that was specifically bred for this physical trait. After all, there are many cats that need homes in shelters across the country. Keep all these factors in mind before you choose your next feline friend.
Featured Image Credit: SV_zt, Shutterstock