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How Long Do Munchkin Cats Live? (Average & Max Lifespan)

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By Nicole Cosgrove

munchkin cat indoor

Munchkin cats are unique breeds known for their dwarfism. The energetic, fun-loving breed is relatively new and has controversies around it, especially regarding its breeding. Despite having short legs, this breed is well-known for its speed.

With many issues around this breed’s health and genetic mutation, there’s always concern about how long the Munchkin cat lives. With proper care and good health, this breed has an average lifespan of 12-15 years.

Origins of the Munchkin

Munchkin cats are a short-legged breed that got discovered in Louisiana in 1983. These limbs are due to a genetic disorder known as pseudoachondroplasia, a short-limb form of dwarfism. The breed sprung up as a result of spontaneous natural genetic mutation.

Similar short-legged cat breeds got sighted in the 1930s in Great Britain, Russia, and New England. The modern-day Munchkin cat descended from a pregnant stray cat known as Blackberry. It was part of the two kittens rescued by a music teacher named Sandra Hockenedel in Rayville, Louisiana, in the early 1980s.

After the birth of the kittens, she gave out one of the short-legged kittens, Toulouse, to her friend Kay LaFrance. Blackberry and Toulouse became the founders of this breed. From this initial breeding, Sandra and LaFrance established a breeding program for Munchkin cats with other breeders.

The International Cat Association (TICA) Recognition and Controversy

munchkin cat
Image Credit: Piqsels

This cat breed is surrounded by controversies and is still not accepted by some cat associations. These debates arise from concerns about whether it’s ethical to continue breeding while having a physical deformity, affecting their mobility and lifespan. Munchkin cat appearance is a result of the genetic mutation that happens naturally.

The Munchkin got introduced to the general public via a live cat show held by (TICA) Madison Square Garden, New York City, in 1991. By 1994, it was proposed as an official breed and got accepted into TICA’s New Breed development program.

This introduction sparked some uproar due to the cat’s physical shape. However, it was not until 2003 that this breed achieved TICA Championship status and recognition.

Due to health and welfare concerns, many people today still argue that breeding the Munchkin is unethical. However, on the other hand, experts say that this breed is fine, health-wise. This controversy has contributed to the lack of recognition by the world’s largest cat organizations, the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) and the American Cat Fanciers Association (ACFA).

Physical Traits

The Munchkin’s most distinguishing feature is its legs. The limbs appear bow-legged and are typically half as long as a regular cat’s limbs. This cat breed has typical cat features apart from the legs, though it might look like a kitten its entire lifespan.

The medium-sized cat is firmly muscled with a well-rounded chest. It comes with a flat back with a slight rise from the shoulders to the rump. The medium-sized head has rounded contours with medium ears that are broad at the base.

This breed comes in a variety of patterns, colors, and fur lengths. The coat can either have long or short hair.

Munchkin Cat Facts

munchkin cat playing
Image Credit: SV_zt, Shutterstock
Here are some popular facts about the Munchkin breed.
  • The Munchkin Name

It’s believed that the Munchkin cat breeds got their name from classic film and novel, The Wizard of Oz’s munchkins characters.

  • The World’s Shortest Cat

In 2013, the Guinness World Records named is Lilieput, a female Munchkin cat from Napa, Calif, as the shortest living cat on record. The cat measured 13.34 cm (5.25 in) from the bottom of her paws to the shoulders.

  • Celebrity Ownership

Heiress and socialite Paris Hilton owns two Munchkin cats, named Shorty and Munchkin. She has contributed to the popularity of this breed.

  • Three Leg Lengths

Munchkin cats are born with three different leg lengths, the standard, super short, and the rug hugger.

The standard category includes those cats in the litter that are born with the heterozygous gene. Their legs are only slightly shorter than those from a cat not carrying the heterozygous gene. These are the longest legs of the Munchkin cat. The super-short are born with moderately short legs, while the rug hugger has the shortest limbs.

Health Conditions

munchkin cat
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When taken care of well, munchkins can live up to 12-15 years on average. Despite this, they are highly prone to health problems due to their short legs, which could result in a shortened lifespan.

Let's look at some of these conditions.
  • Lordosis

Lordosis is a condition whereby the spinal muscles don’t grow long enough. This causes the spine to shrink slightly downwards, putting pressure on the heart, lungs, and trachea. As the organs grow, this can be fatal.

The condition can be mild to moderate; however, most severe cases occur in kittens. When it becomes severe, the kittens won’t live past 12 weeks, whereas those suffering from a mild form of the condition will live a normal life but may suffer from shortness of breath in extreme physical activity.

  • Pectus Excavatum

This deformity is also known as the concave chest. It causes the cat’s breast bone to sink inwards. Breeders argue that this condition is not specific to this breed only; therefore, it can’t be entirely blamed on the genetic mutation.

  • Arthritis

The short legs put the Munchkin cat at high risk of getting arthritis, a painful and degenerative condition of the joints.

  • Retina Atrophy

Munchkin cats can suffer from a group of inherited retinal diseases characterized by progressive degeneration of the retina. Since it’s responsible for receiving light from the front of the eye, it results in eye conditions.

  • Breeding Risk

The Munchkin’s short legs result from a dominant gene mutation. Referred to as the lethal gene, it’s a fatal idea to breed two Munchkins. When two Munchkin cats mate and pass the dominant gene to their offspring, the kittens will have a high mortality rate. Kittens with two copies of the gene will die before birth, while kittens that only express one copy (heterozygous) are born with short legs. But it is very risky.

To prevent this, breeders avoid using Munchkin cats with the short-legged gene but instead breed them with regular-sized cats or naturally shorter breeds. With this tactic, only one parent has the mutation; therefore, the kitten can survive.

  • Inability to Jump

Because of their shortened legs, Munchkin cats may not be able to jump as high as their regular longer-legged feline friends.

What Factors Can Shorten Your Munchkin Cat’s Lifespan

munchkin cat walking outdoor
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With a lot of controversy revolving around the health of this breed, there are concerns about how that affects the average lifespan.

As a relatively new breed, there is limited data to come up with solid conclusions. However, some known factors could affect how long your Munchkin cat lives.

  • Genetic Disorders

The gene mutation is a huge concern for this cat breed. It’s fatal to breed two Munchkins with the gene mutation because some of the kittens will not survive.

  • Obesity

If your cat is on an unhealthy diet or doesn’t exercise, the chances are that they are more likely to be obese. With the short stature, this breed is at a higher risk of developing other health issues due to obesity. The extra weight will press down on the legs and result in more conditions.

  • Poor Diet

Like any other cat breed, these cats require a well-balanced diet. Cat owners need to research the most suitable cat food for their cats to get proper nutrition. If properly fed, your cat will live an averagely longer life.

You might also be interested in: Maine Coon Munchkin

How Can You Increase the Munchkin Cat Lifespan?

munchkin cat
Image Credit: Phannasit, Shutterstock

Your Munchkin cat can leave a happy and long life if well-taken care of. Here are some things you could do.

1. Schedule Exercise Sessions

Even though these cats are small, they need to move and exercise. Like other cat breeds, they need mental and physical activities to keep them occupied.

This will contribute to their well-being and overall health. Luckily, they are playful in nature and run around the house or yard since they have incredible speed.

You can additionally add a play corner in the house. They are curious and intelligent; therefore, you can add interactive puzzle games to keep your cat entertained.

2. Plan a Healthy Diet

We’ve established poor nutrition could reduce the average lifespan of your Munchkin cat. Therefore, you need to have a good nutrition guide for your pet to help with growth. You can even consult your vet for proper advice.

3. Frequent Health Check-Ups

cat and vet
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Due to the disposition to a lot of medical issues, you can schedule regular check-ups with the vet. Frequent check-ups and vaccines will help prevent any medical problems early enough.

In addition, you should keep a close eye on your cat to spot any changes in the body that can affect their health. Visit the vet immediately if you spot any differences.

4. Neuter or Spay Your Cat

For any cat breed, the spayed or neutered cats tend to live longer. Improve the living chances of your pet by spaying them.

5. Keep Your Cat Indoors

Although this might be a challenge, indoor cats tend to live longer than cats that spend most of their time outdoors. Consider keeping your Munchkin indoors to keep it safer and less exposed, and they might live longer.

Genetta munchkin cat
Image Credit: SV_zt, Shutterstock

Related Read: 3 Best Small Cat Breeds for Apartment Living (with Pictures)

6. Proper Home Care

Munchkins need care just like any other cat breed. To improve its overall well-being, ensure your cat is well taken care of and groomed. You can brush the coat once a week for shorthaired cats and or daily for longhairs to prevent matting.

Pay attention to their dental care to prevent gum disease. Clean their teeth a few times in the week to keep them healthy.

Even when staying indoors, your cat could still catch fleas and parasites; therefore, you need to prevent and treat that frequently.

If you are not in the house for extended periods, consider having two Munchkin cats for companionship.

Related Read: How Much Does a Munchkin Cat Cost?


Munchkin cat breeds are known for their unique appearance. Despite the controversies around this breed, they make great pets if well taken care of. By keeping this breed healthy, well-exercised, and with good nutrition, you can enjoy living with them for about 12-15 years.

Due to their genetic mutation and increased health risk, you’ll need to keep a close eye on any body changes and schedule regular check-ups with the vet to ensure they are healthy. As long as the overall well-being and health of your Munchkin cat is a priority, your feline friend will enjoy a long life.

Featured Image Credit: SV_zt, Shutterstock

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