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Munchkin Cat: Info, Pictures, Characteristics & Facts

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

munchkin cat playing

Height 6-9 inches
Weight 6-9 lbs
Lifespan 12-15 years
Colors Could be any color
Suitable for Friendly around other pets and kids
Temperament Very adaptable, sweet, friendly

It’s difficult to not recognize a Munchkin cat when you see it, given its most distinguishing feature are those stumpy legs. This is a trait that’s the direct result of genetic mutation, and the reason why many refer to it as the “Corgi” cat.

Being a cat lover, you’ve certainly heard the controversy surrounding this breed. Some people think they shouldn’t be treated differently, while others argue that since their genetic mutation acts as a predisposing factor to various health complications, they should.

Anyways, if you’ve been thinking about bringing a Munchkin cat home, the following are some of the things that you should know.

History of the Munchkin Cat

Not much has been documented about this particular breed in the period leading up to World War II. If you go through the existing records, you’ll see that there are a few articles that mention en passant a weird-looking short-legged breed, but that’s just about it. They don’t really talk about the distinguishing features, or even what they were like.

According to those articles, the short-legged cat was also known as the “kangaroo cat” at the time, only found in a small town in the United Kingdom. That was back in the 1930s and 1940s, a period defined by the Great Depression.

After that, the “short-legged” cat disappeared, and then resurfaced almost a decade later in Stalingrad, Russia. There’s again nothing documented until 1983, when a scared and pregnant feline was found under a truck in Rayville, Louisiana. Assuming she was homeless, the truck owner decided to adopt her, and then named her Blackberry.

For a cat that was presumably homeless all her life, Blackberry was surprisingly very healthy. And the kittens that she delivered were adorable and mixed. Some of them had short legs just like their mother, while others had long legs.

Fast forward to 1990, and the world was finally introduced to the kittens. Dr. Solveig Pflueger, a geneticist who specializes in feline husbandry, began studying them. And it’s through him that they found their way to an American television show that had the highest viewership at the time.

It was there that Blackberry’s owner was asked by the producers of the show to give the cat a breed name, seeing as nobody knew the breed they belong to. Needless to say, she chose ‘Munchkin’. When she was asked why that name, she said they were her favorite characters in the Wizard of Oz.

Blackberry gave birth to a tomcat who was later named Tolouce, and he’s the other cat that we should all be thanking for giving his all to ensure the new breeding program became a success.

munchkin cat walking outdoor
Image Credit: otsphoto, Shutterstock

Munchkin Kittens

munchkin kittens
Image Credit: SV_zt, Shutterstock

The Munchkin cat isn’t the smallest cat in the world, but it’s still relatively small. We however recently learned that some of them could grow up to be medium-sized cats, courtesy of crossbreeding. All things considered, males will always appear larger than females, but they all weigh anywhere between 6 to 9 pounds.

The Munchkin cat has struggled with health conditions caused by its genetic mutation, but not all of them do. Most of them grow to see their sunset years—which, by the way, are the ages of 12 all through to 15.

The Munchkin kitten always stands out in any litter, owing to the fact that they’re born with short and stumpy legs. It’s actually been proven that these legs are the reason why their bodies look disproportionately elongated. Thus, earning them the nickname “Sausage Kittens.” You might not immediately see it, but the front legs are slightly shorter than the hind legs. They’ll also be slightly bowed—Never excessively, and you’ll never find one that’s cow-hocked.

These legs are the result of the “Munchkin Gene,” which is an autosomal gene denoted by an ‘M’. The fact that there’s a heterozygous and homozygous genotype for this gene, is all the confirmation you need to confidently answer the question of whether a breeder can completely get rid of it. Even if you decide to crossbreed with a long-legged cat, the long-legged kitten will still have the gene tucked away somewhere in his or her cells.

Regarding trainability, we’ve never met any breed that’s easier to train. They’ll give you some attitude every now and then, but what cat doesn’t? And we know the family will quickly fall in love with that personality because it’s the type that you’d want around you if you’re having a bad day.

Are they the most energetic? Hmmm… that depends on their individual traits. Some are, but some aren’t. Let’s just say they fall somewhere in the middle of that metric scale.

3 Little-Known Facts About the Munchkin Cat

1. Some Litters Have Munchkins and Long-Legged Kittens

People are always quick to assume that the Munchkin only gives birth to Munchkin kittens, but that’s not true. Yes, they do give birth to the kitten, but they can also birth long legs. The kittens that turn out to be Munchkins are the ones that are heterozygous for the gene. Those that are homozygous will still have the gene, but their legs will look ‘normal.’

2. The ‘Adam’ & ‘Eve’ to Munchkin Cats is Blackberry & Tolouce

We’ve already talked about this. The first Munchkin recorded in the modern era is the Blackberry. We’ve read stories of cats with weird looking legs in the past, but the first ever Munchkin to be talked about in detail was the Blackberry. And with the help of Tolouce, we’ve helped this breed thrive.

3. The Munchkin Has Magpie Tendencies

This habit is adorable and annoying in equal measure. It’s cute if you can spot it trying to hide your jewelry, but annoying if you’re running late to a party or important event, and you can’t find any jewelry to complement your outfit. We still love them regardless.

munchkin cat indoor
Image Credit: SV_zt, Shutterstock

Temperament & Intelligence of the Munchkin Cat

Who’s best suited to get a Munchkin cat? Anybody who has pets or kids. This breed is probably the friendliest breed that you’ll ever meet, considering they’re known to get along with different kid personalities, and even pets.

If you’re looking for proof of how good they are, just put them in a room that has a ferret. We guarantee that you’ll laugh for days.

Most cats often drop their kitten-ish attitude as they grow older, but not the Munchkin cat. Of course, they will eventually, but not before they get to those sunset years. They’re fun-loving cats that love jumping, climbing, and running around the house if they’re not snuggling with anybody.

The only problem with this extroverted cat is the fact that it’s too trusting. Everybody loves a socially confident cat that’s comfortable around people, but that also means you constantly have to be on the lookout for people or animals that don’t like cats that much.

And as you’ve heard, they have hoarding tendencies. So, if there’s something that’s been missing for quite a while, and you’ve never brought a magpie home, you should sit down with your Munchkin, and ask politely. They’ll certainly not give it back, but at least you’ll have tried.

munchkin cat
Image Credit: This road is mine, Shutterstock

Things to Know When Owning a Munchkin Cat

Food & Diet Requirements

Don’t let all that adorableness fool you. The Munchkin cat is still a distant cousin to the planet’s fiercest feline, the Lion. And as such, it has to be fed that same way you would a breed of its stature. Feeding it milk, carrots, lettuce, or even fruits, is like feeding a jaguar grass. Utterly ridiculous, if you ask us.

We’ve heard and even witnessed cat owners feed their Munchkins these types of things, and then wonder why their cats look so malnourished. To make matters worse, they’re always surprised to learn that a lot of the food that we humans consume are dangerous to felines—A clear indication that they never did their homework before adopting, or getting one from a breeder.

Munchkins are very strict with their nutrition. You can’t just feed it anything the way you do your dog, and get away with it. Their bodies have been designed to properly function with meat in their bellies. And a lot of it. That’s the only way they’ll be able to get the required amount of fat and protein needed to stay and look healthy.

Just to put things into perspective, this is what we mean: If humans were to be fed the same way munchkins are supposed to be fed, we would all pass on before getting to our twenties. And the autopsy report would indicate the cause of death as heart failure, brought about by heart disease. So just because they’re family doesn’t mean that you should all eat the same things.

The other thing that we often see some people do, is feeding their Munchkins dog food. This might be news to you, but dog food lacks the nutritional value required to spur the growth and development in cats. It’s usually full of carbs, and that dietary component is dangerous to this breed. Through science, we came to learn that their bodies don’t have the capability to fully digest carbohydrates.

Carbs are the reason why some Munchkin cats grapple with obesity. And if left unchecked, they run the risk of suffering from diabetes or other heart illnesses.

Exercise 🐈

Exercise is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. That’s why you have to find ways of ensuring your Munchkin stays active. We would recommend a cat tree that comes with multiple levels, perches, scratching pads, and those dangling balls. Buy that, and they’ll never bug you while you’re busy working on work stuff.

munchkin cat
Image Credit: Phannasit, Shutterstock

Training 🧶

We meant it when we said training a Munchkin cat is easier than any other breed. Well, so long as you start the training at a young age. Teaching an old dog new tricks is going to be a tad bit more difficult compared to a younger one. Also, work with the positive reinforcement method. Punishing the cat for not comprehending your voice commands could traumatize them for life.

Grooming ✂️

We’re sure you know cats are very particular about how they want to be groomed, and that’s why most of the time they self-groom. The Munchkin breed is no different, except for the fact that sometimes he or she might need your assistance. Having short legs usually presents itself as a disadvantage when it comes to self-grooming.

A Munchkin cat can be short haired or long haired. They are often bred with several other domesticated felines, hence the different features. The point is, if yours is a longhaired cat, you’ll have to brush it frequently—Brushing it once a week won’t cut it. Weekly brushes are only appropriate to shorthaired cats, since they rarely develop matted hair or hairballs.

What about the nails? Naturally, they ought to be trimmed. The goal is to have them look neat and tidy. Oh, and don’t forget to check its oral hygiene. Experts recommend brushing your pet’s teeth a few times a week, but we think twice is just enough.

What many of us don’t realize is, overly brushing usually causes the gums to recede. Even if your intentions won’t be to harm the cat, what you’ll be doing is exposing the cementum—A mineralized tissue meant to protect the roots. Also, try to make the movements less aggressive, and look for a brush that doesn’t have abrasive bristles. We don’t want to wear down the enamel as well.


Health Concerns 🏥

Minor Conditions
  • Obesity
Serious Conditions
  • Lordosis
  • Pectus Excavatum


If this health condition sounds familiar to you, it’s because it’s the same medical issue that often affects humans. And it’s not just specific to Munchkin cats, as you’ll learn. The Lordosis is an exaggerated inward spine curve that’s sometimes referred to as the ‘Swayback.’

It normally targets two back points: There’s the neck region, and the area closest to the tailbone. If the vet tells you that the cat has Lordosis towards the neck region, he or she will be talking about Cervical Lordosis. But if it’s towards the area that’s closest to the tailbone, we’ll call that the Lumbar Lordosis.

Kyphosis is a rare type of Lordosis where the spine curves outward instead of curving inwards. This condition mostly affects the upper back and middle area, and is considered a major health concern.

It’s important to be cognizant of the fact that the Munchkin’s body has the ability to naturally protect itself by developing Lordosis. If it senses that there’s some sort of imbalance in the way the body’s moving, it will eventually trigger a reaction that culminates in Lordosis.

Mild cases don’t require any vet intervention, but serious cases do. That’s purely because mild cases are often caused by manageable conditions such as obesity, which can be dealt with through regular physical activity and a good diet.

In situations where the issue is more advanced, surgery will be the only recourse. It’s through the process that the vet will use metal rods to straighten the bones supporting the spine.

adorable munchkin cat
Image Credit: MDavidova, Shutterstock

Pectus Excavatum

This is the medical term that vets use to refer to ‘funnel chest.’ A condition commonly known as chest bone deformity.

Assuming your Munchkin kitten has the Pectus Excavatum, its chest bone (also known as sternum), and the ribs, will develop in an abnormal way. The x-rays always come back with a concave or sunken look.

We’d say the definitive manifestation of this condition is that sunken appearance. And it’s also another major health concern since it hampers the normal functioning of not just the lungs, but the heart as well. The cat will most of the time find it difficult to breathe, consequently making it harder to move.

No one really knows what exactly causes Pectus Excavatum, but theories are being thrown out there. One of those being the genetic predisposition school of thought, which argues that this condition is the result of a gene mutation, not restricted to any one breed. They’ve on numerous occasions argued that the gene influences the development of those coastal cartilages, making them grow in a weird fashion.

Those opposing that logic believe that the Pectus Excavatum is linked to underlying conditions, such as the Marfan Syndrome.

Honestly, we don’t know who’s right or who’s wrong. All we know for sure is, it’s a serious health condition that needs immediate medical intervention. Some veterinarians believe treatment can be skipped if the situation is “mild,” but we say there’s no such thing as mild when it comes to something that affects the flow of blood to the heart and blocks the airways to the lungs.

The only way out is to talk to your cute Munchkin, and try to convince them to go under the knife. It’s a common procedure, with a high success rate. All they have to do is sew something called a fiberglass around the sternum. It will pull the bone away from the cat’s heart and lungs, thus alleviating the situation.

Alternatively, it could cut off the affected bones, and replace those parts with graft.

munchkin cat
Image Credit: Piqsels

Feline Obesity

If the cat’s weight is 20 percent above that which is considered ideal for feline body weight, it’s obese. And something has to be done as soon as possible, given there’s a long list of health complications associated with obesity.

Are there predisposing factors to obesity? Yes, there are. We came to learn that genetics do play a role, as well as gender. Generally speaking, the females are more likely to be affected by the disease. And if we’re talking about genes, then that depends on whether the parent breeds struggled with obesity.

Some non-medical factors that cause obesity include old age, sedentary lifestyle, and bad diet. Having said that, you should definitely check the number of calories that the cat consumes.

Managing obesity is easy. Just make sure the cat exercises more and only consume low-calorie treats.

Final Thoughts

The Munchkin cat would be the perfect breed for anyone looking to add another pet in a household with kids. It’s very friendly, affectionate, and sweet to the core. Their stumpy legs might make it difficult for them to self-groom at times, but that shouldn’t be a deal breaker. Just like us humans, pets shouldn’t be perfect.

Should you be worried about their health status? Definitely. The same way you would if you had a different pet. Make sure it’s properly vaccinated against parasites, and well fed. It’s important to remember that a healthy diet is what helps it create a body that’s resistant to different illnesses. Anything that has too many calories is a no-no.

And with that, we’ve gotten to the end of today’s piece. If you feel like there’s a crucial piece of information missing, don’t hesitate to drop us a line.

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Featured Image Credit: SV_zt, Shutterstock

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