Part of what makes felines so majestic and graceful, are their long legs and lean bodies. However, in a rare mutation of genes, cats may sometimes be born with much shorter legs, causing them to stand roughly 4-6 inches tall. The result is a breed known the “Munchkin cat.”
Origin of The Munchkin Breed
The Munchkin cat reportedly appeared on the scene in the United Kingdom, during the 1940’s when a veterinarian recorded the birth of four generations of stubby-legged cats. Aside from the shorter limbs, the cats appeared to be in decent physical wellness overall. This kind of anatomy was not to be found again until the 1950’s in Russia, where the short-legged kitties were given the named “Stalingrad Kangaroo Cats.” Though the genetic mutation continued to occur sporadically, it was not until 1983 that the dwarf-like cats began to breed. Louisiana teacher Sandra Hochenedel found a pair of pregnant felines hiding under a truck, and decided to keep one. Her litter produced numerous short-legged cats, which Hochenedel and her friend Kay LaFrance then began to breed. Though the cats had shortened legs, the Munchkins had normally proportioned features as that of regular domestic felines. They can come in long haired or short-haired coats, and have docile and friendly dispositions, making them a coveted house pet for cat-lovers.
This unique breed attracted the attention of The International Cat Association (TICA) and their genetics committee. When the Munchkin cats were found to be free from the spinal strain that their canine counterparts (Corgis and Dachshunds) suffer from, the breed was introduced in 1991 vie the TICA cat show in New York City. The result of this introduction was twofold: hundreds of feline enthusiasts became enamored of the breed, while many breeders felt that reproducing cats with genetic diseases and mutations would be disadvantageous to their health. One judge at the 1991 cat show resigned from his position, in protest of creating such a breed. Many breed associations ascribe to similar principles, refusing to grant Munchkin cats recognition. Among these registries are: the Féderation Internationale Feline (France), The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy, and the renowned Cat Fancier’s Association. Nevertheless, despite the opposition, the Munchkin cat went on to gain popularity, eventually receiving a TICA Championship award in 2003.
Ethics in question
Cats were created to be adept hunters and night stalkers, with the ability to jump high and move quickly. Since the gene mutation (though occurring naturally), is a fluke situation that does not reflect an ideal cat’s physique, many people feel that intentionally breeding Munchkin cats is unethical. The concern is based on a belief that such stubby legs inhibit a cat’s ability to run as fast or jump as high as they might do with longer limbs. In critical situations, such a difference could threaten their safety with such a lack of mobility. Many believe that breeding “malformed” animals with weaker (or non-ideal) gene mutations could subject the animals to further physical problems and health issues in generations to come. Though these concerns have generated heated discussions about the ramifications of breeding these cats, most of the severe health concerns that were first cautioned against, appear to be unfounded and without consequence. Nevertheless, the breeding of Munchkin cats continually causes a controversy in the feline breeding world. Would you agree? Let us know your thoughts on Munchkin cats, and whether or not it is ethical to breed them.