The Munchkin is a relatively new breed of cat characterized by its very short legs, which are caused by a naturally occurring genetic mutation. Much controversy erupted over the breed when it was recognized by The International Cat Association in 1995 with critics voicing concern over potential health and mobility issues.
Short-legged cats have been documented a number of times around the world since the 1940s. A British veterinary report in 1944 noted four generations of healthy short-legged cats which were similar to normal cats except for the length of the legs. This line disappeared during the Second World War but other short-legged cats were spotted in Russia during 1956 and the United States in the 1970s.
In 1983, Sandra Hochenedel, a music teacher in Louisiana, found two pregnant cats who had been chased by a bulldog under a truck. She kept one of the cats and named her Blackberry and half of her kittens were born short-legged. Hochenedel gave a short-legged male kitten from one of Blackberry’s litters to a friend, Kay LaFrance, and she named the kitten Toulouse. It is from Blackberry and Toulouse that today’s Munchkin breed is descended.
The Munchkin is generally described as a sweet-natured, playful, people-oriented, outgoing and intelligent cat which responds well to being handled. The shortness of their legs does not seem to interfere with their running and leaping abilities.
The Munchkin has similar characteristics to normal domestic cats, due to their frequent use as out-breeding It is a small to medium-sized cat with a moderate body type and medium-plush coat. Male Munchkins typically weigh between 6 and 9 pounds (3–4 kg) and are usually larger than female Munchkins, which typically weigh between 4 and 8 pounds. The hind legs can be slightly longer than the front which creates a slight rise from the shoulder to the rump.
The Munchkin has been crossed with the curly-coated LaPerm to create the Skookum, the hairless Sphynx to create the Minskin and Bambino, with the extremely curly-coated Selkirk Rex to produce the Lambkin, the Persian breed group which includes Himalayans and Exotic Shorthair, to create the Napoleon and crossed with the Bengal to create the Genetta.