- Weight — 5-9 pounds
- Coat characteristics — Long fluffy or medium plush coat in various colors
- Enrichment needs — High
- Intelligence — High
- Vocalizations — Average
- Life span — 12-15 years
- Temperament — Sociable, playful, energetic
- Hypoallergenic — No
- Origin — United States
Munchkin fun facts
- The Munchkin gene is responsible for their short legs. Despite their average-sized body, their legs are about 3 inches shorter than a standard cat. This results in a dwarfish appearance.
- Unfortunately, breeding two Munchkin cats results in a non-viable litter. Only one cat can have the naturally occurring genetic mutation The Munchkin gene is dominant, so crossing a cat with normal-sized legs with a Munchkin cat always results in kittens who express the gene.
- Munchkins are a relatively rare breed. You can expect to pay between $1,000 and $3,500 for a Munchkin from a reputable breeder.
Munchkin temperament and characteristics
A spunky cat who loves to explore, the Munchkin compensates for their small size with an enormous amount of energy. They love to play and are notorious for getting into mischief due to their curious nature. You’ll want to invest in catnip toys, laser pointers, and a cat tree with a low entrance to keep these guys entertained. They’re fast runners and like to jump, although they can’t jump quite as high as a typical cat.
This breed may not be the best fit for homes with young or hyper children since their excitability may make them anxious. However, they possess a strong social personality that’s more dependent on the presence of humans and other animals than most cats. Ideally, Munchkins do best in homes where humans are around for most of the day. If you work outside the home or travel frequently, you might consider adopting another furry family member to keep your Munchkin company.
Common Munchkin health problems
The overall health condition of the Munchkin cat is still up for debate. Their 12 to 15 year life expectancy is pretty typical compared to the average domestic cat breed. This suggests that Munchkins are generally healthy overall. However, a few conditions may result from the genetic mutation responsible for their short limbs, such as:
- Arthritis. Certain diseases and lifestyle factors, such as obesity, can predispose any cat to arthritis. Unfortunately, the Munchkin’s body shape is another risk factor.
- Intervertebral disk disease. Also known as a herniated disc, IVDD is prevalent in “sausage” dog and cat breeds such as the Dachshund and the Munchkin. Restricting your cat’s access to high surfaces can reduce their chance of incurring a herniated disc, or other back injuries.
- Congenital birth defects. Unfortunately, Munchkins are prone to lordosis, which causes the spine to curve inwards. Pectus excavatum is another congenital disorder that constricts the lower ribs and causes an abnormality with the sternum. It’s usually not noticeable until the kitten is grown, but can be serious enough to require surgery to correct.
Dr. Dwight Alleyne
It is important for people who decide to get these cats as pets to recognize their limitations with activity. They are not able to run and jump like a normal cat, so excess activity should be avoided to minimize the effect of the health conditions that were mentioned.
Visiting your vet regularly can help catch any medical problems as they arise, which generally gives them a better prognosis.
🚨 Male neutered cats are susceptible to urinary tract infections (UTIs) which can lead to fatal blockages if left untreated. Make an appointment with the vet immediately if you notice that your cat is having accidents.
Cost of caring for Munchkin cats
Early vet visits include expenses that are common for every cat, such as kitten vaccines and dewormers. While these vet bills can stack up as they return for their second round of immunizations, the upfront cost of adoption is usually trivial compared to potential emergency vet visits down the road. When planning how to care for your Munchkin cat, you’ll need to include some margin in your budget for these middle-of-the-night trips to the clinic.
Pet insurance can be an easy way to help you prepare for accidents or illnesses. When you enroll your pet, you’ll choose an annual deductible, reimbursement percentage, and monthly rate, which is generally around $20 for a cat depending on your provider. After you file a claim, they’ll reimburse you within a couple of weeks, which can take a load off your credit card statement.
History of the Munchkin cat
The Munchkin was as mystical as the wizard himself until the 1980s. Since World War II, there have been sparse sightings of cats with shorter-than-average limbs while maintaining a standard body size. These stories had popped up in places as diverse as Britain and Russia, but the last one occurred in a small American town in 1983. Raysville, Louisiana became home to the first official “Munchkin” cat. She was a stray cat named Blackberry who passed the unusual trait down to her kittens.
From there, the Munchkin was intentionally bred. In 2003, The International Cat Association (TICA) welcomed the Munchkin into their program. However, other cat clubs have hesitated to extend an invitation over potential health concerns.
It’s important to note that, unlike some breeds, the Munchkin has no standard regarding colors or coats. The Munchkin can be virtually any color and may have a medium plushy or long-haired coat.
Caring for your Munchkin
Once you bring home your Munchkin cat, you’ll want to schedule a vet appointment as soon as possible to make sure they’re up-to-date on kitten vaccines and dewormers. Since they can’t jump and climb as well as most cats, Munchkins should only be kept indoors. However, you still may want to secure them a Fido Alert tag just in case they accidentally get outside.
Felines prefer to take care of most of their grooming routine themselves. You’ll only need to bathe your Munchkin on rare occasions, such as if they have an accident or aren’t feeling their best. Long-haired Munchkins should be brushed twice a week, while medium-coated cats should be fine with once a week brushing.
Regardless if your cat is an expert at grooming, there are still some routine tasks you should help with to prevent issues like gingivitis. Brushing your cat’s teeth, bringing them to the vet for routine dental care, and trimming your cat’s nails are a few things you should do for them.
Diet and nutrition
Munchkins don’t have any breed-specific dietary requirements. Like all cats, they need a balanced diet that’s formulated for their age and health condition. Your vet is your best guide for how much to feed your feline. Obesity is devastating for any cat, but it carries extra weight for Munchkins since the unnecessary pounds put too much pressure on their spine and short limbs.
Wet food is generally healthier than dry food, which can dehydrate them. If you decide to feed your cat dry food, you might want to invest in a water fountain to encourage them to drink more water. Despite their dislike of water sports (and bathtime), cats are intrigued by moving water. The refreshing flow can pique their curiosity and remind them they’re thirsty.
Enrichment and environment
The indoor versus outdoor cat debate doesn’t apply to Munchkins. Their short limbs impair their ability to get around in a natural environment, so they should definitely stay indoors. Being inside also protects them from temperatures that are too hot or too cold, and prevents them from being exposed to diseases and potential predators.
Munchkins like to mill around, though, so you should kitty-proof your house by securing open spaces on top of tall shelves where they might try to jump. Giving them a low-level cat tree or tunnel can help direct their energy to a safe place where they can play.
Breeds similar to the Munchkin
Not quite sure that a Munchkin is right for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few to get you started:
- American curl. This cat’s petite ears “curl” back towards their head, which gives them a curious appearance. Active like the Munchkin, the American curl likes to play with people and animals. They’re a relatively quiet breed who is more likely to purr or trill than loudly meow when they want attention.
- Scottish fold. This small cat has a genetic mutation resulting in its characteristically folded ears. All kittens are actually born with upright ears that may or may not flop over as they age.
- Singapura. Recognized as the smallest cat breed in the world, the Singapura typically weighs between 4 and 8 pounds as an adult. As an additional quirk, Singapures only come in one color, beige with white and brown markings.
Frequently asked questions
Is the Munchkin a friendly cat?
While some cats like to sneak off into the sunset (or under the cabinets), the Munchkin thrives on attention. They like spending time with humans and other animals, as long as they aren’t overbearing or excessively hyper.
Is the Munchkin a healthy breed?
Some cat breeding clubs have hesitated to recognize the Munchkin as an official breed because of possible health concerns. While they’re generally expected to live between 12 to 15 years, the Munchkin’s unusual shape and natural genetic mutation may predispose them to congenital defects and spine injuries. Visiting your vet regularly can help you catch and treat diseases early, enabling them to enjoy a normal life span.
Where to find a Munchkin?
The Munchkin has only been recognized as a breed since 2003. If you want to buy a Munchkin from a reputable breeder, you can expect to pay well over $1,000 since they’re still relatively rare. You might check for a breed-specific rescue or visit shelters to see if you can find one to adopt for less.