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Tetsu Yamazaki, Animal Photography
Helmi Flick, Animal Photography
No matter what your eyes may tell you, the Munchkin is not a cross between a Dachshund and a cat. The dwarfed appearance of the low-riding feline is the result of a spontaneous natural mutation. Energetic and playful, the Munchkin might be short on height, but he’s long on fun.
Munchkins are sometimes called magpies because they love shiny things and will often stow them away for a later date. Hide your valuables from this kitty.
When you see the Munchkin moving at high speed, cornering around your dining room table, you immediately drop any preconception that this is a slow or laid-back cat. Instead, he’s an energetic extrovert, ready and willing to play with kids, other cats, and friendly dogs. And don’t think his short legs preclude him from jumping on your furniture. He might not go as high as other cats, at least not in one leap, but he gets there eventually.
The Munchkin is a small to medium-size cat weighing 5 to 9 pounds. Other than his short legs, he resembles any other cat, with a short or long coat, either of which can be just about any color or pattern.
The Munchkin is well suited to any home with people who will love him and care for him. Keep him indoors to protect him from cars, diseases spread by other cats, and attacks from other animals and he can live 13 years or longer.
The Munchkin is a cat breed that sprang from a natural genetic mutation. Reports of short-legged cats have appeared throughout history, including in 1944 in Britain, in 1956 in Russia, in 1970 in New England, and in the 1980s in Louisiana. A cat named Blackberry, who was found as a stray in 1983, was the mother of the Munchkin breed. She and one of her male kittens, Toulouse, were outcrossed to domestic cats. Outcrosses to domestic shorthairs and longhairs are still permitted to ensure a diverse gene pool.
Starting in 1994, The International Cat Association’s new breed development program, which has a genetics committee to monitor breeding data, began to oversee the Munchkin’s development. The Munchkin’s short legs turned out to have a dominant inheritance pattern, similar to Corgis and Dachshunds. The breed achieved full recognition by The International Cat Association in 2003. The Cat Fanciers Association does not recognize the Munchkin.
This is an outgoing cat who enjoys being handled. He has lots of energy and is faster and more agile than he looks. Think of a low-slung sports car and you get the picture.
The friendly Munchkin likes playing with children and other cats and dogs. On the rare occasion when he’s not in motion, expect to see him sitting up on his hind legs to get a peek at something interesting. He’s not a “leap tall buildings in a single bound” kind of cat, but he is definitely capable of making his way to high places if he so chooses. It just takes him a little longer.
The Munchkin is highly intelligent. Challenge his brain by teaching him tricks and providing him with puzzle toys that will reward him with kibble or treats when he learns to manipulate them.
Always choose a kitten from a breeder who raises litters in her home and handles them from an early age. Meet at least one and ideally both of the parents to ensure that they have nice temperaments.
All cats have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit diseases. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on kittens or who tells you that her kittens are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons.
Munchkins are generally healthy and do not appear to have spinal problems, but this is a young breed, so that could change. It’s always wise to purchase a cat from a breeder who offers a written health guarantee.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new kitten into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the more common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Munchkin at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to protect his overall health.
The Munchkin’s coat is easy to groom. One with a short coat can get by with weekly brushing. Brush or comb a longhaired Munchkin twice a week to prevent or remove mats or tangles.
The only other grooming the Munchkin needs is regular nail trimming and ear cleaning if the ears look dirty. Use a gentle cleanser recommended by your veterinarian. Brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath.
Start brushing, nail trimming, and teeth brushing when your cat is still a kitten, and he will accept these activities later on.
You want your Munchkin to be happy and healthy so you can enjoy your time with him, so do your homework before you bring him home. For more information on the history, personality, and looks of the Munchkin, or to find breeders, visit the websites of the Fanciers Breeder Referral List and The International Cat Association.
Put at least as much effort into researching your kitten as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
A reputable breeder will abide by a code of ethics that prohibits sales to pet stores and wholesalers and outlines the breeder’s responsibilities to their cats and to buyers. Choose a breeder who has performed the health certifications necessary to screen out genetic health problems to the extent that is possible, as well as one who raises kittens in the home. Kittens who are isolated can become fearful and skittish and may be difficult to socialize later in life.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include kittens always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any kitten, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your feline friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and unhealthy catteries can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick kitten, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy kittens.
Be patient. Depending on what you are looking for, you may have to wait six months or more for the right kitten to become available. Many breeders won't release kittens to new homes until they are between 12 and 16 weeks of age.
Before you buy a kitten, consider whether an adult Munchkin might be a better choice for your lifestyle. Kittens are loads of fun, but they’re also a lot of work and can be destructive until they reach a somewhat more sedate adulthood. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health. If you are interested in acquiring an adult cat instead of a kitten, ask breeders about purchasing a retired show or breeding cat or if they know of an adult cat who needs a new home.
A breeder is not your only option for acquiring a Munchkin. Adult Munchkins may be available from rescue groups. It’s unlikely that you will find a Munchkin in a shelter, but it doesn’t hurt to look. Sometimes a pedigreed cat ends up at a shelter after losing his home to an owner’s death, divorce, or change in economic situation.
Here are some tips to help you find and adopt the right cat from a rescue group or shelter.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Munchkin in your area in no time. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Munchkins available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter.org can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a cat. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with pet pros in your area about your desire for a Munchkin. That includes vets, cat sitters, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a cat, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Networking can help you find a cat that may be the perfect companion for your family. Most people who love Munchkins love all Munchkins. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless cats. Start with the Fanciers Breeder Referral List. You can also search online for other Munchkin rescues in your area.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a cat. These include:
Wherever you acquire your Munchkin, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter, or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with pet lemon laws, be sure you and the person you get the cat from both understand your rights and recourses.
Kitten or adult, take your Munchkin to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems and work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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