History and Characteristics of Munchkin Kittens

Image of a gray tabby munchkin kitten

A relatively new cat breed, people often refer to Munchkin kittens as the Dachshund of the cat world because of their short legs. These kitties have a fascinating history and personalities as adorable as their cute little bodies.

History of Munchkin Kittens

Before 1982, the short legged cat now known as the Munchkin was just about unknown. There were several generations of this type of cat called the kangaroo cat in the United Kingdom in the 1930s and 1940s before World War II. Sadly, the short legged cat disappeared during the war. The next known report of a short legged cat was in Stalingrad, Russia, in 1953. After that, there is nothing documented about these short felines until 1982.

That was the year a short legged, pregnant cat was found in Rayville, Louisiana hiding under a truck. Sandra Hochenedel, who found the little cat and brought her home, named her Blackberry. When Blackberry delivered her litter of kittens, Sandra realized some kittens had short legs just like Blackberry and some had long legs. Sandra referred to the short legged kittens as babylegs and the others as longlegs.

In 1990, word had spread of the babyleg kittens, and Sandra sent two kittens to a cat geneticist, Dr. Solveig Pflueger. Through Dr. Pfluger, the kittens found their way to the Good Morning America television show. Before the show, Sandra received a telephone call asking her to name the type of kitten. She quickly selected Munchkins after the characters in the Wizard of Oz.

Thanks to Blackberry and careful breeding by Sandra Hochenedel of Blackberry and her kittens to the neighbor's cat, Mr. Gates, the adorable short legged cat breed has survived and thrived. One of Blackberry's kittens, a tomcat named Tolouce, helped the Munchkin breed become established in the United States by becoming the patriarch of a successful breeding program.

Genetics and Health Problems

Munchkins are the result of a naturally occurring genetic mutation. Due to these genetics, a litter of kittens can be all short-legged, all normal-legged or mixed. The gene responsible for the dwarfed legs can be lethal when an embryo inherits one of these genes from each parent.


  • Breeding two short-legged specimens, the embryos will most surely inherit the gene from both parents and fail to develop.
  • When breeding two long-legged Munchkins, there is still a possibility that some of the embryos will inherit the gene from both parents, resulting in at least partial mortality of the litter.
  • Breeding a short-legged specimen to a long-legged specimen offers the best survival rate for the embryos, and the litter is likely to have both short-legged and long-legged kittens.

The University of Sydney offers more information on the Munchkin mutation.

Unlike their canine counterpart the Dachshund, Munchkin cats have not exhibited health problems with their back or legs. Some of the biggest health issues of Dachshunds are spine and back problems, including degenerative or inverted disks that are directly related to their short legged traits. There is some controversy in the professional cat world over the possibility of back problems developing in Munchkins as the breed continues to grow.

One possible health problem of Munchkin kittens under investigation is a condition called lordosis. Lordosis, sometimes known as tight chest, causes a shortening of the muscles that hold the spine in place, allowing it to sink down into the chest cavity. This in turn puts pressure on the trachea, lungs and heart. There are varying degrees of lordosis ranging from mild to severe, but kittens with the most severe form of the defect rarely live past twelve weeks old. There are professionals in the cat field that feel this condition may be genetic. Lordosis is a relatively rare medical condition and it also occurs in other cat breeds.

Appearance and Personality

Except for their short legs, Munchkins have the same appearance as other cats. Their front legs are slightly shorter than their back legs and they often sit up on their hind legs resembling a rabbit or squirrel. Kittens are bred to have either long or short hair and are born in a variety of colors.

Throughout their life Munchkin cats keep their kitten-like personalities. These playful little cats are very affectionate, sociable and trainable. Their short stature does not slow them down at all. They enjoy running, climbing and jumping just like their taller relatives. Munchkins love playing with toys and some people say they are like ferrets in their playfulness.

Munchkin Pictures

The following are several websites with pictures of these adorable diminutive cats.

Do Your Homework

A lovable and sociable breed, Munchkin kittens are sure to win the heart of any cat fancier. Visit breeders to learn all you can before deciding if this kind of cat is the best choice for you.

History and Characteristics of Munchkin Kittens