Munchkin

Munchkin cats are short on legs and big on personality. Learn more about this incredibly cute one-of-a-kind cat breed.
By Hilary Braaksma
August 24, 2020
Munchkin
Coat Length
Pattern
Other Traits
Temperament
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Munchkin

height
  • 5—7 inches
weight
  • 6—9 pounds
life span
  • 12—15 years
good with
  • children
  • seniors
  • dogs
  • cats
  • families
temperament
  • sociable
  • affectionate
intelligence
  • high
shedding amount
  • normal
playfulness
  • high
activity level
  • active
vocalness
  • when necessary
coat length
  • short
colors
  • white
  • black / ebony
  • red / orange
  • blue / gray
  • lavender / silver
  • cream / beige / tan
  • chocolate / brown / sable
  • cinnamon
  • fawn
  • lilac
patterns
  • bi-color
  • solid
  • calico / tri-color
  • tabby
  • color point
other traits
  • easy to train
  • easy to groom
  • friendly toward humans
  • friendly toward other pets
  • friendly toward strangers
  • tolerates being alone

Munchkin cats are quick, energetic, fun-loving, and affectionate. What they lack in leg length they more than make up for with their unique look and loving temperament.

The Munchkin is unique among dwarf cat breeds—this petite breed actually fits all the other size indicators of a normal adult-sized cat, except for their little legs. They’re also relatively new, having been legitimized as their own breed in the early 2000s.

Because these cats are the result of genetic mutation and a somewhat complicated breeding process, they are relatively rare. If you’re wondering how much Munchkin cats cost, you can expect to spend between $500–$1200 for a Munchkin cat, depending on pedigree.

These petite pets are noticeably low to the ground, with legs about 3 inches shorter than the average cat. Photo: Michael Beder / Getty

Appearance

Munchkin cats have a distinct look that most cat aficionados either love or hate. These petite pets are noticeably low to the ground, with legs that are about 3 inches shorter than the average cat. The rest of the Munchkin body is pretty typical of your average house cat, with most of these adult cats weighing in somewhere between 6–9 pounds. Visually, many might consider the Munchkin the Dachshund of the cat kingdom. This feline breed even shares a similar nickname to the beloved “weiner dog”—some refer to the Munchkin as a “sausage cat”.

The Munchkin’s short limbs are due to a natural genetic mutation, and are the defining feature of this breed. Munchkin cats come in all color combinations and coat styles, and can be hairless, short haired, or long haired. Short-haired Munchkins have plush medium-density coats, while long-haired Munchkins have silky smooth fur. Popular coat shades and patterns are tabby, calico, gray, and solid black.

Although the Munchkin cat comes in many shades and forms, they are their own distinct breed—not miniature versions of other cat breeds. 

These curious kittens love to explore the world around them, and they’ll even perch on their hind legs like a rabbit to get a better view!
Photo: Nazra Zahri / Getty

Temperament

Munchkins are active, friendly cats who typically get along with children and other pets. These curious kittens love to explore the world around them—they’ll even perch on their hind legs like a rabbit to get a better view!

These cats are known to keep a fun-loving, kittenish attitude well into adulthood. When they’re not busy playing and running around, these cuddly cats love to snuggle up with their people. These sociable cats love spending time with their humans and are intelligent, self-assured companions.

Munchkin cats can have hoarding tendencies similar to that of a magpie—they love to stash away shiny objects to play with later. If your jewelry comes up missing, your little Munchkin may be to blame.

Living Needs

What they lack in height, the Munchkin makes up in personality: These cats are known to keep their fun-loving, kittenish attitude well into adulthood. Photo: Nazra Zahri / Getty

The Munchkin cat is well-suited to most indoor living situations, as long as he has space to run and play. This energetic cat loves working up serious speed on his little legs, and can round tight corners with precision. He may not be able to make it to the top of a bookshelf in a single bound, but he will still love jumping and climbing—a cat tree with a low entrance point is a great way to help your Munchkin explore heights easily. They can usually get enough air to land on couches and sofas. And they’re also just as good at climbing as other cat breeds, so keep an eye on the curtains.

The Munchkin is an easygoing breed who gets along well with other pets and generally does well with small children. These adorable cats make a loving addition as family pets, or as a companion to adult owners.

Left: Munchkins come in a variety of coat colors and patterns, including tabby, like this handsome fellow. Photo: Benjamin Torode / Getty
Center: Their short legs may keep them from climbing on top of high bookcases, but most can still get enough air to jump onto couches and low ledges. Photo: guifang jian / Getty
Right: Munchkins are a smart breed of cat that can be trained to follow basic commands and to walk on a leash. Photo: otsphoto / Shutterstock

Care

Grooming of your Munchkin will be guided by their coat style. Short-haired Munchkins should be brushed weekly, while long-haired Munchkins should be brushed a couple of times a week to keep their coat free of tangles. Your Munchkin will clean himself, but his limited leg reach can make hygiene a little more difficult for this cat. Occasional bathing is a good idea to help keep your little kitty friend clean. You should also keep their nails trimmed and ears cleaned.

Munchkins don’t need a lot in the way of human-guided exercise. These cats love to run and play during the day. Provide them with cat toys, low-to-the-ground cat trees, and scratching poles to help them work out their energy.

“Munchkins love to run and jump despite their small stature,” says Natalie L. Marks, DVM, CVJ, Blum Animal Hospital in Chicago, Ill. “Encourage cat tree play, feather toys and interactive play with other cats and dogs.”

Munchkins are an intelligent breed of cat who can be trained to fetch and walk on a leash.

These cats are naturally social, but early introduction to family members (especially children and other pets) will help your Munchkin kitten feel secure.

Provide your Munchkin cat a diet of quality cat food and fresh water. Because of their short legs, make sure litter boxes, food dishes, and water dishes have low edges to allow your Munchkin adequate access. Check in with your vet to make sure your individual cat is getting their nutrition needs met.

Health

Left: Munchkin cats may need a bit of help grooming themselves as their short legs make it challenging to reach spots the way their long-legged counterparts can. Photo: Tran Mau Tri Tam on Unsplash
Right: Though undeniably adorable, not all cat lovers and breeders are fans of the breed. Many pedigree cat associations have refused to recognize the Munchkin cat due to concerns about the intentional breeding of deformities and potential health issues. Photo: Tran Mau Tri Tam on Unsplash

Munchkins are generally healthy cats with an expected lifespan of 12–15 years. These cats are prone to health issues that affect most feline breeds, like heart problems, urinary tract infections, and pancreatitis.

“As a relatively new breed, they are so far thought to be a healthy breed without any increased disease risks. However, because of their very short legs, it’s very important to avoid obesity and keep a lean body condition,” Marks says.

The jury is out on whether the Munchkin’s controversial leg mutation can cause other health issues or spinal problems. This breed is relatively young, so there is a lot for experts to still learn. You can help keep your Munchkin in good health by keeping regularly scheduled vet appointments and taking the advice of your cat’s veterinarian.

History

While they weren’t recognized as a breed by The International Cat Association until 2003, short-legged cats have existed for many years. Their appearance is the result of a genetic mutation that can occur naturally, although it is bred specifically in most instances. Some debate whether or not it’s ethical to breed Munchkins, since it intentionally passes on the physical deformity of their incredibly short legs, which can impact their mobility. Because of the controversy, the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) and the American Cat Fanciers Association (ACFA) still don’t recognize the Munchkin as an official breed.

Despite the argument around their official recognition, instances of short-legged cats have been around for many years. Tiny cats were recorded throughout the 20th century and around the globe, but appeared naturally and were not bred intentionally until recently. In 1983, the modern day Munchkin breed was born with a litter of kittens from a short-legged cat named Blackberry.

The modern breeding process involves mating one Munchkin (the mutation is not sex-selective) with a cat who doesn’t have the mutation. The mutation is dominant, and will result in a litter of Munchkin cats. However, when two Munchkins are bred together, the mutation is fatal.

Lilieput, the current world record holder for shortest living cat, standing next to her award certificate and a few cans of food for perspective! Photo: Guinness World Records

Fun Facts

  • Munchkin cats got their name from the small-statured Munchkin characters from author L. Frank Baum’s book The Wizard of Oz. The short kitties are also known as “sausage cats.”
  • According to Guinness World Records, the shortest living cat on record is Lilieput, a female Munchkin cat from Napa, Calif., who measured 13.34 cm (5.25 in) from the floor to the shoulders in 2013.
  • Heiress and socialite Paris Hilton has two Munchkin cats, aptly named Shorty and Munchkin, who she affectionately refers to as her “low-rider kitties.”