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 and Claudia Guthrie
Updated April 25, 2021
Munchkin
Coat Length
Pattern
Other Traits
Temperament

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, as you may have guessed from her name, is on the short side. She's actually unique among dwarf cat breeds—this petite kitty actually fits all the other size indicators of a normal adult-sized cat, except for their little legs. Never heard of a Munchkin? That's probably because they're relatively new, having been legitimized by The International Cat Association 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 your feline, depending on pedigree.

brown-and-white munchkin cat
These petite pets are noticeably low to the ground, with legs about 3 inches shorter than the average cat. | Credit: 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 feline. The rest of the Munchkin body is pretty typical of your run-of-the-mill house cat, with most of adults weighing somewhere between 6–9 pounds. Visually, many might consider the Munchkin the Dachshund of the cat kingdom. Some even refer to the Munchkin as a "sausage cat," a similar nickname to the beloved "wiener dog."

The Munchkin's short limbs are due to a natural genetic mutation and are the breed's defining feature. Munchkin cats come in all color combinations and coat styles, and can have short coats, long coats, or be hairless. 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.

An important note: Although the Munchkin cat comes in many shades, they are their own distinct breed—not miniature versions of other cat breeds. 

munchkin cat standing looking out window
Credit: 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 with toys and running around, these cuddly cats love to snuggle up with their people. Munchkins are sociable, intelligent, and self-assured felines who love spending time with their humans.

"Munchkins are known as confident extroverts," says Marilyn Krieger, certified cat behavior consultant. "As a general rule, they love to socialize with people, are full of energy, and enjoy playing and exploring. They are curious about their environment [and check] out everything."

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

munchkin cat jumping
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. | Credit: Nazra Zahri / Getty

Living Needs

The Munchkin cat is well-suited to most indoor living situations, as long as she has space to run and play.

"They are extremely active and energetic," Krieger says. "They enjoy playing alone and with others, and frequently race around the house amazingly fast."

This energetic cat loves working up serious speed on her little legs, and can round tight corners with precision. She may not be able to make it to the top of a bookshelf in a single bound, but she 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 in search of a lap or sunny spot on a cushion, and they're just as good at climbing as other cat breeds. So keep an eye on the curtains and make sure she doesn't skedaddle up any trees.

The Munchkin is an easygoing breed who gets along well with dogs, other cats, and small children. These adorable cats make a loving addition as family pets or as a companion to adult owners. Basically, whatever your living situation, a Munchkin can fit right in. Just make sure she isn't left alone for long periods of time.

"These cats are social butterflies," Krieger says. "They love attention from their favorite people and most enjoy sitting on laps, being petted, and cuddling."

tabby munchkin walking down hallway
light-color munchkin cat on blue couch
white munchkin cat outside
Left: Munchkins come in a variety of coat colors and patterns, including tabby, like this handsome fellow. | Credit: 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. | Credit: 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. | Credit: otsphoto / Shutterstock

Care

Grooming your Munchkin will be guided by their coat style. Short-haired Munchkins should be brushed weekly, while long-haired Munchkins should be brushed more frequently to keep their coat free of tangles. Your Munchkin will clean herself, but her 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 her 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, and will usually tucker themselves out. Provide them with cat toys, low-to-the-ground cat trees, and scratchers 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 even walk on a leash. Krieger says they respond well to clicker training with ample positive reinforcement. They're naturally social, but early introduction to family members (especially children and other pets) will help your Munchkin kitten feel secure.

Provide your kitty a diet of high-quality cat food and fresh water. Because of her short legs, make sure litter boxes, food dishes, and water bowls have low edges so your Munchkin can access them without problems. Check in with your veterinarian to make sure your cat is getting her nutrition needs met.

munchkin cat on couch
munchkin kitten on couch
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. | Credit: 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. | Credit: Tran Mau Tri Tam on Unsplash

Health

Munchkins are generally healthy cats with an expected lifespan of 12–15 years. But like any breed, these little cats can be affected by certain health issues. Mostly, Munchkins can develop problems that affect most feline breeds, including 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," Marks says. "However, because of their very short legs, it's very important to avoid obesity and keep a lean body condition."

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

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 in litters, but today the Munchkin is specifically bred to produce cats with little legs. Some debate whether or not it's ethical to breed Munchkins, because 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. According to TICA, tiny cats were recorded around the globe throughout the 20th century, but their condition appeared naturally and wasn't bred intentionally. In 1983, a short-legged cat named Blackberry gave birth to a litter of kittens. This was the beginning of the modern-day Munchkin.

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—this is another reason why the Munchkin breeding practice is controversial. Before bringing home any pet, make sure you're working with an ethical breeder. 

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

Fun Facts

  • Munchkin cats got their name from the small-statured Munchkin characters from author L. Frank Baum’s book The Wonderful 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, whom she affectionately refers to as her “low-rider kitties.”