Munchkin is a domestic cat that is made unique by its short legs. The short limbs are owing to a genetic mutation and thus there is debate as regards the origin of this cat, since the mutation could have occurred at any point in time in the past. Notable cases though, existed in Europe around the middle of twentieth century. Like so many other pet breeds, the Munchkins also went into obscurity with the advent of Second World War. It was not until nineteen eighties that Munchkins were again reported, this time in United States. The short-legged creatures were seen with great intrigue by observers and named 'Munchkins', after the dwarfs in the Oz series of books by Lyman Frank Baum. The short leg size, or hypochondroplasia, was soon established as being a result of the genetic mutation. Since the gene is lethal in homozygous formation, Munchkins are outcrossed with other cats including domestic felines, Abyssinians, Persians, Siamese etc to produce healthy litters, with kittens having heterozygous alleles for the said gene.
Aside from their short legs, Munchkins have a normal physique. The rest of their body is not miniature and they are compact, sturdy animals. They are medium in size with normal musculoskeletal development. No restrictions exist on color and pattern of coat or eyes. Hind legs are longer than the forelegs and the medium length tail narrows towards its tip. Even as the short limbs don't allow these cats to jump high, they are said to be good at moving and turning at a rapid pace.
There is lots of controversy over the continued breeding of Munchkins. Many believe that doing so is propagation of a genetic defect and malformation (achondroplasia/hypochondroplasia). As such Munchkins are not recognized by most cat fanciers and are not eligible for registration in most bodies around the world as a distinct breed. Some think though that Munchkins are normal apart from their short legs and can lead a life like other regular cats. Some select organizations accept them and claim that their following is growing with the passage of time.
The cats themselves are quite sweet in their nature. They are gentle and loving and often behave like kittens even as they age. Since they can't evade and defend themselves properly in encounters with stray cats and dogs, they should be kept indoors. They are social and intelligent cats and prefer to be around people all the time.
The author is a blogger about cats and an expert on Munchkin cats.