The Pet Directory Cat Articles - Munchkin Breed History

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Article supplied by by Paul McSorley - TRT Cattery
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As published in The Pet Directory VIC, SA & TAS Edition

The breed as we know it today began in Rayville, Louisiana. In 1983 music teacher Sandra Hochendel discovered two cats hiding under a pickup truck where they had been cornered by a bulldog. Hochendel rescued the cats and took them home, later noticing two things: both were pregnant, and both had short, stubby legs. She called them Munchkins after the little people in The Wizard of Oz. She kept Blackberry, the black cat, and gave away Blueberry, the gray. When Blackberry produced her first litter, Hochendel gave one short-legged kitten, named Toulouse, to her friend Kay LaFrance, who lived in Monroe, Louisiana. Since LaFrance’s cats were allowed free access to the outdoors and were not altered, a feral population of Munchkins occurred around Monroe, where they apparently competed very well with their long-legged friends for prey and mating opportunities.

TRT’s The Vampire Claudia Blackberry & Munchkin Founder Sandra Hochendel
TRT’s The Vampire Claudia
Blackberry & Munchkin Founder Sandra Hochendel

Hochendel and LaFrance contacted Dr. Solveig Pflueger, chairperson of The International Cat Association (TICA) genetics committee in USA. Her studies determined that the short legs were the result of a dominant genetic mutation, affecting only the long bones of the front and rear legs.

This mutation apparently occurred spontaneously within the feline gene pool and any cat that possesses this gene will exhibit the short legs. A cat that has received the “Munchkin gene” from one parent will produce Munchkin kittens at an approximate ratio of one Munchkin to one normal kitten.

Cats with short legs are not new to the scientific world: An English Veterinary Record of 1944 contains an entry by Dr H.E. Williams-Jones who describes four generations of cats with short limbs, including an 8 1/2 year old black female, documented as having had an extremely healthy life. Her dam, great dam, and some of her progeny were similar in appearance. The cat’s movements were described as ferret-like, but other than the short legs the cats were reported to be normal and healthy in every way. Unfortunately, these cats seem to have disappeared during World War II, not surprising in that many feline bloodlines, even established ones, disappeared completely during this period of deprivation.


In 1956, Max Von Egon Thiel of Hamburg, Germany, described a cat that he had first seen in Stalingrad in 1953. The cat had unusually short legs but was in no way functionally hindered and was seen playing among its normal siblings and other young cats. At times it was noted to sit on its haunches with its front legs in the air, similar to the alert stance of a prairie dog. Because of this behavior, the cat was dubbed the “Stalingrad kangaroo cat” by the author. The day before he was to return to Germany, the cat was taken away by a Russian physician and there is no further information about the cat available. However, based on the description, this undoubtedly represents the same trait seen previously in Great Britain.

In a paper published by Dr Pflueger, (Jan ’99), she states: “One concern I had when I first began working with Munchkins in 1990, was that there might be a risk for malformed homozygous kittens. This was not an unreasonable fear based on the lethality of homozygous achondroplasia in humans. However, I have bred Munchkin to Munchkin, including very close inbreeding, without producing anything vaguely resembling the phenotype of homozygous achrondroplasia. There is sufficient data at this point to suggest that abnormal homozygotes similar to human achondroplasia are unlikely to appear with future breedings.” She further states; “I believe that Munchkins are happy and healthy cats”.

Judyscuties Tinkerbell  MyMunchies Mini Mike
Judyscuties Tinkerbell
MyMunchies Mini Mike

In 1994, Munchkins were first recognized as a new breed by The International Cat Association and are now recognized in many countries around the world.

According to Paul McSorley, Munchkin breeder and Minskin founder, dozens of separate Munchkin-like mutations have been found in the United States, all unrelated to the original Louisiana lines. Breeders find this encouraging, because it gives credence to the contention that this mutation is a viable variation of Felis catus. Ironically, the controversy surrounding the breed, likened to the sports car of the cat fancy, has contributed to its growing popularity. Because of articles in The Wall Street Journal, People Magazine, and other publications, public demand for Munchkins has been great, the waiting lists long, and the supply limited.


Munchkins have been bred in other parts of the world and are gaining acceptance by various associations worldwide. They have proved themselves to be extremely popular with the Judges from the USA, Australia and New Zealand. The public is smitten with them too and love watching these plucky little cats strutting up and down the cat walk, sitting like meerkats on their haunches!

Munchkins love to wrestle and play with their long-legged feline friends, happily unaware that there’s anything different about them. Nor do their feline companions treat them like members of the vertically challenged. Most Munchkins also adore dogs both large and small.

Fanciers assert that Munchkins can do anything an ordinary cat can do, except leap to the top of the refrigerator. Many Munchkins can jump onto the kitchen counter, while others take a more scenic route.

There is something indefinable about a Munchkin – you really have to see them for yourself to understand their appeal. Maybe it’s a maternal thing; a kitten that never grows up. They appear to be small and kitten-like throughout their lives and tend to melt one’s heart. Truth is that they are strong and robust, swift and agile. They speed over the ground and dash under a bed without ducking. Considering their height, they are extremely powerful climbers and jumpers!

Regardless of the controversy surrounding them, Munchkins go on being just what they are… cats. Self-assured, outgoing and friendly. These little ‘rug-huggers’ are affectionate and curious, leaving no part of the home or its inhabitants unexplored and fully investigated.

Creators Cupid MyMunchies Nana
Creators Cupid
MyMunchies Nana

As well as having sweet natures, Munchkins are affectionate, outgoing and intelligent.

They love company, especially that of children with whom they seem to be especially popular. They are exceptionally playful and get along well with other cats, dogs and pets. And yes, they are amusing to watch which is a real bonus in anyone’s life. Proficient hunters, Munchkins love a good game of catnip mouse or feather teaser, but when playtime is over, they want a warm lap to snuggle into and strokes from a loving hand, like any other domestic cat.

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