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Munchkin cats are undeniably cute, but they're the center of a lot of controversy

Anna is a lifestyle writer who spends way too much time with her two dogs. When she is not writing, she is probably gardening, reading, tripping over dog toys, or trying to acquire more farm animals than she really needs.

Munchkin cats are gaining in popularity, but is breeding these cats cruel?

The cat debate in our household goes something like this:

Me: We should definitely get a cat.

Spouse: There will never be another Johnny (our last cat). Also, cats jump on the counter. Where we cook food. With litter box paws. No.

It's a circular argument that doesn't really go anywhere, which was fine until we accidentally had the discussion at dinner with friends one night. "You know," said a friend with a glint of mischief in his eye, "you could always get a munchkin cat. They can't jump on counters because their legs are too short."

For a shining, glorious moment, I thought I had found the trump card to the great cat debate. Then I realized that was ridiculous. Munchkin cats didn't exist. Or did they?

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What the heck is a munchkin cat?

I hadn't heard of munchkin cats, so I did some extensive research when I got home. As it turns out, munchkin cats are essentially the dachshunds and corgis of the feline world. The breed developed from a natural genetic mutation, according to The International Cat Association, and there have been reports of short-legged cats throughout history. It was only a matter of time before someone decided to breed for the trait, which really shouldn't surprise us. Cats have remained remarkably unaltered during domesticity (with a few exceptions) compared to their canine counterparts, and I am frankly surprised it took this long to miniaturize at least some part of them.

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So can they jump on counters?

Munchkin cats, apparently, don't realize that they are at a disadvantage. Despite their stubby legs, they maneuver around the house at great speeds and are considered an energetic, extroverted feline. They can also jump. Maybe not as high, and maybe not as far, but munchkin cats are cats. If they want to get somewhere, they will find a way. Your counter is only safe from munchkins if there is nothing else they can leap on to get there (like sofas, open cabinet doors, small children, etc.). Never underestimate a cat.

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What makes them so irresistible?

A photo posted by Claire Lu (@clairelu) on

Munchkin cats are cute in the same way that dachshunds, corgis, basset hounds and other low-slung dog breeds are cute. They look like other cats, except for the legs, of course, and can come in long-haired, short-haired and medium-haired coats. Some have the ears of a Scottish fold, others have the faces of a Persian and still more just look like ordinary cats with little legs.

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Why is there controversy surrounding breeding them?

Not everyone agrees that munchkins are a good idea. There are two major arguments against munchkins:

  1. Breeding for a genetic mutation like dwarfism is cruel
  2. There are so many cats in shelters that breeding more cats is irresponsible

So far, there have not been many reported cases of spinal problems resulting from munchkin legs. However, the breed is relatively new, so health problems will take a while to assert themselves into a recognizable pattern. Certainly an obese munchkin, just like an obese dachshund, is at increased risk of spine problems, but obesity is an avoidable problem that all cat owners should discuss with their vet.

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Time will tell if munchkins are here to stay

Selecting specific traits during breeding can certainly produce some undesirable results, as any large-breed dog lover who has had to deal with hip dysplasia can attest to, but I am not sure if short legs on munchkins necessarily qualify as cruel. I will wait to see what veterinarians say in a few years about the breed before I come to a firm decision.

As for the problem of shelters, well, I always support adopting cats, and if a munchkin cat showed up at my local shelter, I have to admit I would be very tempted. After all, how can I truly get to the bottom of the controversies surrounding munchkin cats without getting to know one?

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Munchkin cats are gaining in popularity, but is breeding these cats cruel?
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