Munchkin

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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. Munchkins also adore dogs both big and small. One owner reported that her Munchkin likes to hide and then jump out onto her dog?s back and manages to hang on for a few seconds while the dog races round the room!Munchkin owners report that their cats can do anything an ordinary cat can do, except leap to the top of the bookcase. (Well, that is until recently when it was reported that one Munchkins spied an Ostrich feather on the top shelf of a six foot bookcase and shimmed up there without any trouble whatsoever, although her descent was not quite so graceful!) Most of them can jump on the kitchen counter too, but some prefer to take the scenic route.There is something indefinable about a Munchkin ? you really have to see them for yourself to know what this is all about. Maybe it?s a maternal thing, as they appear to be small and vulnerable and tend to melt one?s heart. Truth is that they are strong and robust, evidenced by their agility, speed over the ground and, for their height, extremely powerful jumpers! For example, says Twink, ?A large domestic cat invaded my cat park and my Munchkin stud cat, ?How-Hi? was on patrol. Well did he give that cat a run for its life ? up and down the shade cloth they went and the domestic could not shake Howie off. In the end I had to open the gate to let the intruder out, but ?Howie? was too quick and followed suit and they both disappeared into the native bush. There was a loud squark and after a couple of minutes Howie comes strutting back as if to say, ?He?ll not be back!?Personality For their part, Munchkins, oblivious to the controversy surrounding them, go on being just what they are?cats?self-assured and outgoing. Munchkins are also known as ?magpies,? often borrowing small, shiny objects and stash them away for later play.These little ?rug-huggers? have more than their fair share of curiosity and there is no part of the home that does not get thoroughly explored and investigated. Breeder, Twink McCabe says, ?The refrigerator has been inspected, internally ? just spotted the intruder before I closed the door. The clothes dryer was also invaded and unsuspecting, I switched on! What was that bumping sound? Yes, out tumbled ?Shorty? - none the worse for his experience!I had learnt my lesson and now check everything beforehand ? several times dragging one out of the washing machine!?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 ove, they want a warm lap to snuggle into and strokes from a loving hand, like any other domestic cat.A certain amount of controversy surrounds the Munchkin ? mainly from those with preconceived ideas or who have never met one. They will even tell you that they are deformed and handicapped. Five minutes in the company of a Munchkin will convince you that this is quite untrue.After all they are not man made but truly one of God?s precious little creations!

History: 

Munchkins are naturally occurring dwarf cats, which means they have unusually short legs.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 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 it?s front legs in the air, similar to the alert stance of a rabbit. Because of this behaviour, 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.But the breed as we know it today began in Rayville, Louisiana in 1983. Music teacher, Sandra Hochenedel discovered two cats hiding under a pickup truck where they had been cornered by a bulldog. Hochenedel rescued the cats and took them home, later noticing two things?both were pregnant, and both had short, stubby legs. She kept Blackberry, the black cat, and gave away Blueberry, the gray. When Blackberry produced her first litter, Hochenedel 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.Hochenedel and LaFrance contacted Dr. Solveig Pflueger, chairperson of TICA?s genetics committee. Her studies determined that the short legs were the result of a dominant genetic mutation affecting the long bones of the legs. This mutation apparently occurred spontaneously within the feline gene pool. 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.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, ? As Chairman of the Genetics Committee for TICA, I have the responsibility of advising the Board of Directors on conditions that affect cat health. I am obliged to inform the Board of any research, which would indicate non-viability of the Munchkin as a breed. Although I raise Munchkins, I have no personal vested interest beyond seeing to it that the gene is preserved. I believe that Munchkins are happy healthy cats and that they have a future as a Championship breed. I am not aware of any reason that would lead me to believe otherwise.?Other breeders joined the cause, and in 1991 breeders tried to gain acceptance from TICA for the Munchkin, named after the little people in The Wizard of Oz. They were turned down on the basis that not enough was known about the breed. They tried again in September 1994 and this time were accepted. As of May 1, 1995 the Munchkin was recognized for New Breed and Colour status in TICA. When the acceptance was announced, TICA member Katherine Crawford resigned her ten-year position as judge, saying that the breed was an affront to any breeder with ethics. Others shared her sentiments, feeling that the short legs will cause crippling back, hip, and leg problems in the future, although no evidence exists that the Munchkin is prone to such problems. Breeders had their oldest Munchkins X-rayed and examined for signs of joint or bone problems. No problems were found.According to Laurie Bobskill, breeder and president of the International Munchkin Society, 19 separate Munchkin-like mutations have been found in the United States, all unrelated to Blackberry?s 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 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. The sports car of the cat fancy is commanding sports car prices, too, and breeders want to ensure that disreputable people don?t take advantage of the Munchkin?s popularity by using unethical breeding practices.

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