The Munchkin is a cat breed created by a naturally occurring genetic mutation that results in cats with abnormally short legs. However, the shortness of their legs does not seem to interfere with their running and leaping abilities. The gene responsible has been compared to the one that give Welsh Corgis, Basset Hounds and Dachshunds their short stature; however, Munchkins do not suffer from the many spinal problems that are typically associated with those canine breeds as cats' spines are physically different from dogs'. The spine of a Munchkin cat is usually indistinguishable from that of other cats.
Throughout history and around the globe there have been sightings of short-legged cats from Russia to Germany to Great Britain. A breeding population existed in Europe around the middle of twentieth century but the lines died out during and after the Second World War.
The breed was first discovered in the United States in 1964 by Ellen Kasten in the town of Westbury, New York. Growing up on a farm, Mrs. Kasten was particularly inclined to welcome any animal into her home. She named the first Munchkin "Little One" due to her tiny legs as a kitten. However, the cat was not bred and therefore was not discovered again until 1983 when Sandra Hochenedel, a music teacher in Louisiana, found 2 pregnant cats who had been chased by a bulldog under a truck. She kept one of the cats and named her Blackberry and half of her kittens were born short-legged. Hochenedel gave a short legged male kitten from one of Blackberry's litters to a friend, Kay LaFrance, and she named the kitten Toulouse. It is from Blackberry and Toulouse that today's Munchkin breed is descended.
The Munchkin was first introduced to the general public in 1991 via a national network televised cat show held by The International Cat Association (TICA) in Madison Square Garden. Critics predicted that the breed would develop back, hip and leg problems similar to those that plague some Dachshunds. Studies were conducted by Dr Solveig Pflueger (Chief of the genetics committee for TICA) who determined that the Munchkins were physically sound. Amidst much controversy, TICA accepted the Munchkin into its New Breed development program in September 1994. One veteran show judge—who had Munchkin supporters threatening to burn her house—resigned in protest, calling the breed an affront to breeders with ethics. The Munchkin achieved TICA Championship status in May 2003.
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