Short-legged cats have been recorded worldwide for years. Seen as early as the 1930's, it was not until 1983 that Sandra Hockenedel found a pregnant, short-legged cat that eventually became the foundation for the breed, using domestic cats as out-crosses to ensure a diverse gene pool.
The short legs are a natural, genetic mutation that shortens the leg bones, similar to the Corgi and Dachshund dogs. As a result, Munchkin mothers often have litters that have both short-legged and long-legged kittens. Mobility is not impaired and the Munchkin, although "low-slung," is known for its speed and nimbleness. Its coat may be short with medium plush, all weather fur, or long, with silky, all weather fur. All long-haired and short-haired, domestic cats are acceptable as out-crosses for the breed. The long-haired Munchkins are the same as their short-haired relatives except that they have a long, silky coat and a tail that is fully plumed. Regardless, the patterns and colors of the hair range widely. Small to medium-sized, they weigh between five and nine pounds completely grown. Weighing from four to eight pounds depending upon gender, they have a compact, thick body, with a round chest.
Munchkins are very playful and love to run and jump. Sometimes compared to ferrets, this high energy cat is confident and intelligent. They will seek the same heights in a room as their regular-sized counterparts, but will devise new paths to get there. Extremely curious, these cats will set on their back legs in order to watch something that has caught their eye. Sometimes called "magpies," they will "borrow" those small, shiny playthings and put them away for later play. When play is all said and done, the Munchkin is the perfect lap cat, snuggling in for a good nap.
The International Munchkin Society has found nineteen mutations in the United States, all of them unrelated to the original foundation. Such findings reinforce the conviction that this is a naturally occurring variation of "Felis Catus." First submitted to The International Cat Association (TICA) in 1991, breeders were turned down based on insufficient knowledge of the breed. Accepted in 1994, Munchkins achieved TICA Championship status in 2003; not however, without generating considerable controversy. When the Munchkins were recognized in 1995, TICA member Katherine Crawford resigned as a judge. Sentiments of many were that the short legs would cause severe health problems, although that has not been seen in the years that have followed.