Pygmy cats, commonly known as Munchkin cats, are just adorable on paper. The tiny, little legs of the dwarf cats trigger a chorus of “Awwws” in almost everyone.
Famous dwarf cats who turned into memes, like Lil Bub and Grumpy Cat, only add to the insane popularity of the Munchkin cat phenomenon.
Unfortunately, something as cute as a dwarf cat often comes at a price. These cute looks are the result of genetic deformities. Breeders sometimes purposely breed these deformities in kittens to benefit from their cuteness.
Everything you need to know about dwarf cats can be found here.
What is cat dwarfism?
To fully understand the controversy behind the Munchkin cat trend, it is important to understand how dwarf kittens are created in the first place. Dwarfism in cats is technically a genetic mutation, and not one that is simply cute.
There are three types of feline dwarfism: osteochondrodysplasia, pituitary dwarfism, and selective dwarfism.
Any of these types of dwarfism can produce the coveted plump legs and shattered face typically seen in Munchkin cats. However, all types of dwarf cats also have potential health hazards.
Osteochondrodysplasia is a disease in which the growth and development of bones and cartilage are abnormal, resulting in a lack of healthy bone growth as well as skeletal deformities. This abnormal bone growth often results in a dwarf cat with short limbs and a normal sized body.
Osteochondrodysplasia can cause other abnormalities in the stature of a dwarf cat in addition to short legs. Munchkin cats with osteochondrodysplasia can have curved spines, crooked-legged postures, and heads slightly larger than ordinary.
Pygmy kittens or cats with this type of dwarfism have the potential for other health problems. These include neurological problems, mobility problems, heart and lung defects, and other physical abnormalities, such as the curved spine mentioned above, that can severely limit a dwarf cat.
Scottish Folds are known to be prone to this type of dwarf cat growth.
Munchkin or dwarf cats with pituitary dwarfism are incredibly rare. This type of dwarfism occurs in cats whose pituitary glands cannot produce enough growth hormone (GH).
The pituitary gland of this type of dwarf cat may not be able to produce GH due to cysts, underdevelopment of the gland, tumors, or an infection. Unfortunately, when cats have this particular type of dwarfism, there are a myriad of health problems that accompany it.
Kittens affected by pituitary dwarfism cannot grow healthily and look like dwarfs of their litters. These cats also have softer teeth and keep their soft kitten hair longer due to the lack of GH. Pituitary dwarfism can also lead to slower mental development.
Because so many vital organs are affected by pituitary growth hormones, pituitary dwarf kittens will not live long lives. When cats suffer from pituitary dwarfism, they often also have other hormonal imbalances, such as hypothyroidism and hypoadrenocorticism.
Selective dwarfism in cats
As the name might suggest, selective dwarfism in cats is when breeders specifically look for the genetic mutation to create that adorable, Basset Hound-esque pygmy kitten stature.
Many consider these Munchkin cat breeders to be unethical as they may endanger the health of cats and run the risk of breeding incredibly short lifespan cats just for profit.
While the rise of unethical dwarf kitten breeders is somewhat new, the controversy behind the breed isn’t. In 1994, TICA officially recognized the Munchkin cat as a breed.
Many animal rights activists ask the public not to support unethical dwarf cat breeders. Instead, they ask those who have a strong interest in finding rescue dwarf kittens.
Cat associations such as the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) and the American Cat Fanciers Association do not officially recognize the breed in hopes of not contributing to unethical breeding.
Do you have a Munchkin cat or a feline dwarf cat? Did your dwarf cat have any health problems? Then let us know in the comments below!