Controversial Munchkin cats may be trendy to some people who find them cute, but is it cruel to breed cats with genetic deformities intentionally? You may have seen videos or pictures on social media of these short-legged felines, often affectionately called “sausage cats,” and wondered how their legs get so short.
The short legs of the Munchkin cat come from a dominant genetic mutation. This gene is referred to as a “lethal” gene because if two Munchkin cats mate and both pass on the dominant gene, the kittens will not survive. Breeders intentionally breed Munchkin cats with regular-sized cats or cats that are just shorter and do not have the Munchkin gene to produce kittens with short legs that can be sold for a high price.
Although Munchkin cats, when taken care of, can live about 12 to 15 years on average, there are some health problems that can develop due to their short legs. Lordosis is a condition that causes the spine to dip down and put pressure on the heart, lungs, and trachea, and it can be fatal as the organs begin to grow.
Munchkin cats are also susceptible to pectus excavatum, or a concave chest. This causes the breastbone to sink in. Breeders are quick to point out that these conditions can also occur in normal-sized cats, but vets have found a correlation between the genetic mutation and these health problems.
Some worry that short legs limit Munchkin cats’ mobility, which is especially important for felines. Munchkin cats may not be able to jump high, but they are surprisingly nimble and agile on ground level. Their mobility, for the most part, isn’t terribly affected by having shorter legs.
Breeders also like to point out that breeding cats with a genetic mutation that causes short legs is no different than breeding short-legged dogs like Corgis or Dachshunds. The International Cat Association (TICA) agrees with this argument and accepts the Munchkin cat as a registered breed, but the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) and the American Cat Fanciers Association (ACFA) refuse to recognize the Munchkin. One TICA judge even resigned because of the questionable ethics of breeding a cat with a genetic deformity intentionally.
When it comes down to it, breeding a cat with short legs is done only to please humans, not for the benefit of cats. Sure they may look “cute” to some, but it certainly doesn’t make them healthier and provides them with no specific advantages. And in a world where shelters are full of unwanted healthy cats, should we really be breeding deformed felines for profit?
Andrew Prentis, of Hyde Park Veterinary Centre in Central London, had a word of advice for those wanting a Munchkin cat or breed them. Prentis told the Sun: “Why would you want to breed a cat that effectively doesn’t have any legs? If you want to see a short-legged cat, go and watch a cartoon. Leave the cat alone.”
What do you think? Are Munchkin cats cute? Is breeding these cats cruel or harmless? Let us know in the comments below!