Feline Dwarfism – What is it?
Dwarfism in cats usually occurs due to a genetic disorder that has been passed on from a cat to it’s prodigy. Also an underactive pituitary gland can be a cause. However it is a rare disorder.
The disorder has deinitely spawned a few certain feline celebrities though! A couple of examples being Grumpy Cat and Lil Bub. Cats with feline dwarfism have also come to be known as Muchnkin cats and feline dwarfism can be pomoted by a certain few breeds being selectively bred to promote the condition.
This being said, the three main types of feline dwarfism are: osteochondrodysplasia, pituitary dwafism and selective dwarfism.
Characteristics of Feline Dwarfism
Regardless of which type of dwarfism is present, all of the them can produce similar physical properties of short legs, slightly bulging eyes, and puggish-looking face.
Male Munchkins will usally weigh somewhere between 6 – 9 pounds (3 – 4 kg) and females typically 4 – 8 pounds (2 – 3.6 kg). Often the legs of a Munchkin will be slightly bowed and the front legs can be slightly shorter than the hind legs which will create a rise from the shoulder to the base of the tail.
Other physical properties can include slightly larger heads, and curved spines.
Dwarfism as a Genetic Disorder
The genetic disorder osteochondrodyplasia affects development in a cat’s bones and cartilage. This is what causes shorter legs and can also cause other skeletal deformities.
It is possible for all litters that have at least one Munckin parent to contain kittens with the same visible characteristics.
Osteochondrodysplasia is caused by a mutation from a single autosomal dominant gene although the abnormalities in each cat can differ in severity due to the gene having incomplete penetrance.
Cats with this type of dwarfism can also suffer from other health issues. Of course mobility can be hindered, but also the cat can experience heart and lung defects as well of those of a neurological nature making them slow learners in some cases.
Pituitary dwarfism is a particularly rare form of dwarfism in cats.
Cats with pituitary dwarfism have a pituitary gland that does not seem to produce enough growth hormone. Resons for this can be from tumors or cysts that have formed in the gland. The gland being underdeveloped or the gland being affected by an infectious disease.
Within a litter of cats, it will be observed that a kitten suffering from this form of dwarfism will grow at a slower rater than its siblings. Even the fur will remain softer and the teeth won’t develop as quickly as they should normally. However, in most cases the head and body will be more proportionate.
Due to the neurological issues than can be present, the kitten may not be as responsive to their immediate environment either.
Generally speaking, cats who have pituitary dwarfism will not live too long. The pituitary gland plays a large role in the development of other organs from the growth hormones it produces, so this lack of growth hormone can drastically affect the cat’s health.
To diagnose pituitary dwarfism, and distinguish it from congenital hypothyroidism, your vet can use a blood test to check the amount of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-I) that is present. This will be lower than usual in a cat with pituitary dwarfism.
Unfortunately there are no effective treatments for cats with this condition and cats affected will need to have a place to eat, drink and use the litter box that is easily accessible and safe. It is not recommended that you let cats with pituitary dwarfism outside unless closely supervised and secure.
As the name suggests, selective dwarfism is when a cat breeder intentionally finds and breeds cats that have the genetic mutation. This can be seen as controversial and unethical by many as the cats may not live a comfortable or long life. Of course many breed these cats for a purely profitable reason.
These cats have generally been bred since the 1980s. Dwarf cats can come in any breed with one of the parents always being a Munchkin
Notable Breeds of Dwarf Cat
This breed of cat which is also the founding breed of dwarf cats, was accepted into The International Cat Association’s (TICA) new breed development programme in September 1994. This cute little cat is noted for its short little legs and stature. Weighing around 5 – 9 pounds fully grown, this cat’s size is a result of natural mutation. Despite the cats size and short legs, they can be extremely active and fun, even if they can’t jump quite as well as it’s longer legged buddies. They love to run around and have fun!
The lambkin may have gotten its name due to its lamb-like resemblance. The breeding of Selkirk Rex and Muchkin has resulted in this gorgeous curly-haired miniature cat breed.
This can makes for a wonderful lap-cat, with fur that is fine and soft to the touch even though it may not look it at first glance. Its front legs are slightly shorter than its rear legs and it is vey child friendly due to it’s calm but playful nature.
This is a new hybrid breed of domestic cat recognised by the TICA. Also known as The Napoleon, this cat is a mixture of Munchin bred with Persian. This cat is highly active and genrally not inhibited by its short legs.
The Minuet has a fluffy and dense coat, large eyes and a cute round face. This breed is easily recognised from other breeds due to the unique Persin/Munchkin combination.
This breed of short-legged cat has curly, soft fur and looks adorable! This breed is a result of the mixture of Munchkin with LaPerm. It’s loves to jump around and play as much as any other cat and its appearance is that of a kitten-like nature.
Their large, walnut-like eyes will lure you in to fuss and cuddle it all day long!
This hairless variety of short-legged cat was created from a combination of Munchkin and Sphynx.
This wonderfully cute, large-eared breed is very friendly and welcoming of new people. Your perfect play mate! They love to play with children and are very affectionate and active. Also known for their intelligence, these cats can also be trained a little better than other breeds. This cat will often want to cuddle up to you too!
This breed is a combination of the Munchkin and American Curl. A super cute breed of cat, it is very small (around half of the weight of the other breeds) and has very short legs.
The tail of this breed can look to be longer than its body. Not only will this cat constantly be mistaken for a kitten even when fully grown, it’ll always be as playful as one too! They defnitely don’t seem to be hindered by their small legs and size. This type of cat loves attention, affection and is very curious. It’ll be sure to keep you feeling happy!