If you love felines but want something smaller as a pet, consider a dwarf cat. Dwarfism can occur in any breed due to a genetic mutation. However, there are varieties deliberately bred to retain the dwarf look of short legs and a small stature. Some of the most popular breeds include the Munchkin, Bambino, and Genetta. Teacup cats, those that are bred to have allover smaller features, are also available. If you're considering acquiring any of these pint-sized cats, it's important to understand their unique traits and care requirements.
Munchkin Dwarf Cats and Breeds
The Munchkin is a breed of dwarf cat that has the gene that results in very short legs (chondrodysplastic). It is the founding breed of a number of other breeds that have been developed with this characteristic. In order to produce the short-legged feature in other breeds and create new varieties, the Munchkin was out-crossed with a normally proportioned cat with the hopes that the kittens would have the small stature and short legs of the Munchkin as well as the desirable traits of the other parent's particular breed.
General Temperament of Munchkins
The Munchkin personality is outgoing and vivacious, and they love playing. They enjoy the company of humans and other pets in the household. However, the personality of dwarf cats can vary depending on the second breed involved in the breeding.
The Bambino is a cross between a Munchkin and a Sphynx. It has the short legs and small size that the Munchkins are known for, but it also is hairless like the Sphinx. Bambinos are known to be very affectionate, and like other hairless cats, they enjoy getting in close to you for warmth. They do well with other pets and children and are very active.
The Dwelf is a cross between a Munchkin, a Sphynx, and an American Curl, although the breed looks most like Dobby the House Elf from the Harry Potter movies. It is a short-legged, hairless breed with curled ears. The Dwelf is also hypoallergenic. Like other Munchkin breeds, Dwelf cats have a reputation for extreme playfulness, and they have been described as "dog-like." Since they need to be indoor cats, be prepared to provide your Dwelf with a lot of environmental and mental enrichment to keep them engaged.
The Genetta is a short-legged, dwarf cat that has the exotic coat of the African Genet, although there is no Genet in their breed DNA. They're a mix of three cat breeds: Munchkin, Bengal, and Savannah. The result is a diminutive cat with a striped or marbled coat. Genettas are loving, friendly cats who enjoy play with humans, cats, and dogs.
The Kinkalow is a cross between the Munchkin and the American Curl. It has the curled ears of the American Curl with the soft coat and short legs of the Munchkin. The breed was reportedly named after Munchkinlanes Kinkalow Louie, one of the first kittens of this variety. The Kinkalow disposition is similar to its fellow Munchkins: playful, active, and extroverted. They can do well in a home with all ages of humans and other pets.
The Lambkin is a curly-furred, dwarf cat that comes from the outcrossing of a Munchkin and a Selkirk Rex. This unique combination gives the Lambkin the characteristic short legs of the Munhckin along with ringleted hair. This lamb-like appearance earned the hybrid its name. Lambkins are mildly vocal, very friendly, and curious cats. They can be great lap cats, however, because they have a calmer side compared to other dwarf cat breeds.
The Minskin is a combination of primarily Munchkin and Sphynx, with a touch of Burmese and Devon Rex breeds added to the mix. This dwarf cat has short legs and a coat that is very sparse. It is a friendly breed that enjoys being held and played with. Minskins are moderately active and enjoy playing just as much as snuggling in your lap.
Napoleon or Minuet
The Napoleon cat, more recently renamed the Minuet, is a cross between a Munchkin and a Persian. It has the short stature of a Munchkin, with a round face, round eyes and fluffy fur. Along with the Munchkin, the Minuet is the only other dwarf cat breed recognized by The International Cat Association.
Napoleon cats enjoy the company of others, whether it's people, cats, or other pets. However, they do not do well alone for long periods of time, so they will thrive best in households with frequent companionship. They have a moderate activity level and their temperament has a good balance between being playful and relaxed.
A Skookum is a cross between a Munchkin and a LaPerm. The Skookum is a dwarf cat with curly, soft fur. Despite their body composition, they are very athletic and active. They also retain the silly temperament that their LaPerm ancestors are known for. Skookums are affectionate, intelligent, and are a good companion to people and other pets.
Dwarf Cat Health Issues
Despite their adorable appearance and traits, dwarf cat breeds may be at risk for certain health concerns.
- Degenerative joint disease (DJD)
- Spinal problems like herniated discs
- Mobility problems
- Hormone imbalances
Teacup Cat Breeds
Unlike the Munchkin-based breeds, teacup breeds are correctly proportioned cats. Teacups just have a smaller size in every aspect. They tend to come from almost any breed, and most do not have a separate breed standard. In terms of personality, teacup cats will mirror what is common for their specific breed. A typical teacup breed female will weigh only two to four pounds and is less than 9-inches tall when fully grown.
The MiniPers is one of the few teacups to have a breed standard. The MiniPers is a Persian dwarf cat that has a Persian look; this includes the fluffy fur and a flat face. The MiniPers does not have the short legs of the Munchkin type. It has the same proportions as a standard Persian should, just on a smaller scale. They also reflect the characteristics of the Persian personality. Due to their small size and fragility, they would best be reserved for homes with adults or older children.
Teacup Cat Health Issues
If you have your heart set on a teacup cat, be sure to ask around and buy from a reliable breeder. There can be health problems associated with teacup breeds, including the following:
- Soft bones
- Bowed legs
- Weakness in limbs
- Heart problems, including murmurs
- Susceptibility to head trauma
- Shorter life span
- Sterility due to malformed reproductive organs
By purchasing your cat from a reputable breeder, you can better protect yourself from these health issues.
Small Cat Controversy
Both Munchkins and teacups are controversial, as some breeders and fancier associations consider deliberately breeding for this genetic mutation unethical. However, other cat professionals feel that the breeding of these cats is no different from breeding teacup dogs or short canine breeds like the Dachshund or Corgi.
Dwarf Cats Are a Lifelong Commitment
No matter whether you get a dwarf, miniature, or teacup cat from a breeder or through a rescue, remember that a cat is a lifetime commitment. These breeds can have more health problems than other cats and may require specialized care, such as pet stairs or more frequent veterinary visits. Give your dwarf cat plenty of affection and provide for all their needs, and you will be rewarded with loyalty and love.