The health issues of pedigree dogshave been well publicised in recent years: from the shortened lives of breeds such as Flat Coated Retrievers because of their increased cancer risk, to the poor quality of life suffered by brachycephalic breeds such as Pugs because of their compressed upper airways. Pedigree cats have managed to stay out of the limelight: most cat breeds have retained the healthy functionality of the Domestic Short Hair, the cross-bred cat that makes up over 90% of the feline population.
The Munchkin cat is changing this trend: these cats have a defective gene which causes their legs to remain short and stunted, giving them a stubby legged appearance which some believe makes them appear “cute”. Celebrity owners and online videos feature these cats, creating a popularity that’s feeding a market for breeders. Selling for up to £1000, Munchkin kittens are the latest animal victims of fashion, with owners enjoying the attention garnered when they show their new pets off on social media.
While it may seem obvious that deliberately breeding animals prone to physical difficulties should be outlawed, it’s difficult to stop it happening
The cat breed has been recognised by the International Cat Association, while the Cat Fancier’s Association and the Governing Council of The Cat Fancy have wisely refused to do so. It’s hard to understand the ethics of creating a new breed that’s created by deliberately encouraging a mutant gene that gives the animal a physical disability.
Munchkins are a relatively new breed, originating from a litter of kittens born with the mutation in the USA in 1983, then deliberately in-breeding from the offspring to produce a relatively predictable type of cat, with the genetic aberration as part of their genome. Their shortness of stature is their most obvious feature, but the inbreeding means that they suffer from a number of issues that are not so “cute”, including joint abnormalities and curvature of the spine.
While it may seem obvious that deliberately breeding animals prone to physical difficulties should be outlawed, it’s difficult to stop it happening. There’s no doubt that, yes, individual Munchkin cats are adorable, and just as Pug owners get upset when their breed is criticised, so do Munchkin enthusiasts.