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Black Munchkin Cat: Facts, Origin & History (with Pictures)

The first time you see a black Munchkin cat, you may wonder if your eyes are playing tricks on you. They look like ordinary cats but with much shorter legs. The world has accepted this physical trait in several dog breeds, including corgis, dachshunds, and basset hounds. Shorter legs in dogs have a purpose, often to aid in hunting. A lower profile makes tracking a scent easier for certain dog breeds. But in cats, this physical feature is purely for appearance’s sake.

The U.S. cat community has been slow to accept munchkin cats in all colors, including black cats. Are short legs on a cat a desirable trait or an ethical concern? Let’s take a look at the history of black munchkins, how the breed gained popularity, and whether they make good pets.


The Earliest Records of Black Munchkin Cats in History

There are accounts of cats with unusually short legs living in pre-WWII England. The story of munchkin cats in the U.S. originates in the early 1980s when a Louisiana woman found two pregnant strays. Both mother cats had normal-sized bodies but unusually short legs. The woman gave away one of the pregnant strays but kept one for herself, named Blackberry.

Blackberry gave birth to a mix of kittens with both regular-sized legs and shorter legs. One of these male kittens, Toulouse, remained unaltered. Toulouse was named after the French painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, who had an average-sized torso but short legs.

Black cat getting chin scratched
Image Credit: Helena Lopes, Pexels

As a teen, Henri’s condition was thought to be brought on by injuries, as he broke both femurs. Toulouse, the cat, roamed freely outside and likely had numerous descendants. Some munchkin aficionados credit Toulouse with expanding the breed.

It’s unknown if Blackberry or Toulouse were black. Black is the most common fur color in domestic cats. However, it’s rare to come across an all-black munchkin. Most black cats have patches of other colors.

How Black Munchkin Cats Gained Popularity

Munchkin cats weren’t known to the U.S. public until the 1990s when they were shown on a televised cat show. There were initial concerns over the ethics of the breed and whether the cats were healthy. While these disagreements remain, munchkins have slowly gained popularity over the decades.

Formal Recognition of Black Munchkin Cats

Munchkin cats of all colors continue to struggle to gain breed recognition in the U.S. Skeptics feel that unusually short legs are an undesirable trait that should be bred out of cats, not promoted. The International Cat Association (TICA) granted munchkins Champion status in 2003.

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Top 3 Unique Facts About Black Munchkin Cats

1. They are called “Munchkins” after the movie The Wizard of Oz

The two women credited with expanding the breed in the U.S. named the cats “Munchkins” after the Munchkinland in the Wizard of Oz.

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2. Some say Munchkins aren’t a cat breed

Some critics of munchkin cats state they aren’t a separate breed but rather the result of a dominant gene that results in shortened legs.

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3. There is a wide variety of Munchkin colors

In addition to black, munchkins can come in any coat color or pattern.

bicolor munchkin cat
Image Credit: MDavidova, Shutterstock


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Does the Black Munchkin Cat Make a Good Pet?

A black munchkin would do well in almost any home. They are playful, energetic, and love to be around their owners. Munchkins are typically smart and active. They need lots of interactive play and things to do, or they could become mischievous.

One downside to Munchkins is that they are somewhat clingy and not independent. Most munchkins are not good candidates to be left home alone all day. A munchkin is a good choice for anyone who wants a lap cat who will shower you with affection.

Munchkins cannot jump as high as other cats, but they can still run, leap, and pounce. Grooming needs depend on the length of a munchkin’s fur, which is typically short to medium. Longhaired munchkins need to be brushed at least twice a week, but shorthaired cats only need brushing once a week.

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Whether munchkin cats’ short legs are a breed distinction or an undesirable genetic trait is disputed. The breeding of munchkins began in earnest in the U.S. in the 1980s. While predominantly black cats are common, most have patches or stripes of other colors. Although black munchkins make excellent pets, they’re much harder to find than ones with other coat colors.


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Featured Image Credit: Seregraff, Shutterstock