10 January 2020
Short legs, round head and round eyes are the signature of Munchkin cats. But they often inherit bone malformation from parents at an early age.
Short legs, round head and round eyes are the signature of Munchkin cats. But they often inherit bone malformation from parents at an early age.

Munchkin cats look cute, but at what cost?

Munchkin cats have become popular in Hong Kong because of their cute looks and sweet nature. To make them even more appealing, some local breeders have crossbred the animals with Scottish Fold cats. The initiative may have improved the features in some cases, but it has come at a serious cost to the health of the creatures.

As both breeds have serious genetic problems, mating them gives rise to unhealthy offspring. Some kittens may?inherit bone malformation from parents, while some may eventually be unable to walk or die at an early age, as Apple Daily noted.

Munchkin cats are famous for their exceptionally short legs. This creates a clumsy walk and jumping weakness. Some people find these characteristics extremely cute; however, the cats spend most of their lives in pain even as they seemingly look adorable.

The Munchkin has become one of the hottest cat breeds in Hong Kong. Pet shops in Mong Kok are selling these cats for up to HK$12,000 (US$1,550) a head.

A pet shop worker told Apple Daily that “Munchkin cats have earned many fans in Hong Kong. Because of their short legs, these cats can barely jump. An adult Munchkin cat is even unable to jump over a chair, which minimize the damage that they can cause. That’s why Munchkin cats serve as great pets for Hong Kong people living in small apartments.”

But people who purchase these cats are actually ignoring the well-being of the feline. Let us give an example of a four-year-old Munchkin cat named Obi, a Scottish Fold crossbreed, to illustrate the problems surrounding the breed.

Obi was once a cute little kitten, but he was abandoned by his former owner when he reached his adulthood. Luckily, Obi was later adopted by Doris Wong, president of the Hong Kong Sickness Scottish Fold Concern Group.

Wong recalled that Obi was just like a normal cat when he was young, but his genetic problem began to manifest itself when he grew older.

“Now, when the humidity is high, Obi would have serious pain in his bones that makes him refuse to walk. Sometimes it is so painful that he can’t even jump into his litter box,” Wong said.

Li Changsheng, a local vet in Tseung Kwan O, said he has been receiving more Munchkin cases in the past two years. “Some breeders may even inbreed to increase the chance to produce a cute Munchkin cat,” he told Apple Daily.

In one case, a Munchkin cat suffered bone pain at an age as early as two years. “Its joints would rub against each other when it walks, which is causing unbearable pain for the cat. The cat has to receive life-long medication in order to relieve the pain, which is terrible. This kind of cat shouldn’t exist in the first place,” Li said.

Most Munchkin cats have skeletal abnormalities because of gene mutation, according to Britain’s Governing Council of the Cat Fancy, a cat registry organization. The Council strongly discourages people from breeding the cats as their genes are considered damaging to the offspring’s health and welfare. It also refuses to recognize the Munchkin and Scottish Fold as breeds.

Related story:

The ugly truth about dog breeding business

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EJ Insight writer