The Mini Cat - A Munchkin Kitty Controversy
Mini cats, better known as munchkin cats, are seen by some as the unicorns of felines, something to gawk at and be genuinely amused by, to others they are a seen as a scourge within the feline gene pool. To Emma Philipsen, a Dutch feline owner, her mini cat is her pride and joy - the furry face she sees every night.
"Louis just turned 2 in July. I've had him since he was 10 weeks old. When I first got him he was covered in fleas and had really dirty ears. Thankfully that cleared up pretty quickly, he still has some ear problems once in a while but I give him ear drops (which he hates).
I found him accidentally on a Dutch website called marketplace on which people sell all sorts of things. I went to see him a few weeks before I made the decision to get him just to be sure he didn't have any disabilities. And it was love at first sight when I saw his little face."
"It's really no different from having a regular sized cat, although Louis is a lot faster than long legged cats - so he's harder to catch."
Emma's meander toward adopting a munchkin actually stemmed from her love of dogs.
"I always loved short legged dogs like Bassett hounds and Corgis but I'm more of a cat person and I don't have time for a dog. I saw a picture of a Munchkin cat on the internet once and decided that i only wanted a cat if I could have a Munchkin. Coincidentally, I found Louis on the internet."
While Munchkin Cats truly pounced into the spotlight in the 1990's, there were many documented accounts of cats with abnormally short legs - referred to as kangaroo cats due to them have strangely stumped forelegs.
It is believed that the current Munchkin cat breed descended from this marsupial-sounding meowser.
About 8 years before the big Madison Square Garden reveal, a music teacher by the name of Sandra Hochendel found a pair of pregnant felines hiding under a truck, who had just escaped a bulldog attack.
She opted to keep one of the plumply pregnant cats, naming her Blackberry. To Sandra's surprise, half of Blackberry's litter had stunted limbs - thus the true beginning of the Munchkin cat!
Sandra gave one of Blackberry's offspring to a friend who named him Toulouse. Toulouse was given unfettered access to the great outdoors, and his non-neutered self made the most of the midnight prowls.
Soon many similarly short legged strays began to pop up in the neighborhood - enough to garner the attention of The International Cat Association - and the rest is history!
It is believed that the birth of the munchkin cat breed was the result of a happy little accident. Much of what gives the breed it's distinct look is from a genetic mutation - specifically it's legs. Somewhere along the line, a gene mutated, causing the typically long leg bones to be somewhat stumpy.
Because this genetic mutation is dominant, only one of the parents need the mutation for the potential to create the marked stuntedness in the offspring - but not every kitten carrying the gene will develop these special limbs.
If both parents have the gene, the results are much more tragic. It is considered a lethal gene due to the fact that if both parents have the gene, the offspring will likely die in the womb.
Feline health experts say that, outside of the neo-natal risk, they are not exposed to any specific health risk from being born that way.
Mini Cat, Major Controversy
The munchkin cat was first introduced to the world on a grand stage. In 1991, the breed was nationally broadcast from a cat show at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Having the cat on such a stage gave him the utmost visibility - and the utmost rage. Many feline advocates were overcome with anger over the perceived physical deformities.
17 years later and there are still feline advocates up in arms over their proliferation.
Emma, however, finds the fur-fury unfortunate and a bit of a double-standard.
"Before I decided to get Louis I did a lot of research about the breed and although they can have problems the breed is fairly healthy and has the same amount of health problems as any other breed. So if people are against Munchkins, they should also be against other types of cats and dogs as well. I do agree that there are a lot of pets in shelters who need a good home so for my next pet I might go to a shelter."
While Munchkins are recognized by the public and The International Cat Association as a specific breed, not all organizations feel the same, including the American Cat Fanciers Association.
You can find Louis and all of his munchkinny exploits on Instagram at Louis_The_Munchking