A dwarf cat is any domestic cat which has the condition of dwarfism due to a genetic mutation. Unlike undersized cats of normal proportions, dwarf cats display symptoms of osteochondrodysplasia—genetic disorders of bone and cartilage, typically manifested as noticeably short legs.
Since the mid-twentieth century, cat breeds with embedded dwarfism have been developed for commercial sale. The ethics of their selective breeding is hotly debated, and many countries prohibit it as cruelty to animals.
The term "dwarf cat" is incorrectly applied to cats such as Toy and Teacup Persians which, though small, are breeds of normal feline proportions. True dwarf cats are chondrodysplastic and have much shorter and thicker legs. Typically, half of a dwarf cat litter are non-dwarves born with normal leg length.
The Munchkin is the original breed of dwarf cats. The International Cat Association (TICA) gave recognition to the Munchkin as a breed in 1994, along with a Persian–Munchkin hybrid, the Napoleon. Other proposed breeds like the Skookum and Bambino have not been given recognition, although a Sphynx–Munchkin hybrid, the Minskin, is under study.
Recognition and controversy
Unlike TICA, most cat registries and pet associations do not recognize any dwarf cat as a legitimate breed. The animals are excluded from most major pet shows and contests. Largely an American phenomenon, they are not widely accepted outside of the United States. In its registration rules, the Fédération Internationale Féline prohibits breeds based on dwarfism, and specifically mentions the Munchkin as an example of unacceptable manipulation of "genetic disease". They are effectively banned under the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals and have been strongly condemned in the British magazine Cat World. In the US itself, the ASPCA admonishes its supporters to "stay vigilant" against the small but spreading market.
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