Dwarf Cats: How This Trait for Smallness Comes About All About these Short-Statured Cats

Dwarf Cats: How This Trait for Smallness Comes About

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Some cats are born as dwarfs -- whether from an unplanned genetic mutation or from intentional breeding. Find out what it means when a cat is a dwarf.

Two of possibly the most famous (in recent memory at least) dwarf cats—Grumpy Cat (the perpetually frowning cat, who is known to be part calico) and Lil Bub (the cat with the big eyes, tongue perpetually hanging out, extra digits, and small stature)—were not bred to be small. Both are mixed-breed cats who just happened to be born with dwarfism. So why are some cats born with the condition? Certain breeds are more susceptible to the condition, but because dwarfism can bring along with it some serious related health issues (described below), the trend toward intentionally bred dwarf cats is not without controversy.

What Is Dwarfism?

A medical condition that causes affected cats’ bodies to be smaller and of different proportions than their same-age peers, dwarfism may be genetic and linked to issues with a cat’s bones, cartilage, metabolism, enzymes, or hormones. Cats with dwarfism usually have a body length that is typical for their breed but shorter-than-average limbs. Based on the degree of magnitude of the cat’s dwarfism, affected pets may also have mental retardation and brain issues.

Other issues related to dwarfism in cats are:

  • Joints and body movement may be irregular
  • The formation of the spine may be irregular
  • The head may be larger with a big jaw and abnormal muzzle
  • A dwarf cat’s chest may be flattened, which could impact breathing
  • The coat may never mature, retaining its kitten texture and never fully acquiring adult guard hairs

If the condition is the result of a hormonal imbalance, supplements may help manage the disease; otherwise, there is no treatment or cure for the condition.

Dwarf Cat Breeds

According to the University of Sydney, which compiles statistics on the occurrence of inherited disorders, traits, and genes in 200 animal species, the cat breeds most likely to be affected by the condition include:

Abyssinian - Considered to be one of the oldest known cat breeds, Abyssinians generally live into their 20s.

European Shorthair - Registered as a breed in 1982, these cats are, on the whole, considered to be very healthy as compared to other breeds.

Munchkin - The Munchkin (pictured above) is believed to date to the 1930s and to have received their distinct size and shape from natural variations passed along in a similar manner to Welsh Corgis and Dachshunds. They are recognized as a breed by The International Cat Association but not the Cat Fanciers Association.

Scottish Fold - A health issue these cats are known to suffer with is a joint-related disease called arthropathy.

- Among the oldest of cat breeds, Siamese are known to suffer from breathing and heart issues.

Organizations like the Designer Cat Network and the Dwarf Cat Association list other cat breeds -- such as Bambino, Dwelf, Genetta, Kinkalow, Lambkin, MiniPers, and Napoleon -- as being bred specifically for a “dwarf look” (i.e. short legged), but these are not recognized by either the International Cat Association nor the Cat Fanciers Association.

More on Cat Breeds

Where Do Different Cat Breeds Come From? - Infographic
Hypoallergenic Cats for People with Allergies
Friendliest Cat Breeds

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Abyssinian European Shorthair Munchkin Scottish Fold Siamese
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