The deliberate creation of dwarf cats through breeding is a relatively recent endeavor. Dwarfism in cats is the result of genetic, endocrinal, hormonal and environmental factors. A dominant genetic mutation that affects the feline's long leg bones produces short legs, according to "The Encyclopedia of Cat Breeds" by J. Anne Helgren.
Dwarf cats' names are almost too cute. The munchkin, bambino, dwelf, genetta, kinkalow, lambkins, minskin and skookums, can do almost anything that average-size cats do. Many find creative ways to accomplish difficult-to-reach objectives. A dwarf cat cannot jump up on tall furniture, so if you are looking for a pet who can leap onto the top of your refrigerator or bookcase, a dwarf cat will not be the best choice. Many dwarf breeds do figure out how to climb on dining room tables or kitchen counters, so you won’t miss out on the joy of catching your cats entertaining themselves by swatting things down to the floor or tasting your breakfast.
The munchkin might be the original dwarf cat, and it is thought to have evolved spontaneously within the feline gene pool. In the early 1980s, a music teacher found two pregnant dwarf cats under her truck in Louisiana. Their offspring eventually produced a feral population of munchkins who -- despite their rescuer’s occupation -- didn't sing, dance or live in Oz. To add to the fun, munchkins enjoy stealing shiny, little objects and hiding them to play with later, or so they can watch you search everywhere for that missing earring. Munchkin cats come in a variety of colors, with varying fur length and markings.
Bambinos are dwarf cats who are the result of breeding the munchkin and the sphynx cat. Bambino litters can have both short-legged and long-legged kittens, the only difference between them being their leg lengths. Bambinos are bred to be dwarf cats with very little hair, or ideally no hair. So, if you are drawn to very short, bald companions, the bambino might be the cat for you. Bambinos are described as intelligent, active and gentle. Agile and athletic, these little cats are affectionate and social, and they enjoy being handled by people and interacting with them.
Breeders have used munchkin, sphynx and American Curl cats to develop the dwelf, a dwarf cat that combines traits from each of its predecessors. This cat differs from each of the foundation breeds. The dwelf is hairless and small, with a short, muscular body, neck and legs that contribute to its solid, sturdy appearance. Its front legs are a little shorter than the hind legs, and this raises the back slightly from the shoulders to the hips. Dwelfs have long tails. Their broad-based ears are slightly curled and upright. These ears curve toward each other and flare open, resembling an elf’s ears.
People have fantasies, but it’s not every day that one comes to fruition. If your fantasy involves a little-known, short-legged, sturdy dwarf cat, you are in luck. The fantasy cat has a medium build, short tail and legs, curled ears, and random splashes of white fur on its head and body. Fantasy cats are hybrids, developed by breeding a munchkin, an American Curl and a naturally short-tailed domestic tortoiseshell. They are friendly, enjoy being handled and love attention.
A dwarf breed is being developed with the goal of creating an exotic dwarf cat that resembles the wild African genet. Created in 2006, genettas are bred using munchkins, bengals and savannahs. The perfect genetta should have short legs, a long, weasel-like body and muzzle, rounded ears and eyes and a tail that is longer than its body. Their coat, which has dark marbled and spotted patterns on lighter fur, should be smooth, short, thick and soft.
Lambkin dwarf cats, created by crossing the short-legged munchkin with non-dwarf, curly-coated Selkirk rex cats, are still being developed. With its long, curly, very soft and somewhat shaggy coat, the lambkin looks like a young lamb. Lambkins' eyes are usually blue, and these cats have particularly long tails. Despite being one of the smallest cat breeds, lambkins are able to jump or climb onto beds, couches, chairs and other high places that intrigue them. Lambkins are easygoing, affectionate, quiet and mellow cats who love human attention and affection.
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