Dwarfism in cats and dwarf breeds
What are dwarf cats?
These are cats which are smaller than average and stay smaller when fully grown. Dwarf cats have a genetic mutation which makes them under-sized, having smaller legs, bigger heads, smaller jaws in proportion to their bodies. In domestic cats, there are some breeds which are noticeably smaller than the usual cat proportions – in size and weight.
Dwarf cats can have ‘osteochondrodysplasia’ this is a condition affecting the cartilage and bone in dwarf cats, such as the Munchkin breed which has very short legs. Typically cats with ‘osteochondrodysplasia’ have similar-sized bodies to average cats but short, stubby legs. They may also have curvature of the spine and a bow-legged appearance. Cats with this condition need to be under the care of a vet and have regular health checks. Health problems include mobility issues, heart problems, breathing issues, and possible osteoarthritis, although not all dwarf cats will suffer all of these issues.
Why do cats get dwarfism?
Dwarfism can be due to genetics or because of selective breeding. There is also a third type of dwarfism a condition known as ‘Pituitary Dwarfism’, although this is very rare.
Pituitary dwarfism is caused by not enough of the growth hormone being produced in the pituitary gland and so growth is stunted. These cats are smaller and their bodies, heads and legs are usually in proportion. Such cats as well as growing slowly and smaller have slower development of the teeth. They may also retain their kitten fur. Cats with pituitary dwarfism are unlikely to live as long due to health problems such as hormonal issues and problems with the main organs.
The smallest breed cats
- Munchkin cats – named after the magical folk in the famous ‘Wizard of Oz ‘ film. These cats are dwarf due to a genetic mutation, giving the cats very short legs. Due to having stubby legs, they are not great at jumping heights, although they are known for their boundless energy. Munchkin cats love to play and they are very curious, they make excellent family pets as they enjoy human company and are happy to sit on your lap and cuddle up, as well as play games.
Cornish Rex and Devon Rex cats
- Friendly, small and hypoallergenic – these cats have only down hair and so are super-soft to the touch. Cornish and Devon Rex cats really enjoy company and so are an ideal companion if you are home most of the time. You can tell the Devon Rex by looking at the face they have very short whiskers and a little cute pixie face. Cornish Rex cats have long agile toes and so this means they can open doors, cupboards and cabinets with relative ease. Be careful as these clever cats will retrieve all kinds of things!
- This is the smallest domestic cat weighing in at only 4 – 8lbs when fully grown, females weighing the least. They are also known as ‘Drain cats’, ‘Love cat’ and ‘Kucinta’. Singapura cats have a brown coat with large eyes and ears. They have lovely personalities and enjoy attention. An agile, expert climber Singapuras have a zest for life and being sociable, peaceful and loving they can make fun companions.
- Lithe, agile, beautiful and light weighing only around 5lbs for a fully grown female. Siamese cats have the most captivating and mesmerising blue eyes as well as gorgeous shiny coats. Siamese cats are one of the oldest breeds in the world. Siamese cats are sociable and get on well with children and also dogs. These cats are trusting with people, and often form an extremely strong bond with one person. This Asian breed can live from 15 – 20 years in spite of their small build. Siamese cats should not be left alone for long periods of time – they need company. An affectionate cat, the Siamese may be small but has a super-intelligent brain and they are very vocal cats, enjoying conversation with their human.
American Curl cat
- This is not the smallest in our group of small cats. American Curl cats have distinctive curled-back ears (hence the name) and their size can vary, although they are still smaller than the average cat. These cats have beautiful green eyes and a playful nature, they enjoy being with people and have a loving nature.
- This is a new small (miniature) breed of cat which is hairless, with curled ears and also has big almond-shaped eyes. Its appearance is said to be ‘elf-like’. It has a small, dwarf-like body developed from crossing the Sphynx, American Curl and Munchkin cat breeds. This is a very sociable, friendly and playful cat which needs company. The Dwelf cats make great family pets although there is controversy over whether this designed breed is ethical due to possible health issues such as back and joint and bone problems. These cats need a weekly bath as they have no fur to absorb natural oils on the skin.
“Dwarfism is quite rare in cats. There are celebrity cats such as Grumpy Cat and Lil Bub. All cats are beautiful but our dwarf friends may need a little more care due to health issues.”