It’s hard not to spot a Munchkin cat. The breed is characterized by stubby forelegs that are shorter than its hind legs. The Munchkin came around as a result of a genetic mutation, and though short-legged cats have been around since the 1930s (with sightings in England and Russia), the first official Munchkin cat was a pregnant stray called Blackberry that was found underneath a car in Louisiana, USA.

The breed became popular because who doesn’t love a tiny cat? That said, there’s been a bit of controversy surrounding the Munchkin, with some people saying that it shouldn’t be considered a breed because its particular genetic mutation can be dangerous and others saying that the Munchkin is no different from other recognized breeds. According to this Munchin owner, her babies are just as adorable and active as any cat out there.

Animal Scene sat down with Mannix Chua to find out more about this unusual breed.

Q: Can you give us a basic introduction to the Munchkin cat and how it came to be in the Philippines?

A: The Munchkin cat is a medium-sized cat with a long body. The Munchkin’s most distinguishing feature is its legs, which are short and stubby, typically half as long as a regular cat’s limbs. Aside from its stubby appendages, the Munchkin looks and acts exactly like a normal-legged cat and comes in a variety of patterns, colors, and fur lengths. As far as I’m concerned, my Munchkin cat was imported from the United States of America.

Q: How well does it adopt to our weather? Does it need air conditioning, coat trimming, or other measures to deal with the heat and humidity?

A: They adapt well to our climate. There’s no need for air conditioning, though you can provide them with an electric fan and give them cold water or an ice pack to help keep them cool.

Q: How big can you expect a Munchkin cat to grow, how long is its lifespan, and what other basics should those interested in it know?

A: A Munchkin’s lifespan is around 12-14 years. They are small to medium-sized cats that weigh around 3 kilograms.

Q: How often should they be groomed, and what are the best tools for the job, in your experience?

A: The Munchkin’s coat is easy to groom. Brush or comb a longhaired munchkin twice a week to prevent or remove mats or tangles. Short hairs can be groomed once a week. Regular nail trimming and ear cleaning if the ears look dirty. Start brushing, nail trimming, and teeth brushing when your cat is still a kitten so you won’t have problems performing these later on.

Q: Are the males bigger than the females? Which gender tends to be more docile? Do they like being held? Do they like human company? Do they appreciate the company of other felines? What about of other animals?

A: Males are usually bigger than females. Males are more territorial and tend to fight with other males. They are sweet-natured, playful, people-oriented, outgoing and intelligent cat which responds well to being handled.

Q: What for you are the defining characteristics of Munchkin cats, the thing or things that make them special and/or distinguishes them from other, similar cats?

A: This adorable dwarf cat is characterized by its very short legs, a trait that results from a natural mutation. but they have lots of energy and is faster and more agile than he looks.

Q: Is it difficult to keep a Munchkin cat in the Philippines? What are the best things you’ve learned about keeping it, in your experience? What challenges did you face in its care, and how did you overcome these?

A: It’s easy to keep a munchkin cat here. Just make sure you secure all your fragile and breakable things!

Q: Do their care requirements vary from other cats? Do they need a lot of attention? Do they need a special diet? What do they eat? What kind of exercise do they require?

A: Same care as the other cats. I feed them kibbles and wet cat food, give them lots of water—running water if possible. Just don’t cage them and they’ll take care of their own exercise.

Q: What are the characteristics of a healthy Munchkin cat? Conversely, what signs should keepers look out for that indicate when it is sick? What are its common health problems that owners should watch out for?

A: Their eyes should be bright, ears should be clean, and they should have good appetites.

Q: Munchkin cats have a controversial history. What do you think about critics saying that cats like this shouldn’t be bred for their physical deformity? Are they really prone to certain diseases? If so, how do you keep them healthy? What is the stance of breeders in the Philippines on this?

A: Many people argue that breeding the Munchkin is unethical because it perpetuates physical deformities. Experts say that Munchkins are fine, health-wise. If you take care of a Munchkin, you will see that their having short legs doesn’t hamper their abilities to jump and do other things that a normal legged cat can do.

Q: For someone who is interested in keeping a Munchkin cat for a pet, can you give them things to consider before taking the plunge? Who would they make ideal pets for?

A: They are active cats that can run and jump all around the place. If you want a “lazy cat,” this one is not for you.

Q: How much of a commitment does it take to keep Munchkin cats, and what advice would you have for someone who is keeping them for the first time? Were there any mistakes that you made as a beginner that you feel other beginners should learn from?

A: It’s important to keep all breakable things safe. Childproof the area where the cat is going to stay.

Q: What, in your experience, are the best tips for taking care of Munchkin cats? Are there any unique situations you’ve encountered and solved?

A: Care for them like regular cat and bathe them around twice a month. Something I’ve experienced is that two of my short-legged cats seemed to have a hard time giving birth, so they had to do so via Caesarean section.

Q: How do Munchkin cats interact with humans? Can you give us advice on how best to approach and handle them?

A: They love to cuddle and are very curious cats. You can play with them every night. Just remember to handle them with care.

Q: What are the signs to look out for when picking a healthy Munchkin kitten?

A: Kittens should be active and [play] with you.

This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s September 2017 issue.