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Specialty Cats: Dwarf, Miniature and Teacup Cats

These rare and unusual cats are becoming very popular. But not all are genuine "minis" so be careful!

May 24, 2018 6 min read
Specialty Cats: Dwarf, Miniature and Teacup Cats

What are the Different Types of Miniature Cats?

The three types of small breeds cats are dwarf, miniature and teacup cats. There are subtle differences between them, but they all have the common trait of being very small when fully grown. Those seeking miniature cats should be warned that not all petite cats are true miniatures. The normal size range for cats is 5 - 12 lbs. and cats at the lower end of this spectrum are not necessarily miniatures, but may simply be runts that are being sold as miniatures.

Miniature Cats

The modern trend for miniature cats means that less scrupulous breeders charge high prices for runty or under-sized cats and some "breeding programs" are little more than kitten mills. Genuine miniature cats come from breeding lines where the size trait has literally been, or is being, controlled or manipulated by selective breeding, and where the cats are a consistently small size due to genetic mutation or to progressive downsizing.

Genuine breeders pay strict attention to health, hygiene and to the homes their cats are adopted into. Reputable breeders limit the number of litters produced each year to ensure the health of the female cats and will take great care to avoid excessive inbreeding (damaging to the immune system) and to continually widen their gene pools.

Dwarf Cats & Munchkin Cats

Dwarf cats are domestic cat breeds which have the condition of dwarfism due to a genetic mutation. The Munchkin is the founding breed of the chondrodysplastic (short-legged) dwarf cat. Through outcrossing the Munchkin with a variety of normally proportioned cats a substantial number of dwarf breeds have been developed. The major dwarf breeds as set by the Dwarf Cat Association are as follows:

  • Bambino - A cross between a Munchkin and a Sphynx cat
  • Dwelf - A cross between a Munchkin and an American Curl
  • Napoleon - A cross between a Munchkin and Persian cat
  • Skookum - A cross between the Munchkin and LaPerm cat
  • Kinkalow - A cross between the Munchkin and the American Curl
  • Lambkin - A cross between a Munchkin and Selkirk Rex
  • Genetta - A cross between Munchkin, Bengal cat, Savannah cat, Domestic Short Hair cat and Oriental SH - exotic, spotted/marbled cat like a wild African Genet
  • Minskin - A cross between Munchkin and Shynx cat, Devon Rex cat and Burmese cat

The development of dwarf cats is at a fairly early stage (since the mid 1980s) and dwarf cat breeders are currently striving for recognition with the major cat registries. Dwarf cats are not widely accepted outside of the USA. Dwarf cats are potentially banned under the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals (European legislation) and have been condemned in the British Magazine Cat World.

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Teacup Cats

In addition to chondrodysplastic dwarf cats, there are a number of normally proportioned dwarfed breeds. These are usually termed "mini" or "teacup" cats to differentiate them from the short-legged dwarf cats. Some may be due to a condition similar to primordial dwarfism found in humans. There are several lines of Teacup and Toy Persians currently being bred, with some due to a spontaneous mutation and others due to consistently selecting and breeding the smallest individuals from each generation to progressively downsize the breed.

Teacup cats are simply small "miniature" cats (meaning a size smaller than the category of cat called "miniature cats"). Smaller than usual cats occur for several reasons - some genetic, some hormonal and some environmental. Miniature cats are usually about one third to one half the size of normal size cats of the same breed. A genuine Teacup Cat however, is born with a genetic dwarfism that, instead of making just the legs short, causes the cat to be proportionally small all over. The discovery of this genetic mutation has caused popularity of the teacup cat to spread like wildfire.

Health Problems in Teacup Cats

Many breeders will agree that most "teacup" cats are, in fact, scams. Usually these cats were runts, born too early, or severely emaciated when they were a kitten. When buying "teacups" of any animal, take caution, as most primordial dwarf cats are born with severe health problems. Some common health problems of "teacup" cats include:

  • Severe growth retardation causing bones to become misshapen and soft
  • Slowing rate of muscle mass growth, causing weakness of the cat and a possibility of decreased use of limbs
  • Heart murmurs and enlarged heart
  • Seizures and other neurological problems, possibly causing blindness
  • Soft spot in top of skull, leaving cat susceptible to major head trauma
  • Misshapen jaw and bowed legs
  • Shortened lifespans
  • Reproductive organs never growing or growing in a malformed way

Due to their very, very small size it is impractical to take them home before they are at least five months old. Cat experts encourage you to take care when acquiring these very small cats, as miniature kittens are much more vulnerable than normal sized kittens.

Choose Wisely

Be careful when choosing a miniature, because not all teacup cats are in fact miniature cats or dwarf cats. In some cases, a cat's normal size is around 7-12 pounds; therefore some normal cats at the bottom end of this scale may have the appearance of a miniature cat, but will not be an actual "miniature or teacup" because the cat's genetic make up is that of a normal sized cat. Some unscrupulous breeders (and remember for many breeders their primary concern is ultimately commercial gain) will pass off normal/small cats as miniature cats, since miniature cats can fetch higher prices.

A good breeder will limit the number of litters to ensure that the queen stays healthy and to help make sure the gene pool is wide to avoid inbreeding (damaging the immune system) which could result in health problems and defects in offspring.

Things to Remember When Purchasing a Miniature Cat

Teacup cats are great pets but ensure that you get the following when you buy:

  • Health Certificate stating that the kitten is free of diseases
  • Proof that the cat has had its shots
  • Proof that the cat has been dewormed and flea-free
  • Proof that the cat has been spayed or neutered
  • A signed contract which ideally includes a health guarantee that your kitten is free from congenital defects (no genetic problems).

Other Important Items to Consider:

  • Microchipping so you can identify your mini cat if or when they get lost
  • Get your kitten checked by a licensed Veterinarian within 72 hours of purchase
  • Make sure to get booster shots for those given by the cattery after one year

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