DWARF, MIDGET AND MINIATURE CATS - PUREBREDS
(INCLUDING "TEACUP CATS")
Copyright 2002-2013 Sarah Hartwell

Those seeking miniature cats (often known as "teacup cats") should be warned that not all petite cats are dwarf or miniature. The normal size range for cats is around 5 lbs to over 12 lbs and cats at the lower end of this spectrum are not necessarily miniatures. I have seen some advertisements claiming that cats under 10 lbs are miniature, when in fact they fall well within the normal size range! In the past, cats at the lower end of the size range were homed or sold as pets, particularly in the Persian breed where a massive, cobby build is required by the breed standard. The modern trend for miniature cats means that less scrupulous breeders charge high prices for runty or under-sized cats and some "breeding programmes" are little more than kitten mills. Genuine miniature cats come from breeding lines where the trait has been, or is being, fixed 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 widen their gene pools.

These pages neither promote nor condemn dwarf and midget cats. They are intended as a source of balanced information, presenting the potential health issues as well as describing miniature mutations and breeds.

Dwarf and Miniature Cats Yahoo Group: minicats. It is not a place to ask "where can I buy a miniature cat?" nor to ask "How do I breed miniature cats?" It is a place to compare notes with other owners of dwarf, miniature and teacup cats e.g. health, causes of small statured cats.

Click here to join minicats
Click to join minicats

(for pets, health and welfare discussion)
Click here to join The Dwarf Cat Association
Click to join The Dwarf Cat Association

(for breeders of purebred miniature/dwarf cats)
The Dwarf Cat Association
(info on dwarf and miniature breeds)

IMPORTANT NOTE

I regularly receive emails asking where to buy pet miniature cats or cats which "always stay kittens".

I do not breed or sell miniature cats. I do not have a list of breeders for different areas. The only contact details I have are those already contained in this article (with the breeder's agreement). Other small breeds (Singapura, Munchkin) are advertised in cat magazines and on the internet. True miniature cats are still rare and will be expensive because they are needed by breeders and only a few are sold as pets. Links and photos provided by breeders are for informational purposes and do not constitute an advertisement.

Miniature cats do not "always stay kittens". They grow up into adult cats and lose their kittenish looks and habits. The only difference is their size. If you are looking for a cat that will always be a kitten, you will be disappointed.

Modern Dwarf Breeds
Modern Miniature Breeds

Buying Mini Cats
Breeding Mini Cats
Appendix: Simple Mendelian Inheritance

MODERN DWARF BREEDS

Munchkin and Related Breeds

The Munchkin's short legs are due to dominant gene achondroplasia (or, more likely, one of the mimic conditions pseudochondroplasia or hypochondroplasia) which stunts the growth of the long bones and causes them to bow slightly; they are therefore normal-sized cats with short legs. There are two abnormalities associated with the condition. One is lordosis which causes a dip in the spine behind the shoulders and compression of the chest, the other is pectus which affects the chest. There is disagreement over how prevalent these traits are within the breed. Munchkin litters are often smaller than average cat litters, suggesting that some embryos die early and are reabsorbed by the mother (probably where the embryo inherits two copies of the gene). In Munchkins, the skull, spine and pelvis do not seem to be affected and, providing breeders are careful to avoid breeding from cats with lordosis or pectus, hence this form of dwarfism is considered cosmetic.

Once the gene for short legs has appeared, it is possible to introduce it into other breeding programs, for example the Minskin which combines the Munchkin's short legs with the Canadian Sphynx's hairlessness. The Minskin is neither a short-legged Sphynx nor a hairless Munchkin, but has its own unique look. Other breeds derived from Munchkin crosses include the curly-coated Skookum (Munchkin/LaPerm) and the Napoleon (Munchkin/Persian). For more information on the Munchkin, Minskin and other short-legged breeds please see Short-Legged Cats.

Minskin photos courtesy of Paul McSorley, www.minskin.com

The condition found in the Munchkin has been reported in various locations throughout history and in slightly varying forms. In some, only the forelegs are affected (foreleg micromelia) while modern Munchkins have forelegs and hindlegs equally affected (foreleg and hindleg micromelia). Cases of Munchkin-type cats have been reported in England in the 1930s and again in England in 1944, this time with 4 generations of cats being documented with foreleg micromelia. A short-legged condition was described by Schwangart and Grau (1931) and noted to be hereditary. Another was reported in Stalingrad, Russia in 1953. The modern Munchkin, with all four legs shortened, was discovered in Louisiana, USA in 1983. Since then, awareness of the condition has grown and similar, unrelated cats have been reported throughout the USA and other countries, occurring as spontaneous mutations. In 1993, I encountered shortened forelegs in a Mexican stray cat imported into Britain by a couple who took pity on his deformity. See Kangaroo Cats and Squittens Revealed for more detailed information. 

In October 2011, the Guinness World Record for the world's shortest living cat went to a 3 year old Munchkin called Fizz Girl,owned by breeder Tiffani Kjeldergaard, of Southern California. Fizz Girl measures only 6 inches at the shoulder. This is short, even by Munchkin standards, but like most Munchkins Fizz Girl still climbs to high vantage points around the home.

MODERN MINIATURE BREEDS

Genuine miniature cat breeds are a relatively new development in the cat fancy though there are several small cat breeds. Adult Singapura males weigh approx 6 lb (2.7 kg) and females weigh as little as 4 lb (1.8 kg). Some healthy adult female Siamese cats weigh only as 5 lb (2.26 kg) though some male Siamese can reach 20 lb (9 kg). Some Siamese breeding lines give smaller, more "fragile-looking" cats than others and the old-style Siamese cats are more robust than the rather skinny modern version of this breed. The Mei-Toi was once advertised (1990s) as a genetically miniature cat with no accompanying details. Latest information is that the Mei-Toi is now bred with Munchkins as the Mei Toi Munchkin. Of late, a Miniature Cat Register has been set up in the USA, but it is not affiliated with any major cat organisation, nor does it maintain genuine feline pedigrees. It defines cats in terms of height rather than weight (with short-legged breeds being exceptions to the guidelines!) with an adult Teacup cat standing no taller than 5-6 " at the shoulder while a Toy is up to 8" at the shoulder. It considers height a better guideline than weight because weight also depends on the cat's build (this link is provided solely for information and is not an endorsement of the Register; owners should make their own decision as to the credibility, or otherwise, of this or any other miniature cat register.)

American Miniature Cat

Many different breeds have been used to create the REFR's American Miniature, including Manx, Siamese, Persians, and crossbreeds including polydactyl cats. It is approximately half the size of the average housecat, never exceeding 7 lbs at maturity. American Miniatures are not short-legged, but are perfectly proportioned. All colours, patterns and fur types are permitted, along with polydactyl and short-tailed cats. Miniature is defined as no more than 12 inches long (base of neck to base of tail) and no more than 10 inches tall (top of paw to top of shoulder blade) when mature (from 18 months). Cats exceeding these measurements are not bred, even if their parents were miniatures.

Russian Toy Bobtail (Toy-Bob)

The Toybob is a Russian miniature breed. According to translator Svetlana Kalinina in 1995, the Toybob (or Toy Bobtail) had been bred for almost 10 years by Helen Krasnitchenko of Rostov-on-Don. She originally gave away the Toybob kittens as gifts rather than selling them. However, by joining the Felinological Association of Russia (FAR) it became possible for the Toybob to become a recognised breed and her cattery was named "skif-toy-thai-bob". The Toybob may not be outcrossed to any other breed. Its diminutive size is inherited though its exact genetic cause is not currently known. There are currently no reports of any abnormalities. It also seems to be extremely healthy due to the harsh environment where it originated. It is not well-known outside of its native Russia.

The Toybob standard describes it as being the size of a normal domestic kitten of 3-4 months old and weighing 2-5 lbs. It has a compact, solid body and excellent muscles, with a short straight or curved bobtail which forms either a "brush", a "mini-spiral" or a pom-pom. The legs are proportional to its body. Despite the tiny size, they are healthy, lively, alert and pretty. The head is not over-large and is rounded with a slight break from forehead to nose (i.e. the "dent" that marks the break between forehead and muzzle). It has rounded cheekbones and a medium-short broad muzzle. The bright blue eyes (these are associated with its Siamese-type colouring) are large and round and set slightly slanted. Its ears are proportionally large, wide-open, high and straight set. The traditional colour is colourpoint without any white mitts. Before the appearance of the Toy-Bob, the Singapura was considered to be the smallest pedigree breed in the world.

While several of Russia's indigenous breeds quickly found enthusiasts in the US and UK, the Toy-Bob was initially not one of them - surprising considering the amount of interest in mini-cats in the USA. In 2004, Sacred Spirit Cattery (Idaho, USA) imported a pair of Toy-Bobs called Pashka America and Mikki. Both the World Cat Federation and TICA have breed standards for the Toy-Bob.

Miniature Ragdolls

In 2013, I learnt of a line of dwarf Ragdolls that trace back to a common ancestor (believed to be a stud cat). Pituitary dwarf Ragdoll "Tiny" was born on the 22nd March 2011; he is very healthy apart from has problems with nasal secretions. At one point, Tiny collapsed and was lucky to pull through. He was tested two years ago for pituitary dwarfism. Tiny was small from day one and his teeth did not come through until he was 18 weeks old. Another Ragdoll breeder had a female pituitary dwarf Ragdoll born in 2012 and shared a common ancestor with Tiny. Unfortunately, this female dwarf Ragdoll collapsed, and unlike Tiny, did not pull through.

In 2013, a further three pituitary dwarf kittens were born. One (a female called “Didge”) was born in March and has the same sire as Tiny. Didge is perfectly formed and has her teeth, but at 4/5 weeks of age, her growth rate had slowed down in comparison to her littermates. She also had very sparse hair and almost translucent skin. In appearance, though not in growth pattern, Didge resembled Tiny. Didge is now 23 weeks. Her full coat came in around 15/16 weeks and she looks like a miniature Ragdoll. In August 2013, she weighed in at 1.7kg while her normal-sized sisters weighed 2.4kg and 2.7kg.

The other two dwarf kittens were born to Tiny’s parents, making them full-siblings to Tiny. They were part of a litter of five, and the remaining three grew at the normal rate. The dwarfed kittens are a male and a female and share the looks and growth pattern of Didge. By week 8/9, the kittens were lean and slender with large ears. At 14/15 weeks, their coats are altering.

The inheritance pattern currently suggests a recessive gene carried by both of Tiny’s parents and by Didge’s mother, however the owner is arranging genetic tests. Apart from the kittens’ and their parents, it is not known if any other Ragdolls currently carry the gene. So far, all breeding of these dwarf Ragdolls has been to identify where the gene came from and how it is inherited.

Miniature Persians

As one of the oldest selectively bred varieties in the Western cat fancy, it is perhaps not surprising that miniatures have been reported several times in Persians and Himalayans (Colourpoint Persians). Until recently, miniature Persians were regarded as curiosities only. There are now several catteries (USA, Canada, UK) breeding small-statured Persians, most resulting from progressive downsizing.

Through a selective breeding program begun in the mid 1980's, a breeder from Staten Island, New York, USA progressively "down-sized" Persians and Himalayans to consistently produce genetically smaller versions. Such a program breeds only breeding from the smallest cats of each generation as these carry genes for smaller size (or lack genes for normal size) without being dwarf or midget cats. All other physical features and personality traits reportedly remain the same as their larger counterparts. They are miniature versions of the older type "doll-faced" Persians and the breeders, Mini Isle Cattery of Long Island, New York emphasise that the cats are not miniatures, not runts. The miniaturisation is variable and cats bred vary according to the size they reach at 9-10 months of age. Mini females™ weigh 6-8 lbs and Mini males™ are 8-10 lbs. The Pixie™ females are 4-6 lbs with Pixie™ males weighing 6-8 lbs. The smallest category, Teacup females are a mere 2-4 lbs while the Teacup males are 3-6 lbs. It is not always possible to determine which kittens in a litter will reach which of these size categories. Miniature kittens are more vulnerable (e.g. to temperature fluctuations) than normal sized kittens. Being miniature poses health problems to pregnant cats so the breeding females must be 4-8 lbs in weight and breeding males are 4-10 lbs. Note: Trademarking of the "Mini" prefix may be a problem since this prefix is a standard part of the English language and "Mini-Himalayans" have occurred in the past (unconfirmed reports from Europe).

The other diminutive Persians are Bonnie Arnold's Toy Persians which mature at about 3-5 pounds, compared with the normal 14 pounds. In contrast to the down-sizing breeding program, these are the result of a sudden mutation. Her Teacup Persians and Toy Persians began in 1995 when a spontaneous genetic mutation occurred within the sperm-producing cells of a 14 lb breeding male Persian called "Treker". Treker and his offspring are currently the best documented (in respect of breeding data rather than scientific investigation) cases of feline miniaturisation hence the large amount of information presented here.

In the early 1990s, her prize-winning smoke tortie female was bred to her 14-pound cameo tabby son. This produced 5 kittens of which 2 were noticeably small, something then attributed to breeding close relatives together. The 2 small kittens were neutered and rehomed. The father of this litter, Ch. Nightspell Star Treker, became main stud cat. Treker managed to mate with his own full sister, not a planned or ideal mating, producing 3 tiny kittens which were again attributed to inbreeding. Two were strictly pets, but one had potential yet did not grow despite Science Diet and vitamins. Arnold was certain that 5 small kittens out of a total of 8 kittens was due to inbreeding. Treker was next bred to 2 females to whom he was unrelated. Treker's 3rd litter sired produced 4 normal sized kittens, yet two of the kittens grew at only half the rate of the other two. The same happened to all 3 of the kittens produced by the other female. 10 out of 15 of Treker's kittens had proven to be small therefore Arnold stopped using him as stud and sought specialist advice. Dr. Solveig Pflueger, a noted feline geneticist, suggested 2 test matings to see if the small kittens were flukes, the results of recessive genes or more unlike the result of Treker having a spontaneous genetic mutation in his germ cell resulting in a dominant gene for diminutive size.

The test matings were full-brother sister breeding which had previously produced l00% small cats (therefore recessive genes were suspected), and an outcross to a domestic cat (i.e. not a Persian at all, but a random mix of genes). The brother/sister mating produced a normal large kitten which seemed normal but grew at a reduced rate. Dr Pflueger remained sceptical that a spontaneous genetic mutation would prove responsible for the small size; recessive genes were far more likely. The domestic cat's kittens were 2 normal size males, 1 normal size female, and 2 small females; but all grew into small cats. This demonstrated a dominant gene was responsible, possibly asp-miniaturisation. Later work on the breed also involved a veterinarian in the Dallas area (where the cats are bred), Dr Kent Cooper.

All of the kittens from litters No. 3, 4, 5 and 6 (ranging in age from 6 months to 1.5 years old) were spayed and neutered except for 3 males and for a female too small for spay surgery (this is one of the pitfalls of miniature cats - spay surgery may have to be delayed because of the cats' small sizes). Arnold had no plans to breed the little girl, as a 3 lb cat would have problems delivering and nurturing 4 oz kittens; however the oldest male would be bred to a full-size female.

76% of kittens sired by Treker are miniatures. This indicates a germ-cell mutation - although the stud cat is of normal size, there has probably been a mutation in the cells which produce sperm so that many of his offspring inherit a mutated gene causing the small size. Toy Persians mature at around 5 lb while Teacup Persians pounds maturing at 3-4 lbs pounds with some maturing at less than 3 lbs. Despite their small size, the diminutive cats are have all been perfectly healthy.

In April 2002, after seven years, and five generations, Bonnie's Persians are tiny; some as small as 2.5 pounds at maturity. The picture above shows an miniature adult male and a standard Persian male. Despite their diminutive stature, they are "disgustingly healthy" showing none of the problems their detractors originally warned about.  At present, she is breeding the tiny males to standard outcross females to broaden the gene pool. Matings of tiny-to-tiny have so far produced no negative results.

Above, standing by a cola can for comparison, is a Toy Persian (5 lbs at maturity).   She is a very stocky, cobby, heavy-boned and hefty, properly put together according to the CFA Persian standards, except for her overall size. 

An approx 5 month old Teacup Persian at 1 lb 4 ounces. She was expected to mature at around 3.5 pounds (note: predictions cannot be exact). She was also solidly built and hefty for her size. This is not at all what people think when a cat is described as weighing 3.5 pounds i.e. not spindly, light-boned, fragile in any way, nor emaciated. If anything, she was considered a little overweight for herage and size.

Photos supplied by Bonnie Arnold, Catsinthecradle Cattery

Other lines of Miniature Persians are MiniPers and MiniPaws. MiniPers are Tea Cup and Miniature Persians & Exotics, developed by Cher Simnitt in California. These cats have primordial-type dwarfism (their physical aspects are in proportion), being miniature versions of the Persian/Exotic. MiniPaws Tea Cup and Miniature Persians and Exotics, developed by My Tea Purdys Cattery carry both pseudochondroplasia/hypochondroplasia and primordial-type dwarfism; they are proportionately small except for their shortened legs.

Due to public interest, rather than cat fancy interest, more and more small-sized Persians have appeared since these first 2 lines were documented. As there is no recognised breed standard, different breeders are free to use whatever description they wish for a size or weight range. For example some refer to their miniatures as "palm-sized" or "pocket" Persians and give a weight range of under 3.5lbs (female) and under 4lbs (male), while others refer to "pixie", "mini" or "teacup".

Miniature Siamese

The modern Siamese cat is smaller than the cats originally imported from Thailand. The small size has been selected for since the breed first arrived in the western cat fancy over a hundred years ago. True miniature Siamese have occurred on several occasions and one of the cats reported in the Guinness book of Records was a Siamese/Manx cross.

A breeder in South Carolina had been working with Miniature Siamese called Munchinese since the mid-1990s, but these appear to have been discontinued. Of the two strains of miniature Siamese currently found, one seems to be the result of progressive downsizing and the other the result of mutation.

In 2002, April Langford reported miniature Siamese cats, including "Yoko" (below). Born to slightly smaller-than-average sized parents, the offspring mature at 3lbs as extremely dainty, but healthy, cats. So far, the miniature Siamese have been neutered in case their small size is detrimental to health. The family line comprises both Modern and Old Style Siamese with the intention of producing an intermediate type. Instead of the intermediate type, miniature Siamese appeared. Two sisters bred to the same male produced only miniature offspring. At present, interested breeders and geneticists are looking into the inheritance of this trait and whether it could become a breed.

Mini-Siamese "Yoko" (8 months, photo: April Langford)

Mini-Siamese "Yoko" (1 year, photo: April Langford)

Breeding of miniature Siamese was discontinued later in 2002 due to problems with miscarriages and to kitten mortality due to small size or because the mothers failed to produce milk. Some of the miniature Siamese were aggressive towards other (often larger) cats and to other animals, including dogs. The miniature cats were disposed of to another breeder and 2003 it has since been reported that the problem traits have been bred out and the breed may be on a sound genetic footing.

Mini-Siamese "Bonsai" with normal size litter-mate and cigarette packet for scale (8 weeks)

Mini-Siamese "Bonsai" with normal size litter-mate (both are 8 weeks old)

In January 2004 I heard from Kevin Houle, an American breeder of Siamese cats since 1987. On November 15th 2003, one of his females produced a midget chocolate point kitten (called "Bonsai") along with two normal sized kittens. Bonsai tested negative for FIP and FeLV and appears to be completely healthy, although Kevin notes that the vet seems determined to find something physically wrong and wants to perform further tests. This is the first midget kitten the vet has seen. Bonsai has been fed boiled chicken and rice since she started solids at 4 weeks old. She and her siblings are fed Purina Kitten chow and Iams kitten dry food on a free choice basis; Bonsai eats well and has no digestive problems, but is just not growing. Despite being much smaller, Bonsai is at the same stage of development as her litter mates. She is now separated from her siblings as they are 4 times Bonsai's size and their play is too rough for her. Kevin has taken photos of Bonsai alongside some common object to indicate her scale and he has contacted Guinness World Records.

Manx, Cymric and Siamese/Manx

Tanglewood Farm breed a family pet type Miniature Manx Cat that stands under 10 inches tall and weighs less than 10 pounds. Though smaller than typical Manx cats, 10 lbs is well within the normal weight variation for domestic cats. Dakota Winds Ranch is breeding miniature Siamese/Manx crosses sired by a 3.5 lb black smoke Manx/Siamese cross called "Nip" (black smoke indicates some silver tabby ancestry). The cats are descended from a bloodline which are smaller than normal (tracing back to a small Cymric called "Al") and are therefore progressively downsized, maturing at 3 - 5 lbs. The progressively downsized Manxes and Cymrics range from 4 - 5 lbs. This line is not purebred nor pedigree as there is no registry for Siamese/Manx crosses (they are considered moggies by registries). Prices range from $300 to $1500, apparently catering to the novelty pet market rather than seeking breed status.

OTHER MINIATURE PUREBREDS

The following are isolated cates of miniature or dwarf cats occurring in purebreds where the trait has not been perpetuated.

Keuda

In the American Keuda program, some mini-Keudas appeared, but most were lost in an FIP outbreak. In 2002, only one breeding female was left and her offspring did not breed true for small size. Back-crossing with her only son might restore the trait.

Cupcake (Desert Lynx)

In September 2002, I had an email from Sandra Norman of "Amazing Grace" cattery (Desert Lynx and Savannahs). She had read of the "Minx" - not a breed in its own right, but a colloquial term for a miniature Manx-type cat - and sent a photo of her miniature "Cupcake". Cupcake is a perfectly formed miniature, not a dwarf. She produced two litters of kittens before being spayed. Unfortunately she has poor bathroom habits which could be associated with the lack of tail - the muscles at the base of the tail are also involved in controlling the rectum.

Bengal

Another correspondent (Bruno) acquired a Bengal kitten which, at sixteen weeks old, was the size of an eight week old kitten. When chosen at a few weeks of age, the kitten was about half the size of its littermates and grew at a slower rate, never catching up in size. The other kittens were normal sized and grew normally. This miniature Bengal is described as small but normally proportioned. There were some suspected digestion problems which may have slowed growth rate. The owner asked about treating his kitten with growth hormones as are used with humans and cattle, but at present feline growth hormone is not available and the effect of using another species' growth hormones is unknown.

LaPerm

Butterpaws Cattery, Saskatoon, Canada reported teacup sized individuals in the early years of LaPerm breeding. The females were 2-5lbs and males were 4-6lbs. All teacup size individuals, and cats that produced them, were neutered to eliminate the trait from the LaPerm breeding line.

Miss Muffet (Devon Rex)

Miss Muffet the miniature Devon Rex and littermate at 2 weeks old.

Miss Muffet and normal-statured kitten at 10 weeks old. Photos copyright Eliza Leahy

"Miss Muffet" is a miniature purebred Devon Rex born to "Chantilly Lace" on the 27th April, 2006 and sired by "Magic". At 16 months she weighs just 4lbs (2kgs), half the size of her normal-statured brother "Little Boy Blue". She weighed 80 grammes at birth and was bald while her brother had the usual kitten coat. She looked like a premature kitten. She suckled strongly, but didn't grow and appeared to be skin and bones so owner Eliza Leahy provided supplementary bottle feeds. Her eyes opened and she began walking at the same time as her brother, but the only part of her that grew were her ears while her legs are proportionally short. By her 4th week, she weighed the same as a normal 1 week old. Her only health problem is a weepy eye, which isn't related to her size.

Itty Bit (American Bobtail)

Kerry Mitchell provided this photo of Itty Bit. Kerry and her sister have bred American bobtails for severalyears. As well as being a bobtail, Itty Bit is 6 months old and the size of a 8 -9 week old kitten. Her parents are normal size, with the father being 13 lbs.

Kerry has previously seen some odd outcomes when 2 of her cats are bred together. The first breeding of the 2 cats resulted in stillbirths. The second breeding of the same pair resulted in some kittens having missing limbs in addition to the tail mutation as well as stillbirths. The female, Dee Dee had large litters of 6-7 kittens which is unusual for the breed. A final breeding gave 3 stillbirths with the remaining kittens healthy. Kerry stopped breeding the 2 cats together as the stillbirths indicated the pair produced a lethal combination of genes in th kittens.

A son of Dee Dee and a different male is Kerry's main stud cat. A daughter from the male used in the mutated breedings above is also used. A pairing of these 2 cats resulted in Itty Bit plus 2 other kittens and 2 stillbirths. Breedings from the 3rd/4th generations or with more distant related cats did not produce limbless of stillborn kittens. Dee Dee is no longer bred to any male related to Kerry's main stud; when bred to other studs the kittens are healthy. When the main stud is bred to other females, the kittens are fine. The problems only arise when the main stud is mated to Dee Dee.

Strangely, Dee Dee and the stud are not at all related so the problem appears one of incompatibility, not inbreeding. Dee Dee's mother was Ot1 (a naturally found bobtail that was registered as American Bobtail after approval from 3 TICA judges) and her father is a Champion American Bobtail and Ot2 (one generation removed from a naturally occurring American Bobtail). Dee Dee is also Ot2. The stud bred to Dee Dee was another Ot1 cat, this time from a farm.

BUYING MINI CATS

While small breeds such as the Munchkin and the Singapura are becoming more common, true miniature cats are still a rarity. The only ones bred for sale to the public at the time of writing are miniature Persians and these are only available in the USA.

If you are looking for miniature Persians, expect to pay a great deal of money and to wait a long time! Their price depends on their predicted size (not always accurate) and how closely they meet their breed standard. The largest of the miniatures can cost from $350 to over $600. Slightly smaller miniature Persians are $500 - $1000 and the tiniest miniature of the miniature Persians will cost upwards of $1000. Breeding miniatures of a consistent size is not yet an exact science - often, the breeder can only give an estimate of the cat's final size based on the size of the parents. Genetics and environmental factors mean there will be a variation in size. Only with fully mature cats, is the size guaranteed.

This uncertainty means not all purchasers of miniature cats will be satisfied. For $1000 many are buying an unrealistic dream of a perpetual kitten. A cat weighing 3 lbs at 5 months might reach 7 lbs at a year old - still petite compared to full size Persians of up to 14 lbs, but larger than the perpetual kitten a person may believe s/he is buying.

Some complain that they cannot get their miniature cats until the cats have reached 5-6 months old and are neutered. Six months allows a better estimate of the cat's final size and to ensure the cat is large enough and robust enough to be rehomed. It allows the breeder to decide which cats are pet quality and which are kept for breeding. It age may also filter out the many people who are only interested in kittens, not in adult cats (many cats, even expensive ones, are abandoned at 6 months old). Neutering is not "purely to protect the breeder's interests", it prevents unscrupulous buyers from adding to overpopulation (or setting up kitten mills/kitten farms) in an attempt to cash in on the current vogue for miniature cats. It also ensures that only the best and healthiest examples of the breed are used to perpetuate the breed and removes the need for neutering contracts (often not honoured by buyers). Breeders of miniatures acknowledge that breeding from the tiniest of the females may endanger their health; especially if she is bred to a full-size male - spaying before homing removes this risk to the cat's health.

Because miniature cats are a new development, additional provisions may be made in the sale document when you buy one. These provisions are in addition to the normal pedigree cat sales contract conditions. For example these items specific to miniature size are excerpted (by permission) from the Toyland Persians contract and indicate the degree of uncertainty regarding final size and life expectancy:-

"6. Documentation: Thorough testing and analysis of this mutation by veterinarians and feline geneticists over the past seven years indicate that these Cats appear healthy and normal in every way except for size. However, purchaser understands that it is imperative for the proper documentation on this mutation, that detailed records continue to be maintained on all health related issues which might arise. In such regard, Purchaser agrees to notify Breeder of any change of address or telephone number, and agrees to respond to at least an annual questionnaire regarding the progress, health, and development of this Cat. In addition, Purchaser agrees to notify Breeder immediately if any health issues arise so that detailed data may be compiled. Purchaser also agrees that if this Cat should die for any reason, including accident, Purchaser will immediately notify Breeder and allow Breeder to have an autopsy performed at Breeder's sole cost and expense to determine not only the cause of death, but to compile additional data with respect to the absolute normalcy of all internal organs, and their function, again, so that detailed data and history may be compiled on this mutation.

(In general, a signed and notarized statement from the examining veterinarian containing his professional opinion that the Cat is unhealthy, including his description of his diagnosis is required to support claims of serious health issues. This type of agreement is common to most sales contracts.)

9. Health Guarantee: Purchaser understands that this Cat is one of the miniature cats produced by Nightspell/Toyland. Research indicates that a spontaneous genetic mutation occurred within the germ cell of Champion Nightspell Star Treker resulting in a dominant gene for diminutive size. The Cats produced by this line of cats appear healthy in all respects, have been vet checked and deemed healthy to date, and their health is guaranteed as set out below. Buyer understands, however, that no expectation with respect to longevity has been formulated. Purchaser understands that the Breeder has carefully evaluated this Cat with respect to its ultimate anticipated mature size based on her experience in the past seven years of working with the gene and tracking the growth rates of Cats produced by this line, but there is no guarantee with respect to size.

15. Purchaser acknowledges and agrees that it has selected this kitten considerably before it has reached the age of six months; and it will not be available for possession by Purchaser until the first to occur of 1) the kitten attaining the age of six months or 2) the kitten reaching the weight of 3 pounds. Breeder has carefully evaluated this Cat with respect to its ultimate anticipated mature size based on her experience in the past seven years of working with the gene and tracking the growth rates of Cats produced by this line, and she is currently of the opinion that this cat will mature as a Teacup with a purchase price of $1,000.00. Purchaser agrees, however, than when this kitten reaches the age of six months, Seller may reduce the purchase price of this kitten to $750.00, if in the Breeder's sole opinion, this kitten appears that it will be a Toy instead of a Teacup upon maturity. "

i.e. if you reserve a miniature kitten, you must accept the risk that the kitten you have reserved might not be the size you wanted. Because of the short supply of miniatures, potential owners must expect to pay a deposit to reserve a kitten and to sign a deposit agreement to show that they understand the variability of final size and can, if necessary, opt out prior purchasing the kitten:-

"A preliminary evaluation as to the anticipated adult size of the Kitten will be made prior to notification of the availability of said Kitten. Said evaluation will be made by Breeder, in her sole opinion, and will be based on her tracking of the history of the growth rates of kittens produced by this line since its discovery in 1995. Purchaser acknowledges, however, that due to the variability of the rate of growth between individuals, final evaluation as to anticipated adult size may not be made until the Kitten reaches six months of age. If at that time, the Kitten is evaluated by Breeder other than as described above, Purchaser will not be obligated to purchase the Kitten. Purchaser understands that if he has selected a kitten anticipated to be a Teacup upon maturity, Breeder will accept a back-up agreement from another Purchaser for the same Kitten should it appear, upon final evaluation, to be developing into a Toy instead of a Teacup. Likewise, if Purchaser has indicated his desire for a Toy, Breeder will accept a back-up agreement from another Purchaser for the same Kitten should it appear, upon final evaluation, to be developing into a Teacup instead of a Toy. Purchaser will have the right to accept the Kitten regardless of size prior to any back-up Purchaser being notified. If final evaluation as to anticipated adult size changes from the preliminary evaluation and Purchaser accepts the Kitten, the purchase price will be adjusted accordingly."

Breeding miniature cats is, therefore, far from an exact science. Prospective purchasers must accept a degree of uncertainty as well as joining a waiting list and paying anything up to $1500. Despite the uncertainties involved, demand far outstrips supply.

Approx seven month old male weighing 2.5 pounds. Note: predictions of final adult weight cannot be exact.

Photos supplied by Bonnie Arnold, Catsinthecradle Cattery

BREEDING MINI CATS

Genetically small cats are now being used in some breed programs to create Mini-versions of popular breeds: Mini-Bengals, Mini-Munchkin, Mini-Keuda - in fact once the mutation for miniature cats has appeared, it can be introduced into any breed. There are problems where miniature (dwarf or midget) female cats are allowed to breed - if the kittens reach full term and are not miniature, a caesarean section is needed as their larger heads cannot pass through the miniature mother's birth canal. Breeders need to be careful about which kinds of dwarfism they are working with as the genetics and the eventual appearance are different. As more breeders become interested in mini-cats and the cats are bred over a longer time-frame, it is probable that breeders will report "oddities" (unexpected dwarf/non-dwarf kittens, different physical proportions etc) and that this will lead to other forms of feline dwarfism being identified.

Miniaturisation is self limiting as there is a threshold weight below which offspring are unlikely to survive (as seen in the miniature Siamese) and, in some lines at least, there may also be problems with miscarriage and ability to produce milk.

One way in which breeders have increased size in domestic cats is through breeding them with wild species. Hybridization is usually aimed at importing conformation or coat pattern into a domestic breed, but it also imports genes controlling growth and size. It would, theoretically, be possible to decrease size by breeding domestic cats with smaller wild cat species. Small wild species such as the diminutive Sand Cat (F margarita, 4lbs - 6lbs) and Black-Footed Cat (F nigripes, 2.4 lb. to 4.2 lb) have been suggested. Breeding different sized cats in this way can be problematical e.g. reduced hybrid fertility, gestational mismatch (see Domestic x Wildcat Hybrids in Britain ) and hybridization is frowned on by conservationists as a waste of genes, especially where the wild parent is rare.

Breeders can be disappointed to find that some apparently miniature cats simply do not produce miniature offspring. This may be because genetic dwarfs also carry the gene for normal size and all the offspring inherit those genes. Where the cats consistently produce normal-size offspring, it is most likely because the small stature is due to non-hereditary causes such as environmental effects or a birth defect. In other cases, the miniature stature is not always apparent from birth - normal size kittens may grow into full size cats or may grow at a reduced rate and become miniature adults.

The following few paragraphs are a very simplified summary. For more details on genetics in general, there are plenty of resources on the web. The following only considers genetic (inherited) forms of dwarfism where a single gene (simple dominant/recessive) is involved. It indicates some of the hazards faced by breeders of dwarf cats.

Genes are carried in pairs. One copy of each gene inherited from each parent. Each gene may have a number of variants (mutations) . In each pair, one gene is often dominant over the other; the non-dominant gene being called the recessive gene. Dominant genes are the ones which have a visible effect (are "expressed"), while recessive genes are hidden. The only time recessive genes are expressed is if the an individual inherits two copies of the recessive gene; there won't be a dominant gene to mask its effects. Even though recessive genes are hidden, they can be passed on to the next generation and whether they are expressed or not will depend on what gene is inherited (dominant or recessive variant) from the other parent. This is very relevant in mutations which cause dwarfism.

If two normal-sized cats produce dwarf offspring, it is most likely that both parents both carried a hidden recessive gene for dwarfism and that the offspring has inherited the same recessive gene from each parent. Since it doesn't have a dominant gene for normal size, the offspring is a dwarf. If mated to another dwarf offspring produced by the same parents, the two dwarf cats will only ever produce more dwarf cats because neither of them has the gene for normal size. If mated to a normal-size cat (e.g. one of their own parents) which carries that hidden gene for dwarfism, the kittens will be a mix of dwarf and normal size. If mated to a normal size cat which does not carry that gene for dwarfism, the offspring will all be normal size, but they will carry a hidden gene for dwarfism.

Another possibility is that the offspring has a dominant gene mutation causing dwarfism and that the parents don't have any genes for dwarfism at all. This means that its own offspring only have to inherit one copy of the dwarfing gene and that they carry a hidden gene for normal size. If two such cats (with a dominant dwarfing gene and a hidden non-dwarfing gene) are bred together the kittens will be a mix of normal size and dwarf size.

Why is all this important?

Breeders must know what sort of mutation they are dealing with. To perpetuate any breed, female cats are required and dwarf females can have problems giving birth to normal sized kittens. If the condition is due to recessive genes then two related dwarf cats will breed true for dwarfism. If it is due to a dominant gene, then a dwarf mother cat can have normal sized kittens and this can be dangerous for her. If two unrelated dwarf cats are mated, it may turn out that they have different genes causing the dwarfism.

When a dwarf female has normal sized kittens, those kittens may be too large to pass through her birth canal. Her body may be too small to accommodate non-dwarf kittens so they may be miscarried before they are able to survive. A dwarf mother may be unable to produce enough milk to feed rapidly growing non-dwarf kittens. If the kittens are born small, they will be more fragile than normal sized kittens and their survival chances may be reduced. In addition to hazards associated with being small, some genes also cause variable side-effects which be disabling or deadly.

In owned cats, a vet can deliver kittens by caesarian and an owner can help feed them using kitten formula milk. In stray or feral cats there is a high probability that the mother, or the kittens, or both will die - this goes some way to explain the rarity of dwarfism. If the mother produces normal sized kittens, a breeder must be very careful about mating her to other cats in order to avoid this hazard. In the wild, dwarf cats may be at a disadvantage when competing against larger, more robust, cats for food or mates so the trait might not get passed along.

It may take several test-matings (including mating a dwarf cat to its own parent on to its own offspring) to work out what sort of genes are causing the dwarfism. It may turn out that the dwarfism is not caused be genes at all, but by environmental effects, in which case it cannot be passed on to the kittens. In pet cats, dwarf females are usually spayed to avoid the potentially dangerous effects of pregnancy.

If the dwarfism is due to a dominant gene, then it is possible to breed from dwarf males, but only using normal sized females. This way, only some of the kittens will inherit the dwarfism trait (unless the male has two copies of the dominant gene in which case all of his offspring will be dwarfs). This will mean that the breed increases slowly because only some of the offspring can be used in breeding programs. At least it would not expose dwarf female cats to unnecessary risk; they could be spayed as pets. There will always be the danger that the new owner doesn't understand the risks and will try to breed from the female with possibly deadly results for her.

APPENDIX 1: SIMPLE MENDELIAN INHERITANCE

How is dwarfism inherited? In the simple Mendelian inheritance formulae below D = dominant Dwarf and d = recessive normal size. Each cat carries 2 genes and it is assumed that the trait is not linked to gender.

DD x DD = DD (all offspring are dwarf)
Dd x DD = DD and Dd mix (all are dwarf, but some have a hidden gene for normal size)
Dd x Dd = DD, Dd and dd (DD are dwarf, Dd are dwarf but carrying a recessive gene, dd are normal size)
dd x dd = dd (all normal size)
dd x Dd = Dd and dd (Dd are dwarf but carrying a recessive gene, dd are normal size)
dd x DD = Dd (all are dwarf, all have a hidden gene for normal size)

To see how recessive dwarfism/miniatures happen, simply reverse the meanings of D and d:

DD x DD = DD (all offspring are normal size)
Dd x DD = DD and Dd mix (all are normal size, but some have a hidden gene for dwarf)
Dd x Dd = DD, Dd and dd (DD are normal size, Dd are normal size but carrying a recessive gene, dd are dwarf)
dd x dd = dd (all dwarf)
dd x Dd = Dd and dd (Dd are normal-size but carrying a recessive gene, dd are dwarf)
dd x DD = Dd (all are normal size, all have a hidden gene for dwarf)

The tables below show the likely ratios of dwarf/normal-size/carrier.

 

D

D

 

 

D

d

 

 

D

D

D

DD

DD

 

D

DD

Dd

 

d

Dd

Dd

D

DD

DD

 

d

Dd

dd

 

d

Dd

Dd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

d

d

 

 

D

D

 

 

D

d

d

dd

dd

 

D

DD

DD

 

d

Dd

dd

d

dd

dd

 

d

Dd

Dd

 

d

Dd

dd

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