The breed was begun in 1983 when Sandra Hochenedel found an extremely short-legged black cat living under a trailer in Louisiana. The cat, Blackberry, was pregnant and half of her kittens were born short-legged. One of Blackberry's kittens, a tomcat named Tolouse, became the father of a breeding program and helped establish the breed in North America.
The Munchkin breed is not recognised by all registering associations, but they are accepted by The International Cat Association (TICA). Because the munchkin gene is a dominant one, approximately half the kittens with a munchkin parent will be 'standard' munchkins. The remainder, the 'non-standard' munchkins have normal length legs, but they can be used to pass the gene on to the next generation. This genetic anomaly is called hypochondroplasia; it is not the same as the mutation that causes achondroplastic dwarfism in humans.