The cuteness factor – 12 trendy cat mutations

12 trendy cat mutations Munchkin

Munchkin also known as ‘mini legged’ mutant. Photo: Otsphoto Shutterstock

In Catie Leary’s article, The ethics of cuteness: A closer look at 12 trendy cat mutations, she describes the dark side of selective cat breeding and shows 12 examples of popular gene mutations in cat breeds.

Leary says from Grumpy Cat to Lil Bub, it seems like every day there’s a new Internet “It Cat” that steals our hearts with its unbearably adorable looks or personality. While many of these charismatic kitties rise to fame from humble beginnings as rescue animals, countless others are purposefully bred for their unique, squee-worthy characteristics.

Leary says selective breeding has been going on for thousands of years — it’s how all domesticated animals were developed. When a mutated trait is appealing or useful to humans, these individuals are intentionally bred to produce more offspring that exhibit the trait.  That said, while many mutations can be quite benign, serious ethical concerns arise when animals are specifically bred for aesthetic traits that are painful or debilitating.

Cat breeds with genetic disorders

Dr Richard Malik, Senior Consultant at the Centre for Veterinary Education, University of Sydney says the situation with diseases in cats is different to dogs.  Dr Malik says historically cats have decided on their own sexual partners, widening the gene pool, where as a substantial proportion of dogs are purebred or purebred cross.  However, any deviation from the standard cat can cause problems.  For example, the squashed in faces of Persians create breathing problems and the defining Manx tail deformity can often cause neurological abnormalities.  The breeding of the Scottish Fold cat was banned in the United Kingdom many years ago after the degree of genetic mutation was deemed cruel. More about inherited cat disorders. 

International Cat Care comment:

Our position on breeding cats is that first no harm should be done. If there is even the smallest chance that having this ‘look’ causes problems, then we should not be accepting of it as a breed based on a genetic deformity.

Scottish Fold 

12 trendy cat mutations Scottish Fold

Scottish Fold. Photo: Tairov Shutterstock

The Scottish Fold breed developed in Scotland when a cat was discovered with forward folding ears.  However it was soon discovered that mating two Scottish Folds resulted in cats with shortened, malformed legs, and the gene responsible for the ‘cute’ ear caused early arthritis.  The cartilage in the cat’s ear is too weak to maintain a normal shaped ear.  Dr Malik says it is hardly surprising that articular cartliage cannot cope with the wear and tear of a typical cat’s agile and athletic lifestyle.  According to Dr Malik all Folds suffer problems to some extent even a kitten produced from a Fold to non Fold mating.

Breeding these cats along with the Munchkin and Twisty cats is banned in Victoria (see Code of practice for the breeding of animals with heritable defects that cause disease).


Described as a “mini-legged” mutant, Munchkins are cats with legs a third of the normal size.  They cannot climb or jump.  International Cat Care says the Munchkin is seen as the feline equivalent of the Dachshund.  This breed has caused controversy in the cat world with its short legs and long spine.  Mutations that cause short legs may be detrimental in restricting aspects of the cat’s mobility and in some cases leg deformities may be painful and debilitating through the development of abnormal joints. Munchkins may not have the flexibility to groom themselves as well as other cats do, so will need some assistance. This is especially true for those with those sporting long hair.

Breeding these cats are banned in Victoria.

12 trendy cat mutations 

Learn about 12 of the most unusual (yet wildly popular) genetic mutations in cats in Catie Leary’s article in MNN Mother Nature Network.