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Critics Dog Cat

July 21, 1995|SUSAN MARQUEZ OWEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Quipsters joke that if you crossed a munchkin with an American wirehair, which has rough, crimped hair, you'd have a cat that could clean pipes. Munchkin exhibitors were thrown out of a Boston cat show two years ago by a show manager who was outraged by the cat, and a judge in another contest called the munchkin a "nasty little beast."

"The pipe thing doesn't really bother us," said Laurie Bobskill, president of the International Munchkin Society in West Springfield, Mass., and owner of 13 of the cats. "The rest is very childish."

But this year the controversy over the cat grew from a few snarls to a chorus of angry howls after the International Cat Assn., based in Harlingen, Tex., allowed Munchkins to compete in a limited category called "New Breed and Color" in a May show in Fall River, Mass.

"I was just furious when they accepted it," said Crawford, who after judging a Paris contest in March wrote a letter complaining that she had been humiliated by her group's decision.

"The [French] traditionalists were very upset," she said. "They could not understand how a deformed cat had been accepted."

Crawford predicts that the munchkin will develop back, hip and leg problems and diseases such as arthritis because of its shape.

"It's got to show up," she said. "It's shown up in dachshunds and look what's happened to them. Some are so crippled their owners have to put them on a kind of skateboard so they can get around."

But Paul McSorley, secretary for the International Munchkin Society, said several of the oldest munchkins, ages 13 and 14, are regularly checked and X-rayed and so far there is no sign of any crippling.

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As for the cat's future, the possibilities are endless. Cat judge Parker said the animals are in big demand. Munchkin breeders, most of whom are on the East Coast, are getting calls every day for the cats, which sell for as much as $2,500. Parker has gotten requests from Japanese and Taiwanese cat collectors who have bought them for $1,000 each, he said.

Hochenedel said she is breeding for big, round eyes and perky ears. And, of course, the cats could take matters into their own paws--some munchkin somewhere could decide to breed with a Persian and produce a pug-nosed, stubby-legged cat, or with a sphynx and produce a hairless stubby-legged cat.

"The cat has changed already," Hoar said. "It's already coming in all different colors and lengths of hair. Only Mother Nature knows what she is going to throw at us next."

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