The Munchkin cat
My daughter got a 3-month old Munchkin kitten and named it “Maple”because of its caramel color. It happened like this: her pet hamster, Nebu, (short for “Nebuchadnezzar”) died in early February. It was almost four years old in human years, which is like a hundred years for a hamster. So it lived a pretty long time. A “good” life, too, I hope. After that, she wanted a cat. I wasn’t told or consulted, but I overheard mother-daughter whispers about it. My favorite animal is the green pond turtle. They are fascinating. I can simply sit and watch turtles for a looooooong time and not get bored. I had turtles here in my Tokyo apartment for a few years several years ago. But I like cats, so I was agreeable. When I was growing up in Guelph we always had a cat in the house - one cat after another, almost all the same black color, so that when my brothers and I were very young and one of our family pets died Mom and Dad could replace it with another black cat and pretend that it was the same cat. So when it comes to dogs or cats I am definitely a cat person.
When I first saw it at the pet store on Sunday, February 12th I thought that its legs were short just because it was such a young kitten. (It was born on December 6, 2011.) No, I was told. Its legs are short because it’s a“manchikkan” cat. I didn’t know “manchikkan,” but I didn’t want to press the point by asking for it to be repeated many times. That would just be making myself more of a nuisance in my wife’s eyes than she already thinks I am. At first I thought it was a Japanese word I didn’t know: “manchikkan.” But after a couple of days of listening to it I thought, “That sounds like the word‘Munchkin,’ like from The Wizard of Oz”,so I looked up “short legged cats” on the internet. Munchkins are known for their short legs, similar to a Corgi dog, a Basset hound, or a Dachshund. What I read on the Internet told me that they are gentle cats that like to be handled, and that their short legs - the result of a genetic mutation - neither hinder them nor present health problems. (Apparently the short legs of those three kinds of dogs often contribute to long-term spinal problems, perhaps comparable to the spinal problems suffered by many human little people as they age.) Well, that seemed to sync with what I experienced with Maple so far. It is gentle. It does like to be handled. It is very playful and active around the apartment. It’s like having a new baby in the apartment, and I use a baby-talk voice and call myself “grandpa” when I play with it.
“Maple! I’m grandpa. You’re a beautiful kitty, aren’t you? Yes, you are! Let’s go look at the apartment. This is my computer desk. This is the kitchen.” Etc.
Maybe the experience is good therapy. Live animal therapy. Maybe it’s good for my immune system.
Maple’s short legs give it a funny galloping sound when it runs. In addition, its pigeon-toed front legs and longer hind legs give it a funny waddle when it walks, like what a man sees in a tight-skirted waitress as she walks away from the table.
Maple cost ¥110,000 or more than $1,100. Emma bought it herself out of her part-time job savings. Good thing, too, because there’s no way I could afford that. If I did have that kind of disposable income I wouldn’t spend it on a
cat, but on something else - like a turtle, or a book.