Pygmy Spotlight: Pygmy Cats

Dwarf cats are nothing new; since the mid-twentieth century, cat breeds with embedded dwarfism have been developed for commercial sale. However, the rise of popular photo-sharing platforms (Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter) has led to an increased awareness of these impossibly cute animals. Dwarf cats are domestic felines which have the condition of dwarfism due to a genetic mutation.

 

Unlike cats who are simply undersized, dwarf cats—known affectionately as Munchkin cats—display symptoms of osteochondrodysplasia, a genetic disorder of bone and cartilage. Put simply, these little guys have noticeably short legs. Therefore, small cats who may be marketed as dwarfs or Munchkins, such as Toy and Teacup Persians, are not truly dwarfs.

 

The Munchkin is the original breed of dwarf cat; the International Cat Association (TICA) gave recognition to the breed in 1994, along with a Persian-Munchkin hybrid known as the Minuet. However, unlike TICA, most cat registries and pet associations do not recognize any dwarf cat as a legitimate breed. The animals are therefore excluded from most major pet shows and contests. In any case, the cats are largely an American phenomenon and not widely popular outside of the United States.

 

The fact that cat dwarfism is an American phenomenon points to a larger issue within the community. The ethics of Munchkin cat selective breeding are hotly debated, and many countries prohibit the animals in order to dissuade the unnecessary cruelty caused during the breeding process. As a result, the Federation Internationale Feline prohibits breeds based on dwarfism, specifically mentioning the Munchkin as an example of unacceptable manipulation of genetic disease. Furthermore, the animals are banned under the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals and have been strongly condemned in Cat World, a popular British magazine.

 

If you are interested in adopting a Munchkin cat, do not go to a breeder. Instead, keep a close eye on your nearby shelters; these animals are popular, and the genetic mutations occur with relative frequency in the wild. With a bit of luck and patience, you can have a pygmy cat of your own without supporting the inhumane industry that created them.

 

Are You in Generation Z? Don’t Get a Pygmy Pet

Let us rephrase: think twice before getting a pygmy pet.

 

Pygmy pets are touted as the cuter, more endearing versions of our favorite animals. From cats and dogs to donkeys and goats, these animals are visible on every social media platform. Pygmy pet parents take pride in their tiny friends, and they want to spread the love by upselling the idea of adopting one of these little guys.

 

For younger Millennials and Generation Z—really, anybody who is just starting out, financially insecure, and/or living in a small apartment with or without roommates—a pygmy pet might seem like an excellent alternative to, well, a normal-sized pet. You have a smaller living space and a smaller income, so it makes sense to get a smaller pet, right? Unfortunately, and as many young people discover shortly after adoption, this is not the case.

 

While pygmy pets might be smaller than the average pig, dog, goat, donkey, horse, &c., they require the same amount of care and the same amount of spending. In fact, most pygmy animals will require slightly more from you than a regular-sized animal; these small animals often develop a dependency on their parents, and their genetic backgrounds, which have resulted in their tiny size, may also come with a variety of genetic disorders. While there is no quantitative data to support these claims, the idea alone should make you re-think your decision.

 

The only way in which a pygmy animal is easier to handle is in size. They’re smaller animals, so they need less space. For some pygmy pets, such as hedgehogs, dogs, and cats, this is true; they can live comfortably in a small apartment without feeling too anxious. Other pygmy animals, however, require quite a bit of space, especially goats, donkeys, and pigs. Just because your pygmy pig weighed ten pounds when you adopted him doesn’t mean he’ll stay that size forever, and most of these animals need specialized habitats in order to thrive.

 

So, if you think adopting a pygmy animal will be easier than adopting a regular pet, think again. You’ll need the same amount of time, money, and resources to care for these tiny animals.

 

Pygmy Spotlight: Miniature Donkey

If you can have a miniature horse as a pet, a miniature donkey is within the realm of possibility, right? These unbearably cute animals measure just 9 hands or less in height (36 inches) when fully grown, making them the perfectly-sized miniature companion. The animals are great with children, intelligent, and remarkably affectionate.

 

In the early and mid-twentieth century, donkeys became popular pets in the United States. Miniature donkeys date back to around 1930, when Robert Green, a New Yorker, imported seven donkeys of the small, indigenous Sardinian breed to the United States. Though never considered “miniature” in Sardinia, the animals came to be known as Miniature or Miniature Mediterranean Donkeys within a few years of breeding in the United States. A breed registry was opened in 1958 by Bea Langfeld, the first professional breeder of miniature donkeys in America; in 1987, the registry was absorbed by the American Donkey and Mule Society.

 

Miniature donkeys have needs similar to their full-sized cousins. They need plenty of hay, grain, fresh water, and access to a fenced pasture with dry shelter. The require regular vaccines and should have their hooves trimmed every few months. Additionally, these are not solitary animals, often requiring the companionship of another miniature donkey. If you have the time and resources necessary to care for these four-legged friends, the payoff can be life-changing. However, if you are unsure about your ability to care for a miniature donkey, it is best to leave it to a professional.

 

Nearly all miniature donkeys have a black or brown cross extending down its back, reaching from the neck to the lower back. These tiny animals weight just fifteen pounds at birth and are capable of light work. Though donkeys have a reputation for being stubborn, this behavior emerges as the result of good memories; if something hurts or scares the animal, it will be remembered. In reality, donkeys—both full-sized and miniature—are incredibly loyal and affectionate. They can live to be over 35 years old, making them life-long companions.

Navigating the World with Your Pygmy Emotional Support Animal

Emotional support animals provide aid to individuals with psychiatric, physical, or intellectual disabilities that may interfere with their ability to navigate the world. In order to obtain an emotional support animal and necessary documentation, you must have an official Emotional Support Animal Letter written by a licensed mental health professional—a psychiatrist, licensed clinical social worker, or psychologist. Typical qualifying conditions include, but are not limited to: PTSD, anxiety, depression, panic disorder/panic attacks, mood disorders, personality disorders, social anxiety disorder, fear/phobias, and seasonal affective disorder.

 

These animals do not need specific training to become an emotional support animal. In fact, these animals are rarely regarded as “service animals”–many modes of transport consider them to be companion animals. As a result, some airlines, trains, and other modes of public transportation may not extend service animal policies to your emotional support pet. If you plan to travel, it is always necessary to check eligibility ahead of time.

Though typically dogs, emotional support animals can be cats or other species. Choosing an emotional support animal can be an exciting experience, but keep potential travel restrictions in mind during your selection process. If certain transportation providers do not consider emotional support animals to provide a service, you should choose a companion who fits the standard requirements for safe pet travel. In most cases, this will allow you to bring an animal along in a carrier; you may have to pay a standard pet fee, but your animal’s size will not prevent him from traveling.

 

To that end, selecting a pygmy pet as an emotional support animal is an excellent option. Their small size allows them to enter most spaces and modes of transportation, but they are able to perform all necessary emotional support functions. Pygmy animals are also known for their friendliness and calm demeanor, which is always helpful in an emotional support animal. However, be sure to select a travel-friendly species, such as a cat or dog. Airlines and trains have strict species and breed restrictions which may interfere with your animal’s ability to travel—even if their pygmy size fits within weight and height limitations. Pygmy rabbits, for example, are popular emotional support animals, but they are banned on most airlines. In checking a transit provider’s pet and service animal policy, you are more able to select an appropriate emotional support animal.

 

Pygmy Spotlight: Babydoll Sheep

Babydoll Sheep can be an excellent addition to any home or farm. Known officially as a Southdown sheep, the breed is a dual-purpose English sheep raised primarily for meet. They are very popular amonst small-scale sheep breeders, farmers, and recreational pet owners; at just 24 inches tall at maturation, these cute, relaxed, and very gentle. Mature ewes can be around 100 pounds with a fleece weight between 8 and 10lbs.

 

In the 18th century, Southdown sheep were known for the finesse and quality of their wool; late in the century, a farmer realized their potential and set out to standardize the breed. By the mid-19th century, these sheep were found in large numbers across England; flocks grazed during the day and slept through the night. In the early 20th century, pedigree recording was established, and by 1911 there were 359 registered Southdown flocks. The first Southdown sheep reached the United States in the early 19th century and was bred throughout the 20th century. To increase the sheep’s likelihood of commercial success, Robert Mock, a breeder, coined the term “Babydoll.”

 

People often choose Babydoll sheep for their gentle personalities; the breed is often very easy to manage. They can happily live in a house and enjoy interacting with humans and animals alike. They can be used in farming as “organic weeders” and are often used in vineyards and orchards; their short stature prevents them from reaching the fruit. They are non-aggressive, curious, and trusting–the perfect addition to your furry family!

The Advantages of Traveling with Pygmy Animals

Pet travel is almost always a complicated process complicated. Your mode of travel will determine the type of animal you are allowed to bring along, but certain animal features can broaden your range of options while decreasing potential cost. Luckily, pygmy pets exemplify some of the most important pet travel traits—size and demeanor. Below, we have unpacked these characteristics to explain why they may be helpful when planning your upcoming trip.

 

  • Size—The most obvious advantage of traveling with a pygmy pet is their size. Necessarily small, these creatures should not an issue fitting into a travel carrier. This is important if your method of travel imposes size, weight, and kennel requirements. Most transit providers require there to be a certain amount of space available for the animal to move around within a container. If the pet is small, you will be able to easily navigate carrier size restrictions while accounting for this extra comfort volume.

Additionally, if your pets are small enough, you may be able to save additional costs. Two pygmy pets, such as hedgehogs, may be able to fit within a single container, saving potentially hundreds of dollars in travel expenses. You will not have to purchase separate carriers, and—if you are flying by air—you will be able to avoid a second pet travel fee. However, you should always check with your transit provider ahead of time; not all airlines and trains allow for this consolidation.

 

  • Personality—Most pygmy animals—especially goats and pigs—are described as having a friendly, personable demeanor. Pet travel success is dependent upon an animal’s ability to withstand stressful situations, and a pygmy animal’s attitude may be conducive to effective transit. However, this should not be taken as permission to travel with any pygmy animal. Though certain species are more likely to develop anxiety than others, you should always assess your individual animal’s ability to travel.

 

Though pygmy pets may be more conducive to transportation, pet parents should understand that the term “pygmy” is not an automatic qualifier for safe animal travel. As we’ve demonstrated, pygmy is often a misnomer—in most cases, it is used to refer to an animal’s size relative to species average, which is often very large. Trying to board an airplane with a 90-pound “pygmy pig” will result in your inability to fly. Similarly, putting your pygmy horse in the backseat of your car is never accessible; his ability to fit within a space has little to do with the safety of a particular travel situation.

Pygmy Pet Travel: Planes

Traveling with an animal is always stressful, but the strict schedules and regulations necessitated by air travel exacerbate the anxiety. Luckily, one factor can mitigate potential stress of flying—your animal’s size. This is where traveling with a pygmy animal can be advantageous; rather than stressing out about size restrictions, you can focus on preparing your pet for the trip ahead and making him comfortable on the day of travel.

 

General Guidelines and why Small Animals Help

Airlines impose strict regulations on an animal’s size and weight. In most cases, the animal and carrier cannot weigh more than fifteen to twenty-five pounds combined, but specific limitations are imposed by each airline. Unless your pet is a service animal, he must fit within a container and under the seat in front of you; this restriction results in very strict carrier size limitations. Traveling with a small animal is an excellent way to guarantee his ability to fly.

If you are traveling with more than one pygmy animal, check your airline’s carrier restrictions. If the pets are small enough to fit two comfortably within a single carrier, most providers will you to bring both without incurring an additional fee. However, this service is not always guaranteed, so it is essential to check before purchasing a carrier and plane ticket.

 

A Warning About Ungulates and other Species

Many of the pygmy pets features on this website are hoofed, or ungulate mammals. In fact, most pygmy animals people keep as pets are hoofed—pigs, sheep, donkeys, goats, and horses. While young, your animal should be able to fit into most airline-approved carriers. As they get older, you will have a difficult time finding a size and weight limit to accommodate your pet. In these cases, you may opt to have your animal travel as cargo, where their size will, likely, not be an issue.

However, before booking a plane ticket or live animal shipment, check with your carrier for specific airline pet policies. Many airlines prohibit ungulates—hoofed mammals—and other untraditional pets from flying in the cabin or as checked baggage, even if they are provided for emotional support or mental health. If you cannot find any such restrictions, call your airline to ask directly; there is nothing worse than a last-minute travel cancellation.

 

Pygmy Spotlight: Hedgehogs

In the past decade, hedgehogs have become a popular pet across North America. The breed kept as pets appears to be mix of species, but they are originally native to the African continent. The term “African pygmy hedgehog” is merely a descriptive term coined by breeders. They are relatively high-maintenance pets and do not appear to crave human interaction, but their size and cuteness make them popular pets in America.

 

Hedgehogs are very compact animals. Reaching a size of between five to eight inches in length, they can live between three and eight years (six is the most typical). They need and enjoy exercise, so owners should invest in an open-sided, solid surface wheel within their enclosure. If you have the means, allowing your hedgehog to run freely in your home is optimal—wild hedgehogs travel great distances each day, so they require a lot of space to run around. They do not like to be cuddled, but will allow for gentle handling.

 

However, in 2017, the RSPCA provided a statement saying these animals are a considerable commitment and require large, temperature-controlled enclosures to mimic their natural environment. They require ample space for digging, foraging, and exercise, and it is therefore difficult for recreational pet owners to meet the animal’s needs. Though they have grown in popularity, they are still illegal to keep as pets in some states.

 

Hedgehogs need an enclosure of between 75 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit, which is very difficult to maintain in most parts of the world. If the temperature increases to above 86 degrees, the animal can suffer from heat stroke. However, a temperature lower than 75 degrees can induce torpor, a form of hibernation. Moreover, hedgehogs are nocturnal by nature, meaning owners may grow bored of their tiny friends very quickly. They are messy and require daily cage cleanings. Put simply, if you are thinking about investing in a hedgehog as a pet, ensure you have the capacity to care for these finicky little animals—they are a lot of work and, if you don’t have the time or resources to invest, can die very easily.

 

 

Pygmy Spotlight: Falabella (Miniature Horses)

Popular pets, miniature horses are generally less than 34-38 inches from head to tail. Miniature horses fit a height-based definition of a pony, but they retain horse characteristics and are therefore considered to be “horses” by their respective registries. Bred to be friendly and to interact with people, miniature horses are fantastic family pets. The most popular miniature horse breed, the Falabella, is one of the most popular companion horses in the world.

 

The Falabella miniature horse is one of the smallest breeds in the world—they are rarely more than 32 inches tall. They are believed to have descended from South American horses, who, in turn, are the ancestral stock of Andalusian and Iberian bloodlines brought from Europe by the Spanish. The Falabella was originally developed in Argentina from local horses of Criollo stock. Their breeding began in 1868, and additional bloodlines—such as the Welsh Pony, Shetland pony, and other small Thoroughbreds—were introduced in further generations. By inbreeding, breeders were able to maintain a consistently small size.

 

The first Falabella breed registry was established in the 1940, and, twenty years later, the first horses were imported to the United States. These intelligent, easily trainable creatures became trendy pets in the mid-1990s and into the 2000s. They have a sweet personality and enjoy spending time with people of all ages. They also easily adapt to situations and environments very easily.

 

Miniature horses, though small and friendly, still retain natural horse behavior. This includes a natural fight or flight instinct. Therefore, they must be treated like a horse even if their primary purpose is as a companion animal. They require pasture to both graze and run. One acre of accessible roaming area is sufficient for a miniature horse, but if you intend to stable it at night, this acreage can be cut in half. These horses require room to roam, and their spaces should be securely fenced. They can live to be 45 years of age, so do your research before investing in one of these companions.

 

Pygmy Spotlight: Goats

Pygmy goats have charming personalities and make excellent companion pets for both humans and other animals. Though any goat breed will make an excellent pet, smaller breeds are most popular—they require the least amount of space, resources, and—of course—they’re adorable. Pygmy goats are one of the most popular breeds. An adult will grow to be between 16 and 23 inches at the withers, often weighing between 40 and 80 pounds. These goats breed year-round, meaning that kids are nearly always available for purchase and adoption.

 

The pygmy goat’s lineage is fairly straightforward; the breed was developed from the West African dwarf goat, which is commonly found in the Cameroon Valley. They were taken to Europe by the British during the colonial era, and a few hundred were then sent to the United States to use in zoos and as research animals. In the 1960s, pygmy goats were acquired by private breeders, quickly gaining popularity as pets for their size, personalities, friendliness, and hardiness.

 

As with most animals, there are a few downsides to keeping a pygmy goat as a pet. Goats in general can be very messy, and they are often picky eaters. Goat parents should be prepared to spend more money on food than one might with a standard cat or dog. Additionally, if they are not properly exercised or not allowed space to run and climb, they can be destructive. However, effectively handling your pet’s time and allowing them to run in the backyard is an easy and effective way to deter bad behavior.

 

When properly raised, a pygmy goat will spend its days lounging around, entertaining you and your family, and charming everyone in its path. These are perfect pets for people with larger homes, open spaces, and farms—in addition to making the perfect human companion, these little goats are great friends for other farm animals.

Pick a Pygmy Pet: Pigs!

Pygmy Pigs, also known as teacup pigs, miniature pigs, dwarf pigs, and micro pigs, have become America’s top trendy pet. The term itself refers to a small breed of domestic pig, such as the Pot-bellied pig of Vietnam or the Göttingen minipigs of Germany. These tiny creatures have small, perked-back ears, a potbelly, a chubby figure, a rounded head, a shorter snout, and tiny legs.

Their breeding history is slightly foggy, but we know that pygmy pigs began showing up in the mid-1970s; labs across North America and Europe bred them for use in medical research within the fields of toxicology, pharmacology, pulmonology, cardiology, aging, and as a source for organs for organ transplantation. Pigs are very useful in studying human disease, and—due to their high intelligence—are very easy to manage in a laboratory setting. Though your pygmy pets might have seemed destined to become close companions, they were originally bred for research purposes.

However, these tiny pigs don’t stay small forever. Most breeds of teacup pigs grow up to be between 75 and 200lbs—around the size of a medium/large dog. Though this is significantly smaller than adult farm pigs, which can weigh up to 1,100 pounds, a 200-pound pet is not what most people expect when they purchase a pygmy animal. Moreover, teacup pigs have a long lifespan—they outlive dogs, and they often outlive cats. Their lifespans are often around 15-20 years. If you adopt a pygmy pig, you’re in it for the long haul.

As a result, laws vary on the legality of keeping pigs as house pets. If no such laws exist, your pink little friend may be considered, exclusively, as livestock. If this is the case, be sure to double-check your sources; some towns and cities have ordinances disallowing farm animals within city limits. Pigs are intelligent, adorable, and rewarding pets—just be sure to understand the repercussions in your choice of companion.