Medical Curiosities - Page 1: Myths
& Genetics | 2:
The Manx As A Cabbit | 3:
Twisty & Winged Cats |
4: Historic Cabbit Claims | 5: Cabbits In Japanese Anime
There are other conditions which result in rabbit-like movements or sitting up on the hind legs like squirrels or rabbits. These help explain the cabbit tales sometimes heard.
Cats suffering from radial hypoplasia have greatly shortened forelegs. This problem can make it impossible to walk properly since the front legs may be almost entirely useless, initially appearing broken. To compensate for their crippling disability these cats adopt a hopping movement. Consequently, they are sometimes termed squittens (a combination of 'squirrel' and 'kitten'), kangaroo cats, or even cabbits. But genetic problems are responsible for their appearance, not fanciful hybridisation.
Further emphasising the rabbit-like appearance is the tendency of these cats to sit up on their hindquarters and balance using their tails. With their regular hopping motion they develop a very muscular rear end and so can hold this position. Veterinarians and cat breeders also consider that any spinal pain caused by the deformity may be relieved by sitting up straight.
Cats with mild hypoplasia sometimes retain their ability to climb, though with difficulty. It is harder to get out of high places as they don't have strong forelegs to take the shock of a landing. Their deformity is such that areas like the chest and head tend to take the impact.
Most cats with this problem are put to sleep, though a small number of people do have them as pets. These are usually de-sexed to prevent breeding. With their very special care requirements anyone who has a cat with this deformity must be a very devoted owner so as to maximise the animal's quality of life.
Winged cats are not a fallacy. They have been frequently substantiated through photography and veterinary examination. Records of winged cats go back to the 1890s.
The wings are usually caused as a result of a genetic skin disorder called feline cutaneous asthenia (FCA). This makes the skin across the shoulders, back, and hindquarters extremely elastic. Sometimes these 'wings' will even have a flapping motion as they may contain muscular material. Sometimes they simply fall off, without causing bleeding or pain. They are fragile and easily damaged if the cat gets caught up, or even when they scratch.
A wing-like appearance can also occur if a longhaired breed becomes heavily matted. These matts can become so extensive that the only way to remove them is by shaving the animal. In extreme cases they will 'flap' as the cat runs.
Not surprisingly, some of the stories surrounding winged cats are suitably exaggerated:
A report dating back to 1897 alleged the finding of a winged cat in Derbyshire. It was said to be a very large male tortie with fully-grown pheasant's wings which were used for balance and to enhance its speed. One detail of this report seems unlikely. It's not the wings, but relates to the sex of the cat:
Tortoiseshells are almost always female.
In 1933, a cat with 6 inch wings was captured at Oxford, England. This cat was seen to leap onto a beam and the jump was claimed to be of such distance that it could not have been accomplished without use of the wings for flight. Conveniently, the length covered was never measured, but the finder of this animal became quite well-known and the cat was displayed as a zoo specimen.
The award for the largest wingspan goes to a cat in Sweden with wings which were 23 inches long. It was shot and killed in June 1949 after reportedly swooping down in an attempt to attack a child. It was presently to a museum.
Another winged cat from Sweden was said to have feathered hindquarters, but expert examination, not surprisingly, turned up only the expected genetic deformity.
The cat shown on this page lived in Manchester, England during the 1960s. The wings were about 11 inches long and the tail was also unusual in that it was flat.