Accounts of felines with the ability to actually fly have been difficult to come by, however reports of felines with wings, or at least what appear to be wings, have been documented from across the globe. There have been roughly 140 reported sightings of winged cats, of these cases 28 have been documented, some of which have produced physical evidence and photographs. Several specimens, both living and deceased, have been examined, and it is generally accepted that these felines do not actually have wings, but rather things such as poor grooming, a development defect or an uncommon hereditary skin condition have caused the appearance of wings.
One of the earliest known reports of a so called winged cat comes to us from the American author, naturalist, transcendentalist, tax resister, development critic and philosopher Henry David Thoreau. Best known for his book Walden, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, Thoreau outlined his encounter in the following passage:
"A few years before I lived in the woods there was what was called a 'winged cat' in one of the farm-houses in Lincoln nearest the pond, Mr. Gillian Baker's. When I called to see her in June, 1842, she was gone a-hunting in the woods, as was her wont ... but her mistress told me that she came into the neighborhood a little more than a year before, in April, and was finally taken into their house; that she was of a dark brownish-grey color, with a white spot on her throat, and white feet, and had a large bushy tail like a fox; that in the winter the fur grew thick and flattened out along her sides, forming strips ten or twelve inches long by two and a half wide, and under her chin like a muff, the upper side loose, the under matted like felt, and in the spring these appendages dropped off. They gave me a pair of her 'wings,' which I keep still. There is no appearance of a membrane about them. Some thought it was part flying squirrel or some other wild animal, which is not impossible, for, according to naturalists, prolific hybrids have been produced by the union of the marten and the domestic cat. This would have been the right kind of cat for me to keep, if I had kept any; for why should not a poet's cat be winged as well as his horse?"
In August of 1894 a report of a winged cat was published in the Independent Press. This year old, duckling winged cat, was owned by Mr. David Badcock of the Ship Inn, Cambridge, England. Mr. Badcock reportedly charged 2 pennies per head to view his winged cat and even took it around to neighboring villages. A skeptic soon wrote the paper asking for further details about the winged cat; but sadly the Independent Press soon reported that this remarkable winged feline had been stolen. It was hoped that the perpetrators would soon be apprehended; however some investigators believe that the cat may have shed its wings, leaving its owner somewhat embarrassed and causing him to make up the abduction of his winged beast.
In 1899, a report of a winged kitten belonging to a woman living in Wiveliscombe, Somerset, England, appeared in London’s Strand Magazine. The cat was reportedly normal in every way, except for two fur covered growths sprouting from both sides of the feline’s mid back. These so called wings flapped around like the wings of a scurrying chicken when ever the cat moved. Cat fancier, breeder and prolific writer, HC Brooke, described the winged cat 1927 issue of his weekly magazine, Cat Gossip, his description read as follows:
"This cat had growing from its back two appendages which reminded the observer irresistibly of the wings of a chicken before the adult feathers appear. These appendages were not flabby, but apparently gristly, about six or eight inches long, and place in exactly the position assumed by the wings of a bird in the act of taking flight. They did not make their appearance until the kitten was several weeks old. Alas! One of those brutes in human form who, encouraged by callous or knock-kneed, still are too plentiful, cut off the 'wings' with fatal results to the cat!"
In 1934, a Mrs. Hughes Griffiths, of Oxford, England, discovered a winged black and white cat in her stables during the evening of June 9th. Mr. Griffiths reportedly saw it unfurl a pair of long black wings sprouting just in front of its hindquarters and jump on to a beam. She described the distance the cat jumped as considerable and did not think it could have leapt the distance unaided, claiming the beast used its wings in a manner similar to a bird as a means of making the jump. Mrs. Griffiths reportedly then phoned the Oxford Zoo for assistance and the zoo’s curator W.E. Sawyer and managing director, Frank Owen, armed with a net captured the winged feline and took it back to the zoo, where it was found to have 6 inch wing like growths protruding from its back.
In May of 1959 a winged feline was captured near Pinesville, West Virginia by a teenager named Douglas Shelton. The cat, a Persian he named Thomas, became an instant celebrity and even appeared on NBC’s The Today Show on June 8, 1959. Shortly after Thomas’ appearance on television a local women, Mrs. Charles Hicks, started legal proceedings against Douglas Shelton claiming that the cat he had named Thomas was actually her lost cat, Mitzi. Thomas appeared in court but to the surprise of everyone was wingless, having reportedly shed its wings two months after being found by Shelton. Douglas Shelton kept the wings which were found to be no more than extensive mats of fur which had eventually fallen off. Upon seeing the wingless cat Mrs. Hicks claimed the cat was not hers and dropped the charges.
A more recent encounter with a winged cat occurred in 2004 near Kursk, Central Russia. According to the local Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper Nadezhda Medvedeva heard a soft meowing and poured some milk into a bowl to draw the cat out. The cat, a ginger tom cat, reported to be twice as large as a normal cat, drank greedily and meowed for more. Medvedeva continued to feed the cat, but after a couple of days her daughter became scared of the feline, claiming that it had wings. Medvedeva at that point claimed to have observed the cat slowly move its wings just like a chicken.
The rumor of the winged cat soon reached the town of Kursk, but by the time a reported made his way to the small village, the cat had been drowned by a local drunk who felt the winged feline was a messenger of satin. A sack containing the cat’s body was later removed from a near by pond and although decomposition had already set in the reporter apparently was able to confirm that the cat did have wings, or at least wing like growths.
As we have seen it is possible for a seemingly ordinary feline to have wings, or at least appear to have wings. These so called wings are most commonly extensive mats of fur which hang from the cat until the whole mat falls away. The large mats hang from the cats' sides in wide, flat sections until the fur holding them in place is molted away or the mat is pulled away by becoming caught on something. Many cats with these reported wings, which turn out to be nothing more than mats of hair, are of a long haired breed and account for a large portion of winged cat cases. Wing like mats can also occur on shorthaired cats as molted fur adheres to newly grown fur; such mats tend to develop over several molting cycles. Perhaps the best recorded case of matted fur on cats appeared on the UK TV show Animal Hospital and featured a badly matted silver Persian named Shaun.
Matted hair can occur on any part of the cat, but is most easily noticed on the flanks, especially when the cat is in motion and the mats move up and down in a wing like manner. Mats are nothing new to experienced cat owners and can be easily prevented by regular grooming, however these same mats, when viewed by someone unfamiliar with the condition can easily appear to be wings. It would make sense that the majority of winged cats seem to be long haired strays as these cats would be badly matted with out the regular grooming a house cat would receive.
A less common cause of this winged cat phenomena is that these so called wings are actually congenital deformities like vestigial legs, which are found in some forms of conjoined twins and are useless for about anything, including flying. Conjoined twins occur when a fertilized egg splits incompletely into two parts and can result in animals with extra limbs. A cat with this extra pair of legs dangling from an area near its shoulders could give the impression of wings; these limbs could even make a slight movement as the cat ran.
To this day accounts of winged cats continue to be reported from all corners of the earth, the vast majority of which can be explained by poor grooming and the occasional bone deformity. Some researchers have suggested that these winged felines may have been the bases for some griffin legends, although this claim can not be supported with any physical or written evidence. It would appear that the legend of flying felines has been solved, however there are those who still believe that real winged felines still exist, waiting to be discovered.
There is currently no physical evidence to suggest the existence of a real winged feline; however wing like appendages on cats are an accepted fact and can be caused by anything from poor grooming to rare bone deformities.
Although sightings of cats with wing like appendages are not uncommon, no sightings of actual, winged, flying felines could be found at this time.
The Stats– (Where applicable)
• Classification: Avian
• Size: Roughly that of an average house cat
• Weight: Roughly that of an average house cat
• Diet: Carnivorous
• Location: World Wide
• Movement: Flight and four legged walking
• Environment: Unknown