The name “Squitten” is probably less well known than the notorious “twisty cat”. They refer to the same cat, however. Apparently the press have also called these cats, “Kangaroo cats”. Although Kangaoroo cats look like Squitten cats the genetic mutation that produces the shortened and deformed forelimbs is different, we are told.
Photo: published here under a Wikimedia Commons license. Photo by Sarah Hartwell.
The anatomical defects are: shortened, twisted or absent radius and ulna of the forelimb, normal length hind limbs and extra toes on the front paws. The radius and ulna are the two bones of the forelimb that join the metacarpals, which in turn join the phalanges (toes). Note: the cat walks on the toes of his or her feet (digitigrades).
The name is a combination of “squirrel” and “kitten” reflecting the shortened forelegs of squirrels and the fact that the cat, in compensating for the less useful forelimbs, develops a strong back and hind limbs allowing the cat to take up the meerkat or squirrel-like position. My three-legged cat does the same and he has lost his right forelimb. The pictures from the Karma Farms website bear this out. When these cat walk or run the gait is heavily modified. It is a kind of hopping, rabbit or kangaroo motion as the lower back lifts the body up and the hind limbs propel the cat forward. Also, jumping down is difficult as the forelimbs are less able to take the weight.
I am not sure why “kitten” was used as these cats do not have a kitten-like appearance. Another reason for the name is the idea that the Squitten is a squirrel-cat hybrid, says Sarah Hartwell. I don’t think this is true.
I have seen the Squitten advertised on an Asian website. It would appear that someone is breeding them in Asia, perhaps Indonesia. Although the website is so scammy that it may just be a way a bringing in website traffic without any substance behind it (see the page).
The Squitten is one of the numerous domestic cats that have been created by a genetic mutation some of which have been developed into successful breeds. Well known cat breeds that were developed this way are the Scottish Fold (ear flaps lying flat), Munchkin (short legs), American Curl (ears curled back) and Sphynx (hairless). Thankfully, the Squitten cat was not formally developed as a cat breed. It is not recognised by any cat association. It cannot be described as a cat breed.
In 1998, twisty kittens were presented to the world on a website built by Karma Farms. Twisty cats where not bred (they say) but where born at a horse farm in Marshall, Texas, United States, called Karma Farms. There might have been an intention to breed them at one time but public reaction killed that idea. They caused a bit of a stir in the press and where featured on Animal Planet where they were described as “weird” and “freaky”. I would prefer the descriptions, “vulnerable” and “sad”.
In the case of the Squitten the genetic mutation is related to the one that causes polydactyl cats but not the sort of polydactyl cat with which we are familiar (more than the usual number of toes).
The medical condition that describes the underdeveloped forelimbs is radial hypoplasia. Other related medical conditions are (a) foreleg micromelia (meaning small forelegs) (b) radial aplasia (absent radius bones) and (c) radial agenesis (radius bones not forming).
It is probably fair to say that the cat fancy has turned away from the acceptance of cats developed from genetic mutations because of the health consequences.
Squitten – sources – Wikipedia, Karma Farms and Messybeast (Sarah Hartwell).