‘Winged cats’ – not wings at all

There is always a lot of fascination with the unusual or the freakish. The more freakish an animal is the more people want to see it. It’s called voyeurism. Personally, I do not like it. And with a fascination for the unusual you have conspiracy theories and bizarre ideas to try and explain the phenomenon. In this instance, two appendages on cats which looked like wings resulted in the cats being described as “winged cats”. You need to be a superstitious character to believe it. Many citizens of China believe in their traditional Chinese medicine. It is not based upon science and science doesn’t support it. It is based upon superstition and therefore it does not surprise me that the most notorious winged cats have been “discovered” in China.

Below, I have set out in a list some examples of winged cats, so called, and below that table I have listed the possible explanations for domestic cats with these appendages. Common sense should dictate the answer and, believe me, it has nothing to do with wings 😎😊. When did anyone see a cat fly!

China - winged cats
China – winged cats. Images in the public domain.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

On the basis that all animal life including human life (and to me we are just the top animal predator) throws up differences and so-called defects, all the time, then we should think that winged cats are normal. Many will disagree with me but it is true. And being true we should not have a media scrummage over a poor cat that has a couple of appendage like objects attached to his or her body. Let’s leave them alone and simply love them.

I am referring to a domestic cat living in Qingyan province, China. This might not be the location as Google maps can’t find it (I think it is Xianyang city, Shaanxi province – see table). But the truth is that there is a long history of winged cats and a longer history of people being fascinated by such things and exploiting people or animals that have odd appearances. And we should not do this. There are two more points to make about winged cats (a) how often have there been “sightings” and (b) what actually are the wings?

The sightings (these amount to 138 cases in all – for common sense reasons I have not listed them all below, just a selection which tells the tale that winged cats are not that unusual):

1868Cat in India, shot (of course) by Mr Alexander Gibson
August 1894England – owner charges 2 pennies to see the cat!
1897England Matlock, Derbyshire, Tortoiseshell cat with “pheasant’s wings”
1899 -see picture belowWiveliscombe, Somerset, England, “Can a Cat Fly?” the press asked!
19th centuryCircus cat (freak, I suppose), England
1900England, exhibited in glass cage at fairs.
1926 Portland, Oregon, USA “thrice the size of a house cat” Proposed lynx/house cat hybrid
1933 or 1934Oxford, England
1936Portpatrick, Wigtownshire, Scotland – 6 inch wings
1939Attercliffe, Sheffield, England – sold by owner to a freak show entrepeneur – 2 ft wingspan
1949northern Sweden – shot dead – probably frightened people!
May 1950Madrid, Spain
1966Canada – Rabid cat with matted fur swooping down on farm animals and was shot – typical of us
Many more over the intervening period then……………
2004Central Russia, a winged cat was killed by superstitious villagers – typical – cat drowned because they thought the cat was Satan’s messenger – come on human race!
24th May, 2007Xianyang city, Shaanxi province – this is the famous one, I believe. See picture top right on this page
August 2008China another winged cat – tortie and white
winged cat
Somerset, England about 1899

The Reasons:

doll winged catThese are threefold i.e. three possible causes of this condition:

  • First possibility and one that has accounted for some “sightings” would be simple common matting due to poor grooming. Long haired cats can acquire very large dangling type matts that can look like wings to some people (they are looking for wings, perhaps).
  • A development defect or genetic defect. This would include appendages like vestigial legs. There is a cat with 6 ears and some have 4 ears – similar developmental defect
  • The most likely in my view is a genetic disease that is also found in humans called Feline Cutaneous Asthenia (FCA) or simple Cutaneous Asthenia for humans. It is also referred to as Collagen Dysplasia (Cutaneous Asthenia). Hereditary collagen dysplasias comprise a group of disorders of the connective-tissue resulting in a reduced tensile strength of the tissues affected.Source of events of winged cats: Sarah Hartwell
    • Photos: Bottom right – published under creative commons license by Julia Laing
    • Somerset 1899 – in the public domain
    • Chinese winged cat – copyright waived or fair use as this is a site for cat rescue and the image is small and of poor quality.

4 thoughts on “‘Winged cats’ – not wings at all”

  1. Would love to get the following questions answered:
    – When sich gene defects are common why don’t we see other animals and even humans with wings?
    – When wings contain bones it can’t be Just fur or a skin issue but why are these cats born without wings? How many other mutations do we see on adult animals/humans only?

    • Thomas you ask some big questions. I think that you will find that even the experts can’t really answer your first questions fully. We just don’t know. As to why there are no wings on humans due to genetic mutations, the reason there might be that most of these cases of cats with wings are simply cases of elongated matted fur. If some of them have genuine cartilage or flesh under the fur then it would be a genetic mutation only associated with cats. To be honest, I think all of these cases are simply matted fur and are not due to a genetic mutation but I have forgotten what I said in the article as it was written many years ago.

      You ask how many mutations do we see in adult animals and humans. There are many genetic mutations in animals and the human-animal. In fact, the entire evolution of all animals has come about because of spontaneous genetic mutations which improved the survivability of that species and which then became fixed in the species.

      That is how we, as humans have evolved and how all the animals have evolved through gradual refinement over millions of years. The concept is laid out by Charles Darwin in his book books on evolution.

      And quite a few cat breeds are built upon a genetic mutations. For example, the hairless Sphynx. The hairlessness is caused by a genetic mutation. And you’ve got the polydactyl cats with more than the usual number of toes. The same cause. You’ve got the Scottish Fold with folded ears which are caused once again by a genetic mutation. Then you’ve got the Manx cat with no tail or a short tail. The same cause. I could go on. Quite a few breeds have been built on these spontaneous genetic mutations as mentioned.

      But there was interesting aspect of this is the evolutionary one as mentioned. The mutations in respect of the cat breeds are detrimental to the cat. These breeds would not have survived in the wild with these mutations because they are defects. You can’t imagine a Sphynx, hairless cat, surviving in the wild can you? But a well-built and healthy Maine Coon cat with a nice shaggy coat might be able to survive outside as a barn cat even today.

      The Maine Coon cat has no genetic mutations except sadly in respect of their health by the way. There are many genetically inherited diseases carried by purebred cats which reduce their lifespans such as the one that causes hypertrophic homeopathy (HCM) in Maine Coon cats. This heart disease is present in quite a few cat breeds and it is always due to the inheritance of a mutated recessive gene which has become apparent because of selective breeding which is inbreeding.

      There have been many mutations in humans as well but none of them have lasted except to produce a person who has an anatomical defect. But these people are not perpetuated through breeding as is the case in purebred cats.

  2. There is a mention of a “winged” cat, as the article describes, in the American philosopher of spartanism and admiration of nature, Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden” or “Life in the Woods” (1854). He says:”A few years before I lived in the woods there was what was called a “winged cat” in one of the farmhouses in Lincoln nearest the pond(Walden pond), Mr. Gilian Baker’s. When I called to see her in June 1842, she was gone a-hunting in the woods, as was her wont. I’m not sure whether it was male or female, and so use the more common pronoun, but her mistress told me that had come into the neighborhood in April” of 1841 and was “finally taken into their house; that she was of a dark, brownish-gray color, with a white spot on her throat, and white feet, and had a large bushy tail like a fox; that in winter the fur grew thick and flatted 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 underside mattted 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,”(so he thought)”for, according to naturalists, prolific hybrids have been produced by the union of marten and 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?” This is from the chapter entitiled “Brute Neighbors” The quoted pages in my annotated edition are 360-361, but, due to the pages the notes take up, the pagination differs from the original and other non-annotated editions. I quote this as your article reminded me that I’d read about a “winged” cat in Thoreau’s “Walden”.

  3. oh i think they are sent by God ,
    are i think they should be left along .
    they are God s lil Angels,
    vets and dog pounds they think if a cat
    come and they are sick or they are skird
    of were they are and if they fit at then they put them down , that it so very very wrong , just like the vet i took my lil
    Angel patches no she didnt have wings but she was my Angel to me,
    he gave her a short of Distamber ,i asked tom Rose ther vet why
    did you do that i didnt want anyshorts for her anymoe ever , now she is a real Angel in Heaven , why do man or pepole think they have the right to hurt Gods lil one of all kinds. you have a Angel cat ,i believe they are sent from Heaven they love you with their Heart they have felling to they cry like we do ,they talk to you in their
    ways dont ever let anyone hurt them and dont give the distmber short it so bad for them , i looked it up .i never let my cat out doors to run ,they are healther in door out doors is so bad .
    well Angel cats are so dear they love you to , i just had to tell you how i loss my lil Angel , it took ny Heart when i had to give her to god that look i got i see it in my eyes .i cry god iam sorry for taking her to the vet she was fine . tell that short bad ,will i better stop now ,i have a lot of cat poems now and gett a book of my poems my Dr. said to keep the good work going to help me hell , it will be 2yrs 8-24-10 and i no she is looking on all of us, god bless you all cece&my patches ,


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