The largest cat wingspan was recorded in northern Sweden in June 1949. This is a confirmed and recorded report. The cat was examined by the State Museum of Natural History. The cat’s wings were 58 cm across or 23 inches. There is no picture of this particular cat. Below is a picture of a more recent “winged cat” dated 2008 from Sichuan in southern China.
So what are winged cats? Right away, people sensitive to the dignity and welfare of cats might find it a bit distasteful to record in the Guinness Book Of World Records the cat with the largest wing-span. It is like a cat freak show. I find it a bit distasteful to be honest but nonetheless decided to write about it again because visitors are interested.
So-called “winged cats” are normal domestic cats which suffer from a rare genetic skin disorder. The disorder is called feline cutaneous asthenia (FCA). This disorder is related to the human Ehler-Danlos Syndrome (EDS). Humans with this condition have been exhibited in freak shows in the past. One of them was probably James Morris who was called “India Rubber Man”.
This condition causes the skin to be highly extensible. When the cat grooms himself or perhaps rubs against something the skin stretches into wing-like extensions.
Sometimes these extensions contain muscle tissue and therefore they can be raised up and down by the cat. However, common sense tells us that winged cats cannot fly. It is just a description of an anatomical defect.
Cutaneous asthenia means “weak skin”. The condition is also called “elastic skin” amongst other names. The condition also affects other animals such as dogs, sheep and horses.
Other reasons for reported winged cats are poor grooming or a developmental defect.
Sarah Hartwell provides the best description of winged cats on her website. She says that there have been many reports of cats carrying this condition. They were treated as cryptozoological phenomena.
There have been around 138 sightings of cats with so-called wings. There are 28 documented cases meaning physical evidence and/or photographs. There is apparently a video. The one below has the most hits and appears to have been filmed in Asia, perhaps India or Pakistan.
Apparently, the recessive autosomal variant of this condition has been discovered in Siamese cats. In the homozygous state Sarah says it is, apparently, lethal.
The flaps of skin may be sloughed off without bleeding. This probably explains cases where the wings have disappeared having been “moulted”.
In dogs there is a similar condition which may be linked to joint looseness and abnormalities of the eye.