The Cactus Cat is not a domestic cat that likes to perch on top of one of those beautiful American cactuses that you see in the wilderness (and I have seen a cat doing that by the way) but a legendary cat created by the frontiersman of the American West in the 19th century as one of the “Fearsome Critters”. I guess it was one of those amusing tales they could tell around the campfire to pass the time which led to the development of a whole range of bizarre animals.
The Cactus Cat was indeed a bizarre animal with thorny hair which was particularly exaggerated on the ears. The front legs were savage with sharp blades of bone and its tail was branched. It could slash at the giant cacti to get at the sap inside. The sap then fermented and the mythical cat drank it, intoxicating itself after which it ran off screaming in a demented way.
I’m indebted to Dr Desmond Morris for this information to which I can add a little bit from Wikipedia. They say that the cat was a bit like a bobcat but covered with thorns. They went around shrieking at night in an intoxicated state. They were hostile to animals coming onto their territory which they attacked causing puncture wounds and, sometimes, fatal injuries. It is described as a desert predator which avoided the harsh heat of the day by carving a hole inside the cactus and sleeping there.
They were social animals, mating for life with a lifespan of 20 to 30 years! In order to attract females during the mating season the males would break open a large Sanguaro cactus and the resulting smell would attract the females. Don’t worry, it’s all fiction as you can see.