Winged cats are a popular motif across art and literature, from renaissance art to the children’s book series Catwings. Their reoccurring appearance leaves us to wonder: could winged cats really exist? The answer might not be the resounding “no” you think it is…
Ripley’s Believe It or Not! is no stranger to the vast world of animal anomolies. With everything from cow hairballs to unicorn goats and deer and two-headed cows, we have real taxidermy specimens of many animal oddities. Beyond those, we have many examples of so-called gaff-taxidermy—taxidermy specimens that are fake but often presented as real (think the jackalope). These winged cats, however, make no appearance in our collection.
Barring early history, where cats across millennia have been depicted with wings in mythology, the modern sightings of cats with “wings” can be traced back at least 100 years. One of the earliest known mentions of a winged cat is from Henry David Thoreau, who described a winged cat at a farmhouse in 1842. According to Thoreau, the cat had long hairy appendages sprouting from its body, but that they fell off in the spring and were kept by the writer in his private collection for a time. Thoreau had no reason to think the cat was capable of flight, however. Calling these appendages “wings” was just poetic. They were actually just clumps of matted fur
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