Every year or so there is one of those novelty news stories about a so-called winged cat. These so called winged cats are certainly not a new phenomenon. Winged cats have been reported for over a hundred years and appear in mythology that is even earlier.
1842 United States
Henry David Thoreau investigated a cat that had "wings" that seemed to form each winter as a result of matted fur, and were shed in the spring. An account is fund in Walden, where Thoreau never sees the cat but is given a pair of its shed "wings". So from the beginning there were indications that the wings were made entirely from fur.
1899 United Kingdom
A winged cat was photographed in Somerset, UK. As described in "Cat Gossip" magazine (1927):
"This cat had growing from its back two appendages which reminded the observer irresistibly of the wings of a chicken before the adult feathers appear. These appendages were not flabby, but apparently gristly, about six or eight inches long, and place in exactly the position assumed by the wings of a bird in the act of taking flight. They did not make their appearance until the kitten was several weeks old."
1926 United States
A cat was captured in Portland,Oregon with large wings, but again they fell off and seemed to be made of matted fur.
1960s United Kingdom
This female cat lived in the builder's yard in Manchester.
While not promoted as winged this "mangy cat" shows how advanced matting can start to resemble a deformity.
A winged cat was drowned due to superstition (unconfirmed).
This cat in the Qingyan province was reported to literally sprout wings. The owner attributed this to stress from the lady cats being to demanding. The owner apparently cut one of the wings off! I hope for the cats sake that they were made up only of matted fur.
This long-haired white cat is another case of wings emerging with time.
2010 United Kingdom
These rather unconvincing "wings" are clearly the result of fur matting together.
2012 Winged Cat
This picture of a cat with two "tails" looks similar to so-called winged cats.
So, What Causes It?
Some of the spurious causes suggest for winged cats are conjoined twins, pollution, hot weather and sexual harassment. The truth is somewhat more mundane.
Wings made only of matted fur require little explanation. But most cases of winged cats relate to cats with either simple fur mats or long loose fur covered flaps of skin. These may form on cats that have a condition called "feline cutaneous asthenia". (In humans the same disorder is called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome). These cats have skin that deforms when stretched such as during normal grooming. This is more likely to occur with long-haired cats.
So real cats with functional wings don't occur outside of fantasy or creative taxidermy.
Other possible examples:
There are other winged cat pictures online where the time and place are not identified, such as: Orange cat. A reported case of a "four eared" dog seems to have a similar cause, with the extra ears really just being matted hair.
Winged cats are a popular subject in fantasy art and are sometimes referred to as "flap cats".
Flying cats are sometimes make as a work of creative taxidermy.
- Winged Lions
Winged lions and the things they symbolize.