Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. Author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), and more recently Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), and Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), his many fans have been badgering him to join the blogosphere for years. The CFZ Blog Network is proud to have finally persuaded him to do so.

Dr Karl Shuker's Official Website - http://www.karlshuker.com

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Tuesday, 5 April 2011


Derek Uchman’s feral winged cat with wings still present - front view (Derek Uchman)

What do you give the cryptozoologist who has everything? (Yeah, right – if only!) Why, the wings from a winged cat, of course

Reading the CFZ bloggo's amusing April Fool's account of a quasi winged cat, it reminded me of the time that I received through the post a most unexpected but extremely welcome memento of the real thing!

On 14 September 2010, Paul Sieveking of Fortean Times forwarded to me the following details of a feral winged cat that was being regularly fed by Scottish journalist Derek Uchman of Montifieth in Angus:

"We have had a very timid stray cat visit our door for food for a couple of years now. As its fur is extremely long and, and we are unable to groom it let alone entice it indoors, it gets very matted. This fur then slowly peels back to reveal a pair of "wings". Purely composed of hair they cannot be "flapped" like the cats featured recently in FT. After a period of several months, the whole lot drops off, and the process begins again."

Derek Uchman’s feral winged cat with wings still present - back view (Derek Uchman)

As I exclusively revealed back in the early 1990s, in many cases of winged cats the phenomenon is caused by a recessive mutant gene whose expression results in a very unusual skin-related condition known as feline cutaneous asthenia (FCA). The skin of a cat exhibiting FCA is hyperextensible (exceptionally elastic) and friable (fragile), which, if it is rubbed or groomed by the cat, causes it to stretch out into furry wing-like extensions that can even be raised and lowered slightly if the extensions contain connective tissue and sufficient musculature. Moreover, because such skin is exceedingly brittle, these extensions readily peel away altogether and drop off, but without resulting in bleeding, thereby explaining reports of winged cats shedding or moulting their wings.

From Derek’s description, however, it was clear that with his particular cat the wings did not derive from FCA but were merely mats of matted fur. Even so, a winged cat is still a winged cat, regardless of the mechanism by which its wings developed.

After contacting Derek directly, I learnt from him that he had retained the wings that the cat had shed a few months ago. Moreover, he was happy to give them to me if I would like them! Needless to say, my reply was such that, just three days later, a Special Delivery package arrived to my home, containing this most remarkable of unnatural history relics.

The shed wings of Derek Uchman’s feral winged cat (Dr Karl Shuker)

As seen here, it consists of a thick, matted, yet clean mass of grey-streaked brown fur comprising two extensions (one longer than the other), and is remarkably resilient in texture, even though there is no skin or connective tissue attached. So now, among my many other zoological curios is a sealed transparent case containing the shed wings of a bona fide winged cat.

By the time that I’d received them, Derek’s cat had already begun growing another pair, which led to a very surprising denouement, as Derek revealed to me on 22 November 2010:

"As expected, the second set of wings has fallen off, but they are nowhere to be found! We've searched the garden high and low, but they have disappeared.

"For all intents and purposes, she/he just looks like a normal cat now, but I think the beginnings of a third set are starting to form."

All of which confirms that winged cats are indeed very mysterious creatures – and sometimes in more ways than one!

My very sincere and grateful thanks to Derek Uchman for his wonderful gift!

For the most comprehensive coverage of winged cats ever produced, see the chapter on this subject in my book Dr Shuker's Casebook (CFZ Press: Bideford, 2008).


  1. I have to put my hand up here, it was me that wrote the April 1st winged cat artical on the CFZ blog, sorry to anyone who was taken in by it.

  2. I remember reading about a similar case in a high school English class. A writer from the American colonial period gave an account of a cat with wing membranes that later dried up and fell off. (At the time, I assumed that it was a misidentification of a flying squirrel.) I don't remember the writer's name; I got out my old textbook, but haven't been able to find the relevant passage.

  3. I have an update to my cat's story. We finally managed to catch her and take her to the vet. She confirmed the cat's sex (female), and that the wings were most likely just a "grooming issue". The emerging wings were shaved off as they were giving the cat pain. They had been pulling at her skin causing bleeding. The vet also said wings sometimes appear on cats with arthritis in the spine as they can't bend round to groom that area of the back.

  4. Hi William, This might be the report from the 1800s of a winged cat documented in a book by Henry Thoreau, and which, as far as I can tell, is the earliest such report in existence.

    Hi Derek, Yes, grooming, or the lack of it, plays a major role in creating the wings, whether by the grooming action stretching the cat's abnormally fragile, stretchable skin into wing-like extensions if the cat is suffering from FCA (feline cutaneous asthenia), which many winged cats do suffer from; or by an absence of grooming causing the fur to become tangled and matted, yielding flaps of solid fur that again resemble wings.

    All the best, Karl

  5. I had a dream last night that I met my late grandmother. In the dream, I remember a scene where a few cats with wings were flying in and around a poolside waterfall. I heard stories that people have seen wings growing on their cats. It must be a recessive gene; a prehistoric trait? The dream seemed real so I might of peeked into another dimension since my late grandmother was there.