By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 31 December 2011)
The following are mythical cat breeds, hoaxes, and outright frauds that continue to provoke heated debates on the World Wide Web.
Mythical Cat Breeds
Cabbit or Rabbit Cat
Despite their persistence in popular folklore, there is absolutely no verified DNA evidence that Cabbits, or cat-rabbit hybrids, exist. Cats mistaken for cabbits are in most cases actually Manx cats, which have slightly longer hind legs and stub tails.
Other bobtailed breeds have also been mistaken for cabbits, as have “twisty cats.” Twisty cats suffer from a condition called radial hypoplasia, causing twisted, shortened forelegs and a tendency to hop rather than walk normally. Munchkin cats, which have very short legs, may be mistaken for cabbits as well.
There is no such breed as the squitten. Cats that suffer from the radial hypoplasia mutation are often called squittens or squirrel cats or kangaroo cats because they tend to sit up right rather than standing on all fours due to the strain that a normal stance places on their spines.
Egyptian Hairless Cat/Chinese Hairless Cat
The Egyptian Hairless cat is a fake hypoallergenic breed that was introduced on the TV show Friends and was subsequently listed as a real breed on a number of websites. The Chinese Hairless cat, supposedly the descendant of a long-ago liaison between a cat and a small hairless dog, also does not exist.
The Minx is not a real breed, but rather a term that has been used to describe a miniature or dwarf Manx.
Legend cats are supposedly the offspring of domestic cats and bobcats, and many breeders claim that their wild-domestic hybrids have bobcat ancestry. However, DNA tests of Pixie-Bobs, American Bobtails, and Desert Lynx breeds have shown no bobcat genetic markers.
Mutant 87-Pound Cat
A man named Cordell Hauglie manipulated a photo of himself holding his cat Jumper, making the cat appear enormous to amuse his daughter and friends. The picture of Hauglie and Jumper somehow found its way onto the Web where someone created the myth of Rodger Degagne and his gigantic cat Snowball. Snowball’s “mutation” was supposedly the result of radiation exposure.
A hoax website that claimed to be selling kittens raised in small jars with breathing tubes inspired the wrath of animal lovers, most of whom believed the “products” to be real. Many people worldwide don’t know that the site has been exposed as a sick joke, and there is still an active e-mail campaign to have the production of bonsai kittens shut down.
A book called Why Paint Cats: The Ethics of Feline Aesthetics by Burton Silver and Heather Busch featured a number of elaborated “painted” cats that were soon making their rounds on the Internet. The images sparked amusement and criticism from those who didn’t realize that the book was a spoof and that the pictures had been digitally manipulated.
Silver and Busch’s previous works include Why Cats Paint: The Theory of Feline Aesthetics and Dancing with Cats. The books juxtapose satire of pretentious art and dance lingo with hilarious photos of decorated felines and people engaging in bizarre dances with their pets.
The Irish Shortear, a supposed Scottish Fold-Burmilla cross, was an invented breed that appeared in the book, Why Paint Cats.
The Longhaired version of the hairless Sphynx cat does not exist. This “breed” originated as an April Fool’s joke.
Fraudulent Cat Breeds
The Hypoallergenic Ashera
The Hypoallergenic Ashera, a creation of entrepreneur Simon Brodie, was marketed as a wild hybrid that included bloodlines of the African Serval, Asian Leopard, and domestic cat. However, several Asheras that were seized at a Netherlands airport and subjected to DNA testing proved to be Savannahs (a recognized hybrid Serval-domestic breed) that the company was selling at inflated prices. Brodie has since changed his name to Simon Carradan and established a ski business in Montana.
Lifestyle Pets (formerly Allerca) currently sells the Ashera for $27,000, and according to the company’s website, it will raise the price to $36,950 in August 2010. A review of media stories on the Ashera indicates that claims that the cats are hypoallergenic have been neither proven nor disproven at this stage. Breeders of the Siberian argue that their cats are also hypoallergenic and carry a far more reasonable price tag.
American Mystery Cat
The so-called American Mystery cat was the result of a backyard breeder trying to sell black domestic cats at inflated prices. An investigation by Sarah Hartwell found that the pictures used on the breeder’s website were all either altered in Photoshop or mislabelled photos taken from other websites.