EUGENE M. MCCARTHY, PHD GENETICS
I am obliged to report that which is reported, but not to believe it.
—Herodotus, The History, VII, 152
A seventeenth-century German physician, Gabriel Clauder (1633-1691), published a brief article (Clauderi 1686) in the medical journal Ephemeridum Medico-Physicarum Germanicarum Academiæ Naturæ Curiosorum, an account cited by a variety of later authors (e.g., Blumenbach 1781, p. 10; Broca 1859). Clauder’s report gives a description not of a cat-squirrel hybrid as such, but rather of what seemed to be a pure squirrel birthed by a cat after copulation with a male squirrel.
However fantastic this account may seem today, it reads as follows: “On a Cat giving Birth to a Squirrel—It is certain that both the highest miracles and daily novelties, as well as numerous sports and alterations, arise
Presumably the squirrel in question would have been a Eurasian red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris), the only common squirrel in Europe at that time.
That a squirrel and cat might mate is not so improbable as one might suppose. As can be seen in various YouTube videos—for example, the upper video at right—it can be seen that at least some squirrels and cats get along quite well, especially when they are raised together. The video just mentioned is somewhat surprising because it apparently shows a wild squirrel cavorting with a tame cat.
Indeed, as peculiar as it may seem, it’s a fact that cats, at least some cats, have been known to adopt and nurse young squirrels (as shown in the video at right), which is significant in the present context, given that most mammals imprint on the type of animal that raises them. In other words, when they reach sexual maturity, they will choose to mate with that kind of animal, even if that kind is not their own (read a discussion of imprinting elsewhere on this website).
Considering the various videos available on YouTube showing cats nursing squirrels, it’s clear that the behavior documented in the particular video on this page is by no means unique. And seemingly, those who study animals have long been aware that such things do on occasion occur. Thus, an early nineteenth-century naturalist, William Bingley (1820, pp. 247-248) states the following: “A boy, says [the Rev. Mr. White of Selborne], brought to him three young Squirrels, which had been
Clauder’s account seems to be unsubstantiated hearsay, but he did publish it in a medical journal. So perhaps it was a real event. If so, it’s interesting to speculate what might have happened. But, of course, at this distance in time there really is no way of knowing whether Clauder’s squirrel actually was birthed by a cat. So I just record his report as something strange and interesting that someone someday might be able to explain.
By the same author: Handbook of Avian Hybrids of the World, Oxford University Press (2006).
The following is a list of reported cat crosses. Some of these crosses are much better documented than others (as indicated by the reliability arrow). Indeed, some might seem completely impossible. But all have been reported at least once. The links below are to separate articles. Additional crosses, not listed here, are covered on the cat hybrids page.
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