Opossum-cat Hybrids?

Hybrids out of History



rafinesque Rafinesque

Virginian Opossum Virginian Opossum
(Didelphis virginiana)

Domestic cat Domestic Cat
(Felis catus)

Video: Foster mother cat cares for baby opossums

The early American naturalist Constantine Samuel Rafinesque (1821, p. 113; see also Rafinesque 1820, p. 85), a professor at the University of Louisville, gives the following account of a hybridization between a female cat and a male Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana), which he describes as “well-attested” (“bien avéré”):

A cat was left in a cabin in the Kentucky woods, abandoned for several months. This cabin was perfectly isolated, being several leagues [a league was about three miles] from any other. There were no cats within eighteen miles. Upon his return to the cabin, the owner found his cat nursing a litter of five little monsters, resembling cats in body and fur, but having the head, the feet and tail of a Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginianus to naturalists). The animals lived and were shown as a curiosity in all the region; but they died young and without propagating themselves. One conjectures, with reason, that the cat, quite isolated, abandoned, and living on birds, mice, and moles during the interim, aroused a male opossum, while in heat, for lack of a mate of her own kind—for there are no wild cats in Kentucky (those so called are lynx) — and was impregnated by him. But it is quite singular that a union between two such different animals — so different that they belong not only to different genera, but also to different families, in fact, orders — was fruitful. The sole similarity between the two, it seems, is that of size. [Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original French.]

Most hybrids reported by Rafinesque were rather mundane, but he did describe one other extremely unusual one.

See also the related article “Possum-cat Hybrids.”

Table of contents >>

Bibliography >>

Biology Dictionary >>

A list of cat crosses

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.

dog-cow hybrid A dog-cow hybrid?
reliability arrow

Cat × Wildcat >>

Lion × Tiger >>

Jaguar × Lion >>

Leopard × Lion >>

Jaguar × Leopard >>

Cat × Pallas’s Cat >>

Cat × Rabbit (Cabbits) >>

Cat × Marten >>

Leopard × Tiger >>

Cat × Dog >>

Cat × Raccoon >>

Cat × Possum >>

Cat × Opossum >>

Cat × Human >>

Cat × Rat >>

Cat × Squirrel >>

Cat × Duck >>

Cat × Chicken >>

Cat × Horse >>

By the same author: Handbook of Avian Hybrids of the World, Oxford University Press (2006).

Screenshot of Rafinesque's report cited in The London Medical and Physical Journal, (Vol. 46, p. 29): rafinesque

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