Stop me if you’ve heard the story of Thomas “the winged cat” before. Feel free to flip to the next section; it won’t hurt my feelings. If you haven’t heard the tale, it is a fun story about a cat with wings—that ended up in court.
In 1959, 15 year old Doug Shelton’s dog treed a cat while hunting. Doug climbed the tree and caught the cat and took it home with him. Doug named the cat Thomas; it was later revealed the cat was a female. Thomas had growths on her back that looked like wings.
Word of Doug’s winged cat spread through the community and eventually the nation. Doug and Thomas were invited to New York City where they appeared on television.
Figure 1: The Raleigh Register printed this picture of Thomas in their June 5, 1959, issue.
Back home in Pineville, West Virginia, Doug was charging 10¢ to see his cat. According to an article in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Doug raked in over $2,000 from eager visitors.
Whenever money is concerned, drama is sure to follow.
A lady named Mary Hicks claimed that Thomas was actually her cat Mitzi. According to her story, Mitzi fled after Hicks administered ear drops and was later found by Doug Shelton. Despite Hicks’ claims, the Shelton family refused to give her the cat.
Mary Hicks sued the Sheltons. She demanded the return of the cat or compensation—in the amount of $279.
A local magistrate awarded custody of the cat to Mrs. Hicks. However, upon appeal, the story took a twist.
The Shelton family brought Thomas to court; she did not have wings. Mrs. Hicks conceded that the cat was not Mitzi. Apparently, the cat had shed its “wings.” As evidence, the Sheltons had a shoe box filled with clumps of fur.
The jury awarded Mary Hicks $1.