The Truth about the Twisty Kats

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Flipper sits up quite naturally

Many people saw our Twisty Kats on Animal Planet's "Weird, True, and Freaky" for the first time but they have been around for much longer than that! Flipper, Eleanor, and Toad showed off with real gusto for the Animal Planet camera, just like the old days.

Interest in these strange little kitties started back in 1998 when we built a webpage for Flipper and her kittens. Flipper was born in March of 1996. She is now 15 and will be 16 in March. Eleanor, her "kitten", was born 3/3/98 and will be 14 next March 2012. Toad was born in 2000 after the original controversy, and was our youngest Twisty. We lost her with a respiratory infection unrelated to her radial agenesis in 2010 at age 10 and still miss her very much. "Toady" was from her polydactyl dam Blue's last litter and was sired by Zeus of Karma, a tom that had previously sired a number of litters of lovely polydactyl kittens. Neither Blue nor Zeus had ever had a Twisty kitten before Toady's birth.

"Weird, True and Freaky" had a number of mistakes in their broadcast. Karma Farms DOES NOT breed Twisties and does not sell Twisties. These very rare cats are occasionally born in some lines of polydactyl cats and perhaps other non-poly cats as well. Karma Farms does breed and sell POLYDACTYL CATS, and ours are some of the best and smartest polys in the world. But the gene for the "Twisty Kats" is likely still carried by some of our poly lines, and once in a blue moon, one of these strange kittens is born. Since 1999 we have been using outcross poly lines to make it less likely for our cats to produce a Twisty kitten. But if they should, we would never destroy it--Flipper, Ellie and Toad have been wonderful pets that we love very much. Toady is gone now, and Flip and Ellie are getting to be "senior citizens" in the feline world. Those who have said that they would not live happy and healthy lives such as the vet on "Weird, True and Freaky" weren't given their actual ages, obviously. We never met her and she NEVER examined any of our Twisty Kats. If she had, she might be surprised at their good general health, especially for their age. Flip and Ellie are still quite playful and cheerful. Here they are:

Flipper sits up. Eleanor Rigby sits up.
The 3 Twisties look up together. Did not fix flash so the green of Toad's, the blue of Ellie's and both colors in Flip's eyes are obvious.

Below is a detailed photographic study of the best-known of the Twisties, Flipper of Karma. After the Associated Press story in 1998 which said that the Twisty Kats "were forced to hop or crawl", we received numerous emails from concerned folks who believed this erroneous article. Other prestigious and well-known periodicals such as the Wall Street Journal and New York Post printed much more correct articles. All the Twisty Kats we have ever seen (including cats owned by others that have sent us their pictures over the years) can walk--but they also sit up like rabbits or kangaroos. They have good mobility, too, though Toady was less able than Flip or even Eleanor due to her more inwardly twisted front feet. True, they can't jump as high as normal cats, but they certainly do jump! Sarge and Flipper did a measured 3'2" jump for the news camera from Dallas Channel 11 back in 1998. The Twisties jump on the beds and into chairs every day. You may have seen Ellie leap up on the bed with grace and poise on the "Weird, True and Freaky" segment.

In writing the original newspaper article that started all the controversy back in 1998, the reporter (Richard Duncan) quoted a highly inaccurate and inflammatory petition sent to the local newspaper online by a person who created a fictional humane organization ("Citizens of the United States against Cat Cruelty and Abuse") that has never been incorporated and for all practical purposes, was just made up by the petitioner's creator. Mr. Duncan's first article said, "The Citizens of the United States against Cat Cruelty and Abuse accuse Karma Farms of purposely inbreeding a 'new breed' of cat--one that is incapable of walking on all fours and must crawl or hop around on its hind legs." (Italics mine) But the Texas AP wire story did not credit this statement to the libelous petition, stating as fact that the Twisty Cats couldn't walk. The Associated Press didn't even bother to make one telephone call to Karma Farms to verify the story before putting this lie on the wire for release to the world.

So we took Flipper to our local newspaper office and let the whole staff see, pet and enjoy her. The Marshall News Messenger ran Richard Duncan's second article on November 28, 1998 on its front page with the below picture of Flipper and I, and the headline "Breeder says crooked-leg cats cool". The story clearly stated that "Flipper does walk and jump much like other cats..." And Flip got studio pictures which the photographer, Les Hassell, has been kind enough to allow us to use them here ever since. Thanks, Les!

Photos by Les Hassell/Marshall News Messenger-1998

Flipper and Vik at the News Messenger
One bright-eyed and happy Flipper visited the News Messenger and proved that she not only walks but also plays, jumps and snoops around.

Flipper has a vestigial foot at her wrist joint and walks with this pad and her regular foot in contact with the floor.
Flipper is more "different" than one might realize at first glance. Both front feet and hind feet are uniquely adapted. Here one may see the vestigial foot at Flipper's wrist joint.

Flipper on all fours simply appears to have a longer foot than the normal cat.
Here Flipper is on all fours--one can see that from her wrist to end of her front toes makes floor contact, making her appear to have a very long foot.

Flipper, a living Maneki Neko.

There is a Japanese legend known as the Maneki Neko, the Cat of Luck, or the Beckoning Cat. We've had a few people including several Japanese reporters tell us that our Twisty Kats appear to be living Maneki Neko. Could a Japanese Twisty be the origin of this wonderful story? Want to know the Maneki Neko legend? Click the pictures above to go to for one story of the Beckoning Cat.

So far these unique cats--15 year old Flipper and her surviving 13 year old "kitten", Eleanor Rigby--have appeared in countless newspapers, TV news and news magazine shows worldwide including Animal Planet's "Weird, True and Freaky" and other shows such as Fox's Pet Week, Comedy Central's The Daily Show, and daughter Victoria Lynn and Flipper flew to LA and appeared on a segment of The Leeza Show back in 1998.

Here's more of Eleanor Rigby of Karma, our beloved "cokangasaur". We call her that because if she was a hybrid, she'd be part spitting cobra (because she thinks she's so tough when she hisses and spits at the other cats), part kangaroo (because she's such a good jumper and sits up comfortablly on her huge back feet), and part baby Tyrannosaurus Rex (little arms, big feet, sharp teeth).

Eleanor has wonderful balance. Ellie loves to drink out of a glass.

Eleanor loves to play with her velour belt--a beloved toy. Ellie poses, queen of the bed.

Eleanor gives Vik a kiss. Ellie caterpillars, sliding and rubbing for joy whle she purrs.

Here's our Valentoad--or just "Toady" for short. She acquired her name by hopping out from the crawlspace under our house when she was less than six weeks old, a little black van Twisty bob with a valentine shaped black spot on her head. We didn't even know her momma was still fertile as old Blue hadn't had kittens for quite a while. We grabbed that Toady up and took her inside--and she never had to be alone again. She didn't go out ever again either.

Toad loved to wrap her front feet around things like this favorite rock doorstop. Toad was bright-eyed and bob-tailed with inwardly twisted front feet.

Toad loved and was loved. Here she gets a kiss from Tommi. Toad stretches out for a nap.

A New Breed?

We do not call the Twisty Kats "a new breed". The reason is simple--most people would not want a pet that needs to spend its life indoors. These cats have little defense as they cannot climb trees and have real difficulty fighting back with their abbreviated front feet. It is true that we wanted kittens like Flipper when we bred her and did hope that there would be a breed like Flip one day. But we found that the Twisty gene rarely produced one like Flip and can cause more twisting and abbreviation than we wanted. So we neutered her and kept or placed her kittens. Today, if our polys should produce a kitten that shows the trait, however mildly, it is not sold but kept here or given away for the cost of its shots and deworming with an understanding that it is to be neutered and never bred. All Twisties ever born at Karma Farms have been neutered.

That said, we do also have this to add. Pets are NOT created by natural selection; they are created through selective breeding. How long do you think a chihuahua or a Munchkin would make it in the wild? Virtually ALL English bulldogs are born by c-section because their jaws are too huge to pass through the birth canal. Just take a long look at our pet breeds today and find even ONE developed by a geneticist to improve its survivability in the wild.

Nature has little to do with how we breed our pets. Read the histories of the various recognized breeds, and you will find that they were created by man for his purposes--from providing amusement to killing each other in pit fights. The same is true of our domestic livestock which were bred for human needs and desires, not to benefit the animal or to improve on its physiology for suvival in the wild.

We are certainly NOT calling the Twisties a new breed. We bred the single litter of Twisty kittens on purpose back in 1998 because Flipper was so admired by so many visitors as well as our family. And if we could have assured that all our Twisty kittens looked like Flipper, we would still be working to make them an accepted breed. Flipper is still purr-fectly healthy and happy as she nears 16 years old.

Why do you think Manx have no tails? What about Munchkins with their short front legs, or the hairless Sphinx? Many accepted exotic breeds have inherent problems. How about Scottish Folds with closed ear channels, flat-faced Persians with eyes that are easily knocked from their sockets and sinus problems, Manx with spina bifida and incomplete rectums? At this point, the only thing problematic about our Twisty Kats is their peculiar locomotion and the fact that they sit up often on their hind legs. Back in 1998, some claimed that they would be candidates for early arthritic problems and would develop sores on their limbs. Since Flip is now 15 and even Ellie is 13, we don't think it can be said that they have inherent health problems that will keep them from having a long, happy life. In fact, they have already done so. And they have certainly added to the joy in ours.

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Eleanor says good night.

Bigfoots forever,

Vickie Ives

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