Covered in thorny spines with a branched, cactus-like tail and a liking for hard liquor, Cactus Cat, or Cactifelinus inebrius, belongs to a pantheon of American monsters known as the Fearsome Critters.
Not only does Cactus Cat enjoy a drink, he brews his own booze. Using razor sharp bones that protrude from his forearms, he slashes the cactus, allowing the sap to ooze. Over the next few days, the sap ferments. Cactus Cat then returns, greedily lapping up the cactus liquor until drunk. Once he’s had his fill, he dances off into the desert, scratching his bony forearms together and yowling with joy.
The great cactus areas between Prescott and Tucson comprise his habitat, although sightings have been reported from the valley of the lower Yaqui in Mexico to the Yucatan. In times gone by, humans in these parts hunted the Cactus Cat using knowledge of his cactus slashing to lie in wait for his return to drink. But Cactus Cat is wily. While the humans thought they were hunting him, Cactus Cat would ambush his hunters and flog them to death with his spiny tail leaving red welts on the victim’s body. When the bodies were found, the welts were attributed to prickly heat – only the old-timers knew it was the Cactus Cat.
As an interesting side note, American Wizarding reports that early European settlers regarded these creatures as cactus dryads or beings whose lives were intimately tied to the cactus. While they have a symbiotic relationship with the cactus – dryads they are not. However, their spit reputedly has healing qualities.
American Wizarding. Cat dryad protecting the cactus?
Cohen, Daniel. Monsters, Giants, and Little Men from Mars: An Unnatural History of the Americas. New York: Doubleday, 1975.
Cox, William T. with Latin Classifications by George B. Sudworth. Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods. Washington, D.C.: Judd & Detweiler Inc., 1910.
Tryon, Henry. Fearsome Critters. Cornwall, NY: Idlewild Press, 1939.
Image: Illustrated by Coert Du Bois [public domain]. From Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods By William T. Cox, 1910.