Cloud Cat hunting

A while ago I did a few sketches of Cloud Cats from the novel "Airborn" by kenneth Oppel; requested by a friend.

I was very curious about how it was possible to make a panther, as improbable as a flyer as it sounds into an exclusively aerial animal. I've been giving it a lot of thought and made a few attempts with anatomy borrowed from bats, marsupial gliders, pterosaurs and albatross.

I also wanted to give it a try in a colour illustration. The end result isn't as detailed and polished as I'd like, but I hope you'll enjoy it nonetheless.

Here are a few justifications for the design I made here if you are interested :

As the animal is supposed to live exclusively in the air and never land, it should have very efficient, energy saving flight capacities. Instead of going for a traditional bat wing design, I went for long, relatively broad wings for gliding. Like the Albatross, it would have relatively weak chest muscles but long wings with a specialized tendon attaching to a pterosaur-like pteroid bone. It would allow the wing to stay spread at its maximum without effort

Another important aspect of the wing design is that they are
entirely covered with thick but short fur. This was important in my opinion, because the animal would constantly stay at high altitudes, exposed to the sun. A sun that might have been harmful to delicate bat membranes. But not if they are protected by thick white fur, with a high albedo, not unlike polar bears.

Of course, the fur would also be needed to protect it against the cold and the wind.

The wings are equipped with hooks, (the thumbs) which are also deadly weapons against much larger flying animals, or against cloud cat rivals.

In this particular drawing, the cloud cat had long, rather robust hind legs equipped with non retractable owl-like claws. That would help it quickly grab its prey and eat it small bits by small bits as it flies. A feline would maybe have difficulties breathing with a prey in its mouth, knowing that it might already have difficulties without the efficient respiratory system of birds.

But I thought that much smaller but longer legs, with a secondary membrane attached to the tail would provide balance in flight, a little like in bats while not adding dead weight to the animal. It would still be able to catch prey with them but it would be restricted to smaller animals.

It would also have smaller ears than other felines and rely mostly on it's very good sight.
I haven't modified much the head itself with is somewhere between a lion and leopard. Ideally, the eyes would be protected from the sun in a way similar to birds of prey with a prominent bone.


  1. Ho wow, this design is wonderful! You really put a lot of thought in your creature!

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