What was a Canada lynx doing in England, UK, roaming around Devon attacking companion animals? It is probably going to be impossible to answer that question because it all happened 110 years ago! That, in itself, is interesting because at the time people didn’t know what the cat was. However, it was shot – aren’t they always – stuffed and discovered in the basement of the Bristol Museum. Modern scientists have identified the cat as a Canada lynx.
The people who like the idea of mysterious “big cats” roaming around remote parts of England say that it could have been one of the last true Canada lynx from a time, 1500 years ago, when Canada lynx existed in the UK.
I am afraid that that impossibly faint prospect does not hold up to scrutiny because this Canada lynx had teeth and gum disease typical of today’s domestic cats. In fact, he had lost all his incisor teeth. As there were no zoos in the area at the time, the cat was probably a tame Canada lynx imported from Canada, or bred in England in captivity and fed inappropriate food until he escaped when he tried to get his remaining teeth around a dog. Escaping wild cats are a common problem because they do like a bit more space than is usually provided to a pet.
We don’t know how long the lynx was at large. His poor oral health would have made it more difficult to survive but, as we know, all cats are adaptable.
Another interesting aspect of this story is that this precious lynx was a genuine example of a large (well, actually, medium-sized) wild cat in the British countryside. There is a body of Brits who do like to believe that there are mysterious big cats at large in the woods and forests in the UK. There is never any hard proof that they exist. Often it is a large tabby cat instead. Perhaps this lynx kicked of the interest in mystery cats, 100 years ago? It is believed to be the first genuine case of an exotic cat on the loose in the UK.
Another genuine large wild cat that also escaped was Felicity the Puma. Cute cat. Pumas can be domesticated to a certain extent. There are many pumas snoozing on sofas in people’s living rooms in America purring loudly and feeding on Whiskas cat food from an over-sized, stainless steel dog bowl.
This particular puma escaped in Scotland and was free for a long time. Fortunately she was captured and placed in a zoo.
Perhaps these are the only two confirmed cases of wild cats at large in the UK despite thousands of claims to the contrary.