Today I heard the Scottish Wildcat was close to becoming extinct

By D. Green

Scottish Wildcat painting

Today (16th Nov. 2013) I heard the Scottish Wildcat was close to becoming extinct and it made me remember an experience I had when aged 8-10, on the South Downs in about 1976-1978, where I think I saw one. Not only saw it but came within about 8ft of it and it went absolutely crazy beserk! Just posted the story on a forum that I joined today because if you read the thread someone else thinks they may have saw one on the South Downs and also stories of sightings in Canterbury, Kent. Here is my story and posting on the forum I joined (believe it or not!). The first post is by someone else (Tufftie) which made me want to post my story (Animale) which is below the first story.

Re Thread: Could I have spotted a wildcat on the South Downs?

Originally Posted by tufftie :-

I saw one in my old garden which backs onto a woodland leading onto the Downs. Yes I have seen them in the wild before and a wildlife place near Canterbury – there was no doubt what it was. There were quite a few positive reportings about that time and my understanding was that it/they were escapees from a captive breeding programme…not sure the ins and outs of this. So, it is possible that this was a true wildcat – where abouts did you see it?

And my story :-

Just came across this thread/ posting and joined forum so I could post on this subject.
Years ago, my father used to live in a property that directy backed onto the Sussex downs, was literally over the fence. One early evening heard a really weird ‘crying/wailing’ sound, was difficult to describe, couldn’t quite place what was going on or what it was. I was about 8 years old and for some reason got it in my head that it was a baby crying. I guess that is what it sounded like the most. I headed towards the back of the garden, were it backs onto the downs and were the noise was coming from. I started to think it was a baby that had been abandoned or something! Unlikely maybe but that is what it seemed/ sounded like, or all I could come up with at the time to describe the sound.

As I climbed through the bushes at the back of garden onto the Downs there was a small clearing/ bank surrounded by undergrowth and bushes. Suddenly heard a massive hiss and screech and found myself looking directly at a quite larger than normal tabby type cat, it went absolutely crazy (was about 8ft in distance) from me. It had much wilder looking fur (bushier and tuftier, particularly around the face and ears). It was screeching and hissing like a complete lunatic and think it lunged its paw forward to warn me to get the hell out. I had never seen a cat behave as aggressive and strangely as this, it was just far too wild and the hissing/ screeching noise was just out of this world.

I knew it was not a normal cat but did not even realise wild cats even existed at the time. I backed off sharply and the thing was still fronting me up with its hair virtually standing on end. Remember its face showing its teeth and the tufty hair around its ears. I backed right off and swiftly retreated the way I came. The noise it was making was really ‘really’ crazy and it seemed absolutely furious at being disturbed. Think both the Cat and myself wanted to get away but we kind of found ourselves staring face to face at each other and think the cat felt at a disadvantage if it was to turn its back on me to go, so it stood its ground and warned me to get the hell out of here. It really was going crazy.

As I got older never forgot the experience and started to research abit. No doubt in my mind what it was, you can just tell by the size/ behavior/ noise and look. Think was a true wild cat for sure…. The thing was just SO wild. Seems to tie in with the stories on this thread.

That is what I posted on Forum but on reflection the experience is maybe becoming slightly clearer and my memory refreshing it self possibly. After thinking more about the experience I got a feeling that the Cat ran away before I did, as I honestly did not know wild cats existed. I was scared but not terrified, more amazed, as I thought it was just a really angry and strange cat. As it bolted, it moved in a heavier much wilder way than a normal cat. It wasn’t very pleased at all and have never seen such a furious hissing beast as this, it really was truly wild and the noise it made was crazy.

The picture I post with it looked exactly like the cat I saw, including its behavour on being rudely disturbed.


More: Search results for “Scottish wildcat” on PoC.

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Today I heard the Scottish Wildcat was close to becoming extinct — 11 Comments

  1. Hi, the cat you met definitely sounds like a Scottish wildcat – a cat of the wildcat species. They were deemed extinct in England by 1835 when the last one was shot by a landowner. That was the mentality in those days.

    It seems that, as Tufftie states, this was an escaped captive wildcat.

    For many years the experts stated that the Scottish wildcat was near extinction at 400 cats in Scotland.

    Then they realised that due to extensive mating with domestic tabby cats the so called purebred wildcats were in fact hybrids and so it has been decided that there may be no purebred wildcats left in the UK.

    The hybrid looks very similar to the original cat.

  2. My memory is working overtime and think I can recall slightly more information of the experience. Turns out the neighbouring property, right near were I ran into the creature, kept homing pidgeons. The neighbour was a real homing pidgeon enthusiast and were many of them and they lived in an enclosed wooden shed thing. Maybe this is what attracted the cat to this area, as it smelt the pidgeons and knew they were there. The cat was maybe just a few feet from the back of the enclosure when I disturbed it. Maybe the crying/wailing sound was because it wanted to get into the shed to get at the pidgeons but could not find a way in? There again, do cats not make a wailing/crying sound when they are ‘on heat’ to attract a mate? Anyway, whatever, that is what made me investigate, the crying/wailing sound which sounded very much like a crying baby almost.
    Regards again.

  3. Memory still working overtime and think whilst confronting the incredible thing (and assuming it was an extremely wild but ‘normal cat, I did not know wildcats even existed’). I actually tried to calm it by calling out ‘Its okay’ and tried to coax it with calming words for the 10-30 seconds confrontation, thinking it would calm down! Dread to think what would have happened if I had had got closer to it or reached a hand out, which may well have crossed my mind! Reckon I was about 8ft from it and it adopted a crouching defensive but also highly aggressive pose, with its ears swept back, teeth showing and possibly hair standing on end somewhat. Truly wild was its behaviour and aggressive defence/stance was crazy.
    So sad that these incredible animals may disappear. I guess it could have been a ‘relative/hybrid’ and not a true wild cat but by the Baby crying sound and appearance and behaviour, I reckon it may have been a true breed or very close descendant.
    Found another thread on this place in Kent that apparently has/had captive breeding program and more interesting info. Apparently wasn’t the only place that had captive breeding programs, seems there were a few others also in UK (Southern Areas).
    link :

    • You are a rare individual because very few people have seen first hand and close up a wildcat in the UK. They have been so rare for so long in the UK. The Scottish wildcat is a case where cloning might have been the answer. I think cloning won’t work but if it did we might be able to save this subspecies of wildcat. The truth is, though, that there is no place for wildcats in the UK anymore. Too many people with domestic cats that become stray and feral which mate with the wildcat. The wildcat is the ancestor of the domestic cat. They are the same animal pretty well.

  4. Also an ‘extremely lucky individual’, I think, to have seen it and been so close. One of my best memories ever and do not want to forget it and hopefully never will.
    I saw something else pretty damn strange once, a Puma in the street! I am not joking!! Walked right by me and I could tell it was tame. Turns out a somewhat eccentric lady who lived close kept it as an exotic pet before the dangerous animals act came in. As it walked, or should I say ‘slinked’ by me, I was so amazed and the thing was so beautiful I just had to touch it and held my hand out and touched its back as it walked. I think it was very tame and also think it knew I was young and wished it no harm. She did not let it out but on this occasion think it got out of the garden! That was something else also.

    • May I add, to stop any speculation, it was not an escapee, it knew were it lived and was returning home! She also had a younger baby Puma, I saw that a few years later, sitting on her garden wall!

      • Back to SWC and your comments/knowledge concerning the breeding with Ferals/Domestics. I guess the experience could have been with a Hybrid. As already stated though, it must have had a lot of True blood to have acted so beserk and distinctively? Also the noise was bizarre, just like a baby crying. As you say though, as the breeding is so intertwined it maybe difficult to tell? I guess sadly the true bloods have just disappeared for whatever reasons and that is just how it is. Also, this happened in 1976-78 thereabouts and guess the population may well have been higher. Still doesn’t explain it though as they are not native at all down South.
        More than likely must have been an escapee from one of the programs/ wildlife places and probably was pretty close to pure, or as pure as one is ever likely to see on the South Downs! As I saw on another forum though and as I think you are saying it is very hard to tell a true pure blood as it can only be done by DNA testing? This maybe the case but also when you do see/ experience something that is really wild, its behaviour certainly stands out and you can tell there is something about it that is truly wild and free. By the experience I had, I can 100% understand when it is said, “They are totally untameable”. That is how it seemed, such was its truly dramatic and ferocious reaction to being disturbed. I reckon it was trying to get at the homing pidgeons kept in the shed, was just feet away from the back of it.

  5. What a fascinating story Mr D Green and one I very much enjoyed reading. What interesting and unique experiences you have had in your lifetime. Thank you for sharing them with us.

    • Your welcome and glad you enjoyed the tale! (or tail? sorry bad joke!)
      My unique experiences have been few and often far between(as maybe expected) and often only lasted seconds or minutes. However, as one may well appreciate, when you are incredibly lucky enough to chance upon something such as my two experiences, time absolutely stands still in that moment. Words cannot really explain the excitement and wonder whilst staring at a Wildcat just a few feet away getting ready to rip my eyes out or the amazement at seeing a Puma for the very first time (and in a surburban street at that). Yes, maybe the best way to describe it is that time stands absolutely still and you are conscious of absolutely nothing else other than the complete wonder of what you see right in front of you. That Cat and the way it behaved was just the most incredible and exciting thing, there was something about it that could not be fathomed and certainly not controlled, should one be foolish enough to try. To experience the ferocity and bravery of the incredible thing defending its own right and space is nothing short of amazing.
      After more research it is just sinking in just how rare the creature was and is. Truly perculiar experience to have and think anyone who has the same probably never ever forgets it. Just how amazing and elusive are those animals it seems, or when they choose to be. Poor blighters, guess they may have had to develop that trait because of the persecution they have suffered over centuries.
      Thankyou again Micheal for all the knowledge and information and pointing out to me just how rare this amazing animal is.

      Starting to get my head around the issues and the dilemma it and the caring individuals face in trying to save it. Those genes/bloodlines that cause the animal to behave in such a unique and individual way just CANNOT and MUST NOT be lost! To think this incredible and mysterious creature may not exist anymore is an unthinkable and truly horrible thought. Centuries and centuries of unique behavioural culture and history of its heritage will disappear with it along its true blood. Also sadly the tales and once in a lifetime experiences (such as mine) of when people were ‘lucky’ enough to glimpse or confront(or get confronted) by them will also never happen again.
      I hope these wonderful people/ experts that are fighting to save them will fight as hard as the Wildcat would and trust they will.

  6. May I add in my previous comments where I describe my experience of the cats behaviour of ‘getting ready to rip my eyes out’, is not literally as the situation was. I was using it more as a descriptive graphical term to depict the crazy situation/ story. The cat probably wanted to see me a damn site lot less than I did him/her. It was merely warning me in Natures and its own very own special way to back off, which I did somewhat but couldn’t totally as was the amazement of seeing something behave so wild. The animal quickly assessed the situation and once it felt more comfortable with the scenario that I wasn’t maybe as bad as I seemed and not really a threat, it took off. It certainly did not want to confront me, more trying to tell me it needed its own space as everyone needs and has the right to.

    • It was a good description of the innate defensive aggressiveness that the Scottish wildcat is known for. The Scottish Wildcat Association, on their website, make this point very clear. It is a defining characteristic of this species of wildcat. Not every wild cat species is this aggressive. The cheetah is an example of a relatively passive wild cat species. The margay and serval are others.

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