Police seize Scottish wildcat from charity and it’s downhill from there

NEWS AND VIEWS: The police have been at it again; screwing up and messing around. And telling fibs, I’d say. In the UK can we trust the police anymore? No, I’m afraid not.

In this story, a wildlife charity in Wales, Wildcat Haven, was looking after a rescued Scottish wildcat kitten called Finlay. He had been found in the Scottish Highlands as a three-week-old kitten. He was in a bad way and needed urgent medical attention.

Scottish wildcat
Scottish wildcat. Technically I would classify the Scottish wildcat as a European wildcat. This is NOT Finlay, the cat in question. Photo: Mike Seamons.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats
Difference between Scottish wild cat and hybrid variant
Difference between Scottish wild cat and hybrid variant. Image in public domain.

Finlay was being rehabilitated by the charity before release back into the wild. The first issue and the major one is that the charity had assessed the cat as a Scottish wildcat hybrid based on a diagnostic method which assesses the coat markings. On this assessment Finlay scored 14/21. So, he is not a purebred wildcat. I’d expect the assessment process to be problematic to be honest. Can you assess a wildcat cat from appearance only. I don’t believe you can.

It is no surprise to me that Finlay is a hybrid as there are probably no true wildcats left in the wild as the ones in the wild are all hybrids.

The truth is that Finlay might well be a regular tabby cat but North Wales police seized him from the charity because they did not have a license to keep one. The charity said that they don’t need one to rescue, rehabilitate and return a wildcat to the wild.

Nonetheless the police seized Finlay and kept him for 4 months before handing him back saying that Finlay is a tabby domestic cat! It took them 4 months during which it is claimed that they took poor care of him and his health deteriorated. The police deny this and say that he was checked by a vet and well cared for.

The charity claims that the police committed a crime. They claim they are in breach of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. It looks entirely plausible. They’ve made a formal complaint.

They also say that the police’s mistakes have set back Finlay’s rehabilitation. They had to start all over as when he was returned by the police he was “in an emaciated state and has required six months of intensive care to bring him back to health”.

Finlay is scheduled to be released into the wilds of Scotland in late spring 2023 when prey is abundant.

The big question is whether all of this is for nought. If Finlay is now in effect a domesticated wildcat hybrid, is it sensible to treat him as a purebred wildcat and return him to the harsh wilds of Scotland where he might struggle to survive. It is a bit like putting a domestic into the wild and expecting them to survive. Most don’t.

Why not treat him as an exotic wildcat hybrid, if he is genuinely that, and allow someone to adopt him? The police have already said that he is a tabby cat and therefore they would not object as no license is required.

That might be the more humane way forward. Perhaps when he was rescued in Scotland, he was a feral tabby kitten. No more and no less. It is almost impossible to differentiate between a stocky tabby domestic cat and a genuine Scottish wildcat on appearance alone.

3 thoughts on “Police seize Scottish wildcat from charity and it’s downhill from there”

  1. The cat in the picture must have some wild blood in him. Look at the tail. 1. It is bushy and does not narrow to the tip. In domestic tabbies, tails narrow at the end. 2. There are clear circles on the tail with no black line – called the dorsal stripe – connecting the stripes. In domestic cats, the dorsal stripe always goes ro the end of the tail. There is an old video on you tube on how to distinguish a v Scottish wildcat from a hybris and from a domestic. The tail circles is the most obvious and clearly seen characteristics. All domestic tabbies have it, you will not be able to find one whose dorsal stripe does not go to the end. Interestingly, if you look at other wildcat subspecies, even those with different looks like African or Asian wildcats, you will also see no dorsal stripe on the tail.

    I fon’t know if this particular cat is adopted to surviving in the wild, especially without a wildcat mother who taught him. I remember watching a documentary about Scottish wildcats, it said that in the wild, kittens are born in late spring and stay with their mother until fall learning everything. Then, they go to find their terrotory in the woods.

    • Thank you Kitty for commenting. Yes, the Scottish wildcat is a tabby cat that looks quite like an ordinary tabby cat but much wilder as you say. They have this distinct wild appearance. Also the true Scottish wildcat was more stocky and muscular. Their coat was a little more dense to protect them when living outside in cold climates. But now they’ve become a hybrid through crossbreeding with domestic cats and feral cats, they have become less like the original Scottish wildcat and it can be very hard to distinguish between a tabby domestic cat with a slightly wild look and a Scottish wildcat. They’ve merged both in appearance and I presume in their character.

  2. Glad you wrote this article. I used to breed Chihuahua’s. Mom and I had a few females and only one male. It took us 20 years to breed out the bad traits the dogs suffered from. I suppose it could be done faster in cats if you breed them 2x’s a year. From what I understand they started with cats that were a 75% DNA match or more taken from dead specimens. Then continued breeding till they got to 90%. They also cleared the area where the wildcats were to be released of all other cats, so no more breeding with feral house cats. Also the people in the area were given free spay and neuter of their cats for free and are to keep it secret where the cats are. The wild cats have been given legal protection and to kill one will land you in jail with a big fine. I for one am hoping they survive and thrive. Here in the USA we only have 120 Ocelots left in the wild, so a breeding program is working to restore their numbers but feral cats aren’t as big a problem as they live along the Mexico border.


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