UK government might stop the licensing of wild cat hybrids

Wild cat hybrids are cats such as the Savannah and the Bengal. These are the best known but there are many others, some of them quite rare. I have a list of them which you can see by clicking on this link.

F1 Bengal cat
F1 Bengal cat. Photo: Helmi Flick.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

The Wildheart Trust with the backing of wildlife presenter Chris Packham, are campaigning for a ban on the licensing (and as a consequence creation) of the exotic wild cat hybrids. They say that they cause “untold harm and long-term damage to feline species” as reported on MSN News.

The Kurt Zouma story that went viral in which this Premier League (West Ham) footballer was videoed kicking and slapping his Bengal cat has perhaps reinforced the belief that this is a suitable moment to call time on wild cat hybrids in the UK.

The campaign appears to be timed with the renewal after five years by the UK government of the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018. The renewal will happen next year.

RELATED: Sand cat F1 wild cat hybrids (pictures)

The regulations apply when a local authority receive an application from somebody or a legal entity for a licence to own listed animals or to renew an existing licence to keep those animals.

At present, in the UK, the law on keeping wild cat hybrids is somewhat confused in my view. The keeping of them is governed by the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976.

An F1 i.e. first filial Savannah cat will need a licence currently. The second filial and below don’t need licenses in the UK.

As for the Bengal cat, the position is somewhat confused. The wild cat species involved in the creation of the Bengal cat, the Asiatic leopard cat, is not listed under this act and therefore I will presume that F1 Bengal cats are not allowed without a licence.

Lower filials are allowed. But please check the law yourself. But rather than change the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976, the proposal is to change the rules about applying for a licence which is quite a clever way of banning first filial wild cat hybrids because if the local authority does not grant a licence, it doesn’t matter whether a wild cat hybrid is allowed or not under an Act. However, as hybrids below F1 don’t need a licence it seems to me that this campaign only relates to F1 wild cat hybrids currently allowed under licence.

RELATED: “Marguerite” – sand cat x domestic cat, wild cat hybrid

A1 Savannahs high filial (F1?) Savannah cat in France I believe
A1 Savannahs high filial (F1?) Savannah cat in France I believe. Picture: PoC.

A spokesperson for the Wildheart Trust stated that they are against keeping wildcat hybrids as pets and particularly those based on the serval i.e. the Savannah cat. This particular breed is the most popular probably amongst the rich who want to live with an exotic felid. I say ‘the rich’ as they are very expensive at upwards of £20k.

They equate the creation of wild cat hybrids with the mating of a wolf with a poodle. I think it’s a fair analogy. They don’t believe that there is a place for this kind of commercial breeding in the 21st-century in the UK.

And it appears that some people who purchase F1 Savannah cats under a licence don’t know how to look after them and they need rescuing. The rescuers say that they are often in poor condition when rescued.

Another charity, Born Free have estimated that there are 259 first-generation (first filial or F1) wild cat hybrids registered as pets in the UK. Many of them are used for the breeding of more hybrid cats.

They are popular for people who want to own an exotic animal. And you will see them publicised and advertised on social media websites.

Another issue is that breeders of Savannah cat sometimes breed serval cats because some people like to keep serval cats as pets. This is bad for conservation. The serval lives in Africa. At some stage you’re going to have to get a serval from Africa to the UK to breed from. The F1 Savannah’s father is a serval and the mother will be a tabby cat, probably a high filial Savannah cat. Servals are not good pets and try and escape their confinement. They sometimes succeed.

RELATED: Living with Wild Cat Hybrids

In many respects the animal advocates that I have mentioned are right because a lot of people just don’t know how to properly care for high filial wild cat hybrids and their lives can be quite stressful (human and cat ?). They have to be kept inside the home 24/7 because it is far too dangerous to let them roam. They are more intelligent and therefore more demanding as they require more stimulation and therefore more input from their caregivers. A lot of people don’t have the time, commitment or patience to deliver this.

The high filial hybrids are a bit of a recipe for disaster for the typical cat owner. You have to be a very special individual to be able to be a good caregiver of one of his exotic cats.

It would not upset me at all to see an effective ban of these exotic companion animals from UK through an amendment to the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018.

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