Tetrapod Zoology

What is the Snodland mystery cat?

Both Cryptomundo and Big Cats in Britain have recently showcased the photo you see here.

i-a2d2053d3b3c0202616de5d6ae1e085f-Snodland_cat_Oct_2008_BCiB.jpg

Taken in Snodland, Kent (UK), earlier this year, it depicts what appears to be a dark, mid-sized felid (NOT a big cat in the proper sense), though the lack of any adequate scale makes its size difficult to judge. Is it just a domestic cat? I want to say that it is, but it just ‘looks’ larger and more robust, and with chunkier limbs. Superficially, it recalls an African golden cat Profelis aurata, and Loren Coleman has already suggested this (it wouldn’t be a big deal if it was, as all manner of exotic felids have escaped and lived wild in the British countryside). Local sightings have described a grey, fox-sized cat, and this might be the same animal. Neil Arnold (of Kent Big Cat Research) has suggested that it might be a jaguarundi, but these have proportionally shorter, slimmer limbs, and a longer tail, so I don’t agree. What do you think?

Comments

  1. #1 tai haku
    October 4, 2008

    I’m going to say very large domestic cat.

    I once spent 15 minutes stalking a “big cat” in the UK only to find a regular kitty so I’m more than happy to admit that without a scale item in view its easy to get thrown off on sizes.

  2. #2 Richard Carter, FCD
    October 4, 2008

    It looks like a fake photo to me: the way the legs all seem to go thinner (and paler) just before they disappear behind the brow of the hill looks like poor Photoshop cropping.

  3. #3 DunkTheBiscuit
    October 4, 2008

    It really does look like a regular moggie to me. I am presently surrounded by (and covered in) several of them, and one of them does indeed have such stocky legs – she’s very ‘cobby’

    If only the head was in profile…

    At the risk of my teaching Granny to suck eggs, you could do worse than get hold of a decent book of domestic cat breeds to compare these photographs to – the variability between breeds is remarkable, and some domestic breeds are quite large.

    (slightly off-topic but sort of on-topic) The photo you showed a while ago of the dead ‘rabbit faced cat’ in profile, I would have immediately identified as a pretty good example of a modern oriental shorthair breed. The roman nose is a desirable trait. I’m not qualified (at all) to comment on the skull, however I do know that the original Persian cat was bred to have protruding lower canines – this is not obvious in the modern breed, but I assume that since it was possible before, it is possible for a random mutation to create that effect again.

    I’m still slowly chewing my way through the archives of your wonderful blog – I’m up to June! Soon to start on Version 1. Thankyou for the effort you put in :)

  4. #4 Romeo Vitelli
    October 4, 2008

    “When all candles be out, all cats be grey”.
    John Heywood (1546).

  5. #5 William Miller
    October 4, 2008

    Hmmm … after a close inspection in GIMP (this picture is pretty low res, though), I don’t think it’s photoshopped. I think that’s just the narrowing legs at the ankle, plus the effect of the grass. (Looking at it at a level where individual pixels can be seen, they don’t really get paler except when grass is in the way.) I could be wrong, though.

    As for the ID, dang it. It *looks* more robust than a domestic cat (I can’t judge size, but it doesn’t look very big to me.) Jaguarundis look weird, almost weasel-like.

    I think I’ll go with a bulky domestic cat, since that seems more likely; but I certainly can’t rule an African Golden Cat out.

  6. #6 JuliaM
    October 4, 2008

    The colouring (and aspects of the head) makes me think ‘Burmese’…

  7. #7 octopusmagnificens
    October 4, 2008

    Felis silvestris catus.

  8. #8 ross
    October 4, 2008

    Looks to me like a dog. Especially the colouring. Legs arent very catlike either.

  9. #9 Graydon
    October 4, 2008

    Domestic cat with oriental shorthair in it, and mostly fluffed up because it feels cold.

    I can’t think of any larger kind of cat that has such a proportionally skinny tail, which doesn’t mean much, but I think the visible shape of the muzzle does.

  10. #10 DVMKurmes
    October 4, 2008

    Here in the U.S. It is popular to breed hybrids between domestic cats and various species of small wild felids.
    (“Bengals, Caracats, Savannahs, Chausies, etc.) Depending on the relative percent of wild/domestic cat, they can look a lot like wild felids and there is a lot of variation in appearance and size, some Savanahs (Serval/domestic hybrid) being up to 15kg or so and looking a lot like servals-large ears and long legs, etc.
    It is hard judge size in this picture, but it could be a large domestic or some type of hybrid.

  11. #11 Jerzy
    October 4, 2008

    Oh my…, another notorious poor, cropped photo of a cat with nothing to compare size to.

    Lets suspend the disbelief.

    You can have escaped captive black cats of several species. Leopard is much slimmer and longer-tailed, jungle cat has very bushy tail, asian golden cat has tail clearly longer than that (longer than hind leg), serval has stubby tail and long ears (and no black serval was kept in captivity AFAIK, black servals are very localized in few mountain regions).

    It can be African golden cat, but none of these creatures is known to be kept in zoos or private hands currently. These guys are RARE. After Late John Aspinall’s Port Lympne, no zoo laid its hands on one recently.

    This leaves domestic cat. Or, maybe, stuffed specimen positioned nicely behind the hill so you don’t see the wooden board?

    Next time you see a big cat, simply photograph tracks left by the creature. These don’t escape and are sure way to establish creature size. Or photograph some real object positioned in the same place as the cat. Or the location escaped? ;)

  12. #12 Tristram Brelstaff
    October 4, 2008

    Presumably this is the Oast Park Golf Course, Snodland, which is here on Google Maps. I don’t think there is enough detail in the photo to unambiguously identify where exactly on the course it was taken (and hence derive a scale). It would probably be necessary for someone to visit the course in person, but the tree in the background should be relatively easy to identify. Then they could take a second version of the photo with an object of known size in the place of the cat.

  13. #13 QrazyQat
    October 4, 2008

    The colouring (and aspects of the head) makes me think ‘Burmese’…

    That was also my immediate reaction, and looking more hasn’t changed it.

    Tristam, the problem with your suggestion is that you can’t tell where the animal was standing, and what lens was used to take the picture. The cat is not near any plant and is nowhere near the tree or anything that could be used as a scale. You can’t even tell how close it is to the plants in the background. I mean, I just watched Lord of the Rings again last night, and I’m pretty sure Ian McKellen is not twice as tall as Ian Holm. You have to know where the objects, or actors, are standing in relation to each other, and in the movie this was disguised; in the above photo, whether by accident or design, you can’t tell either.

  14. #14 David Lee
    October 4, 2008

    Looks like some of german shepherd mutt to me. Am I the only one?

  15. #15 c.glen
    October 4, 2008

    I was going to suggest what Tristram said, find the spot and retake the photo. Though QrazyQat has a point about not knowing lenses etc. ,importantly, zoom lenses can only effect focus, and can’t ‘cheat’ on perspective.

    You may be able to use persective between the tree in the back ground and the plants in the middle distance, and the crest of the grassy hill in the foreground to lock in roughly where the camera was.

    Firstly, if the middle distance shrubs have changes little you could line them up with the background tree to work out the ‘line of sight’ – i.e. the line along which the camera was placed (both horizontal placement, and height of the camera using the foreground hill crest).

    Once you’ve determined that you can figure out the likely spot for the camera (i.e. there may only be a limited number of places where you can stand/sit/lay and take this shot along this line). If there are more than one place along this line that camera could have been placed you can match the relative size of the background tree to the shrubs (and possibly even use size of shrub leaves and grass blades to help). Max and min size of obviously can be determined by the shrubs behind and the hill crest in front.

    All that said, though it does have a ‘big’ look, it probably is a moggy.

  16. #16 Dartian
    October 5, 2008

    I don’t think that’s an African golden cat (nor an Asian golden cat, for that matter); the ‘jizz’ isn’t right. In my opinion, unless that’s some weird hybrid, there are only two alternatives:

    -a domestic cat (the by far more probable explanation)

    -a jungle cat (Felis chaus); melanistic individuals of this species are known (Sunquist & Sunquist, 2002). But such individuals are rare and I would assume it to be quite unlikely that one would end up roaming free in the British countryside.

    Reference:

    Sunquist, M. & Sunquist, F. 2002. Wild Cats of the World, University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London.

  17. #17 shiva
    October 5, 2008

    This looks VERY similar to a lot of the Australian “big cat” photos/videos – much more like a small Felis in appearance than like any species it’s supposedly in the size range of (leopard, puma, lynx etc), yet with an undefinable *something* about it that somehow just makes it *look* a lot bigger than your average domestic.

    There is a theory that the Australian cats are an introgressive population of F. catus and F. chaus ancestry (some suggesting that F. chaus was brought to Australia by traders from somewhere in Asia before Europeans “discovered” Australia).

    This seems a lot less likely in the UK (although i think specimens of F. chaus have been captured and/or roadkilled in the UK, with their only possible origin being escapes from private collections). Also, of course, there are the introgressive F. catus/F. chaus hybrids being commercially bred for the pet trade (not sure how many of these there are in the UK tho).

    Occam’s Razor says it’s just a big, short-haired domestic tho.

    I REALLY don’t see the canine that some people think they’re seeing here. It always surprises me when there’s a “cryptid” photo that the debate about is usually which species within a well-known family it represents, and there are nearly always a few people who come up with something completely different (eg, last year’s rash of mangy coyote photos, with some people throwing out things like hyenas)…

  18. #18 John Conway
    October 5, 2008

    When I first looked at it I thought it looked pretty bulky, but then I realised that the far front leg is actually lifted; so you’re not looking at bulging muscles, but the curve of the wrist. Suddenly it just looks like any other domestic cat.

  19. #19 Ramond
    October 5, 2008

    Speaking of unidentified cats in the wild in Europe – try identifying the animal in this crappy short film: http://pl.youtube.com/watch?v=foahHnSVAOA
    This is supposed to be a fairly large felid (people talk about puma or lioness) stalking countryside near Krakow, Poland.

  20. #20 Jerzy
    October 5, 2008

    Here is the better version of Polish video. Note, that it started full search by police.

    BTW, if you warmed up to ID games, there was another mystery carnivore seen in Poland ca 2 years ago, affectionately named chupacabra. Pics are here:
    http://img404.imageshack.us/my.php?image=hoho1ur6.png
    http://img404.imageshack.us/my.php?image=hoho2ga5.png
    http://img404.imageshack.us/my.php?image=hoho3sc1.png

  21. #21 Abindarraez
    October 5, 2008

    I’m pretty sure this is just a normal cat, not even necessarily bigger than average. The lens that was used is indeed important (although I’m not sure, judging from the quality if its not cropped).

    What I think is that this is an average cat, maybe not long after giving birth (or after lots of pregnancies, as is usual with feral cats) so the skin on its belly is not too tight and it ‘hangs’ a bit, standing right behind the crest of the hill with the scenery a few meters behind it, taken with zoom/telephoto lens on a high aperture.

    Of the video… From what I can make out of it, that animal could be just about anything, including Elvis himself.

  22. #22 Dr. Nick
    October 5, 2008

    It reminds me of a traditional or “applehead” Siamese I once knew. Males can get quite large, and they can get pretty dark on the body as they age.

    Burmese would certainly also be a possibility, given how much lighter in color the chest appears to be compared with the face.

  23. #23 DVMKurmes
    October 5, 2008

    The color pattern on siamese type cats is temperature dependent-the darker “points” are darker because the skin is cooler on the ears, legs, tail, etc. This cat may be as dark as it is because it lives outdoors in a cool climate.
    (sometimes the fur will grow back darker when you shave a spot on a cats flank-so it does not take a huge tmperature change to make the fur darker). Could definitely be an ordinary domestic breed, as well as a hybrid as I mentioned above.

  24. #24 William Miller
    October 5, 2008

    If those things in the background are just normal shrubs … it can’t be THAT much bigger than an average domestic cat. The shape is interesting, though … the hip and shoulder look heavily muscular. Maybe just a very bulky cat? Here’s a pretty muscular domestic cat; see the URL I put as my name, to get around the spam-filter.

  25. #25 Sven DiMilo
    October 6, 2008

    You fools aren’t even guessing in the right subclass. That’s a damn thylacine.
    Hurry up and publish.

  26. #26 Mo Hassan
    October 6, 2008

    I’m not convinced that it is a domestic cat… the tail doesn’t look right, it curls up at the end like leopards and golden cats. I did at first think jaguarundi, but the more I look I don’t think so anymore.

  27. #27 Robert
    October 6, 2008

    I add my vote to this being a Burmese Cat – males can be robust and they are far sturdier in general than most oriental breeds.

    Also, it’s far more likely to be someone’s pet out for a jaunt than some feral exotic – which isn’t to say it couldn’t be such an animal, of course.

  28. #28 William Miller
    October 6, 2008

    >>That’s a damn thylacine. Hurry up and publish.

    CLEARLY it’s a rhinogradentian with reduced nose. Isn’t it obvious..

  29. #29 Jerzy
    October 6, 2008

    Uh-oh, did my comment vanish, eaten by mystery cat?

  30. #30 Jerzy
    October 6, 2008

    Here is better version of Polish cat video. As you warmed up, identify that one: ;)

  31. #31 Dartian
    October 6, 2008

    Jerzy,

    I would say: That
    was no pantherine ex-pat.
    It was just a common cat
    who walked, and then sat.
    Any cryptid theory falls flat.

    (No, I won’t quit my day job for poetry.)

  32. #32 Shawn
    October 6, 2008

    Yeah, that’s a polish house cat walking through the grass, then sitting down. The size of the head in relation to the body, the tail, the movements all say domestic cat. And it looks like an orange tabby with a light underbelly.

    The British one too looks like a domestic cat, a bulky one…but domestic. The head looks a bit small for the body, but that’s fitting with it being an “oriental” body type…and the tail also looks domestic. Not nearly heavy enough for a large felid. I have an 18 lb snowshoe siamese (I guess that’s what you would call him) at home, and aside from the color, they look pretty close.

  33. #33 Luna_the_cat
    October 6, 2008

    Cait sidhe!

    No, seriously. That’s the size, coloration and body type that you get when you crossbreed a Siamese or Burmese with something that has British wildcat blood in it.

    Run it by Dr. Andrew Kitchener if you want a more expert opinion. He would be able to tell you if anyone can.

    …On a side note, ross, what are you smoking? “dog“???? Eeee.

    Mo Hassan, domestic cats have been known to carry their tails like that, too.

  34. #34 Christophe Thill
    October 6, 2008

    Yes I’d say this is definitely one of Bastet’s children. A rather big one (it’s not just the size, it looks strongly built), with a nice and not too frequent colour. Would that be the shade of brown known as “havanna”?

  35. #35 Neil Arnold
    October 6, 2008

    I think the fact that there are so many differing opinions and a lack of identification we must just take such photo’s with a pinch of salt.

    I live around the corner from the area and am fully aware of a puma in the area as have been tracking it for two years but this photo, like so many isn’t good enough. Surely any decent witness would take more photo’s ?

  36. #36 Jerzy
    October 6, 2008

    Congratulations! Rusty color with white undertail might also hint a domestic cat.

  37. #37 Dr Dan H.
    October 8, 2008

    OK, if you look at the photo of the British cat, one thing stands out: every part of the photo is in focus, more or less; the foreground grass, the cat, the background foliage and even the far background. From this I think that the photographer used a long lens which tends to have this sort of characteristic, and was thus over 100 metres away from the cat.

    Then there’s how the cat is posed: it is just standing there, head turned to one side but otherwise mostly foresquare. That reminds me of Victorian stuffed animals (Aberystwyth Uni, where I did my PhD, has a lot of Victorian stuffed animals from a local collection) which were posed this way to for an observer standing in front of the long axis of a rectangular glass case; the pose with at least three legs on the ground is easier for a less-skilled taxidermist to get natural-looking. Finally, notice how the animal’s feet are hidden by a slight rise in the ground?

    Make no mistake, this photo was posed, and posed very carefully, using a long lens to slightly blur the animal to prevent anyone noticing it died over a hundred years ago; it is also posed on flat ground behind a very slight hill to hide the mahogany plinth its feet are glued onto.

    Of course, I could well be wrong here, but I reckon this beastie is either a stuffed (by an amateur) museum specimen, or a domestic cat of slightly unusual breed; it isn’t an exotic at all.

  38. #38 Jerzy
    October 8, 2008

    Well, somebody familiar with local universities and naturalists could find this stuffed specimen. Stuffed smaller exotic cats (even with matted fur and half-bald tail) are not that common.

    Coming to think about it: why are all suspicious cats in Britain uniform black, grey or brown? If leopards, jaguars, servals escape and are photographed in British countryside, most photos should be unmistakably spotted.

    And how tropical cats survive British winter?

  39. #39 Luna_the_cat
    October 8, 2008

    Jerzy: at a guess, they survive the British winter the same way these guys do.

    Fact is, although it doesn’t exactly get tropical here, we don’t get harsh winters any more, either. Just grey and wet and chilly. Lots of things can survive that, although I doubt if it makes them happy.

    Dr. Dan H: Or, you know, they could have taken precisely that kind of photo with a cheap digital camera, and the cat is slightly out of focus as opposed to the plants because it was actually moving. That would give you precisely the same effect.

    Posed? I see cats walking through our neighbourhood all the time (our neighbourhood is positively honking with cats), and that looks pretty natural to me.

  40. #40 Karen
    October 8, 2008

    It looks like a standard big old moggy to me…….and doesn’t actually look to be the biggest crossbred cat I have ever seen either.

  41. #41 bird caught fire
    October 9, 2008

    Felis silvestris warner brotherus,
    not a normal cat, it probably has a tag that says ACME somewhere.

  42. #42 QrazyQat
    October 10, 2008

    I was going to suggest what Tristram said, find the spot and retake the photo. Though QrazyQat has a point about not knowing lenses etc. ,importantly, zoom lenses can only effect focus, and can’t ‘cheat’ on perspective.,/i>

    The lens is the least of it; it’s even possible (assuming it’s a digital photo) that the info is there in the meta-info in the picture file. But you can’t tell where the person was unless they can give you an exact spot (and you assume they’re accurate, not mistaken or lying) and more importantly you can’t tell where the cat is/was. So you’re just up the creek on that idea.

  43. #43 Susan
    October 10, 2008

    There’s a really popluar photograph circulating on the internet of a guy holding an enormous housecat in his arms. The photo was faked and all the guy did to produce it was enlarge a photo of his pet cat to unusual proportions and hold it up in front of the camera. It’s simple and actually quite convincing. This photo smacks of that sort of fakery to me. Although, I suppose if I was going to fake a photo of a giant kitty, I’d at least position it near something that could be used to give it a sense of scale. I don’t deny that there might be giant cats roaming Britian but this photo doesn’t convince me.

  44. #44 Victor C.
    October 12, 2008

    I’m surprised that noone has mentioned above that England has several well-established populations of feral cats that are known to be exceptionally larger than their domestic cousins. This is a well known part of British society and pops up in English magazines and newspapers regularly. They are noted for their large size which approaches that of American wildcats, but they are feral domestic cats.

  45. #45 Vic
    October 13, 2008

    The tall plants behind the cat with the fluffy seed heads are almost definately Rose bay willow herb, this plant grows to approx 4 feet tall, so using this to guage the cats size, it would suggest that this cat is not particularly large, at most only a little larger than an average domestic cat.From it’s appearance a feral domestic would seem most likely.

  46. #46 tai haku
    October 14, 2008

    I’m always amazed at the absolute certainty with which people will claim fakery/photoshop on images like these based on very little evidence.

  47. #47 pointmonger
    October 15, 2008

    I do believe that thing has Siamese or Burmese in it. I had a large male Burmese that had that build, even had the saggy belly after he’d been neutered. Same head shape, too.

  48. #48 Noni Mausa
    October 22, 2008

    I have no idea of why the police got all excited about the Polish cat in the film, unless some aspect of the film indicated scale.The cat seemed about as wide across the shoulders as the footpath — so how wide was the footpath?

    As for the other three photos — are there “cross foxes” in Poland? it’s a colour variant of Vulpes vulpes, and the pix Jerzy links to look a lot like this fellow, maybe at a younger age: http://www.markdroberts.com/images/animals-fox-tree-6.jpg

  49. #49 Mark
    October 25, 2008

    Not a jagurandi, and never once thought to be a ‘big cat’ its a Burmese, we found the house it lives in. Should have come to us the original source :)

    http://www.bigcatsinbritain.org

  50. #50 Mark
    October 25, 2008

    Wow, love some of these comments also, stuffed, faked, dog, posed!! It actually lives nearby the Snodland golf course.

    Photographing tracks in grass, wow again, never tried that, any pointers on how to actually do this!

    Which is one lesson learned yet again, if any decent photographs do come up, certainly keep them away from the internet, and the ‘experts.’

    Love it :)

  51. #51 Darren Naish
    October 25, 2008

    Hi Mark. Maybe you didn’t read all the comments. The ‘experts’ – whatever is meant by this term – said pretty much unanimously that the animal was a domestic cat, probably incorporating Burmese genes.

  52. #52 Mark
    October 25, 2008

    I think I read enough of them Darren to get the jist here. Well done to the others!!! Would have been nice to credit the photo etc. to its original source!!

    I still stick by it, if a decent photo turns up keep it away from the internet.

    Again, with things like coming to the original source works much better then this. We could have told you what it was a long time ago.

    You know also what I meant by experts, I think we had that conversation before.

    And I can assure you I read them all, perhaps you didn’t notice that I said SOME of these posts.

    Also about the point about camera; we have all those details, we have been to the spot and taken sample photographs blah blah :)

    Have a nice day now :)

  53. #53 tim relf
    November 4, 2008

    Fascinating photo. Not sure about this one – but the more I talk to people, the more I’m convinced these animals are living wild in the British countryside.

  54. #54 Jordan
    July 29, 2009

    my guess is that it deffinately isnt a domestic cat.

    I think it is an african gold cat, a domestic-like cat but is larger and the same colour as the one in this picture.

  55. #55 lian
    September 2, 2009

    OK my friend has a forest cat from norway he is massive bigger than any cat i have seen before. But the one in the pic shows very muscular back legs with lots of definition i would be inclined to think maybe some sort of hybrid.I believe there ar big cats roaming around. Im moving to the country soon in derbyshire the farmer there has said he has seen something cat like.

  56. #56 Gail
    September 22, 2009

    I’ve only just read these comments. “A Burmese”. That’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard. I breed Burmese and I can tell you now that’s not one. I’m still laughing. It brought tears to my eyes. Maybe it’s one of my Maine Coons. Check my website. hahaha

  57. #57 zach Hawkins
    September 22, 2009

    Spammer.

  58. #59 iesha
    January 27, 2010

    i say these cats that are quite clearly in Brittan need to be 1) acknowlaged and 2) protected.

  59. #60 Hilary
    February 1, 2010

    Looks like a Kellus cat to me although they are normally only found in Scotland.

  60. #61 Paul
    May 28, 2010

    This is an example of an undiscovered/classified species of big cat native to britain…..Panthera britanica, its seen by over five thousand people a year all over the country.
    I cannot believe some of the stupid comments on here by think they know it alls!

    LIKE YOU NEED A GUY WITH A TAPE MEASURE IN THAT PHOTO TO TELL YOU THAT ISNT OVER 2 FOOT HIGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  61. #62 Neil Arnold
    June 7, 2010

    Hi Darren,
    I just came across your post on this cat – I don’t know where you got the quote from that I said it was a Jaguarundi!!! It looks nothing of the sort! There have been sightings of a small puma in the area in question which is about five minutes from my house! I certainly that it’s no ‘big cat’.

    Some have suggested a domestic cat/Jungle Cat hybrid. However, eye-witness reports do not back this up.

  62. #63 Darren Naish
    June 7, 2010

    Hi Neil. A few sites quote your jaguarundi ID. One example here.

  63. #64 A.P.
    January 7, 2011

    its looks like a Jaguarundi. Google it and see what i mean

  64. #65 Leena
    May 14, 2011

    [from Darren: sorry, delayed by spam filter]

    Looks rather big, but once when visiting Santorini Greece the hotel had a very big black cat that looked a lot like this one. And it was really huge.

    I also paint and I think the light may be doing tricks here – if the cat has turned ever so slightly so that the sunlight does not reach its left flank, but does touch the left hind leg, it makes the leg look bigger, especially if the leg in question is positioned to the left of its body as might happen when an animal is turning.

    So my guess is that this is just and “ordinary” domestic cat. Still the color is pretty even, which might suggest for example a Burmese cat.

    Leena :)

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