A Conversation for Black Cats
mad_arachnid Started conversation May 13, 2003
The mysterious black cat which has been reported roaming parts of Scotland and England for the last 20 years or so, is most likely to be a Scottish wildcat/domestic cat hybrid. The cat, which is larger than a normal domestic cat, was thought by some people to be a new variation of wildcat adapted to avoiding humans or even a previously undiscovered or species. It's black coat offers extra camoflage in heavily wooded areas (black jagurars and leopards are good examples of this) and melanistic cats tend also to be more aggressive (again, black jaguars and leopards are good examples).
For my undergraduate zoology project I compared the coat colour and patterning against a genetic fingerprint taken from the same cats, of over a hundred wild-living cats in Scotland (mostly roadkills). There were three distinct genetic fingerprints: wild, domestic (feral) and hybrid. Most cats with black skins had genetic fingerprints which matched hybrids.
Actually, most non-black 'wild' cats were also hybrids. Of the small number of cat skins with wild genes, only one was black.
This suggests two things:
1) Scottish Wildcats, Felis silvestris silvestris, are not entirely extinct, although most 'wildcats' are actually not particularly 'wild'.
2) The Kellas cat is quite likely to also be a domestic/wildcat hybrid, rather than a new, mystery strain.
Beaumont, M. A. et al. 'Genetic diversity and introgression of the Scottish wildcat.' Molecular Ecology 10, 2001.
Kitchener, A, C. and Easterbee, N. 'The taxonomic status of black wild felids in Scotland.' Journal of Zoology 230, 1993.
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