Tag: London

‘The Beast of Billionaire’s Row’: Wealthy Londoners Have Little Patience For Abandoned Cat

The saga continues in the case of the big Savannah who was mistaken for a leopard or cheetah in London earlier this week.

The hybrid cat — whose appearance prompted a massive police response that included helicopters and heavily armed squads — has been stalking the gardens of an opulent London burb for months, neighbors claim.

The British press dubbed the Savannah “The Beast of Billionaire’s Row” after it popped into a back garden in the upscale neighborhood of Hampstead on Monday, scaring a mom and daughter who were eating dinner outside.

They called the police to report a large wildcat, and authorities responded in force before realizing the mysterious felid was a Savannah, a cross between a Serval and a domestic cat. A wildlife expert confirmed the cat wasn’t dangerous and police stood down, leaving the cat to its own devices.

And that’s exactly the problem, homeowners in the neighborhood told UK newspapers: They say the rare feline has been wandering the area for eight months, and believe it was abandoned by its owner or escaped from its home.

“Anyone saying it’s a recent escape is talking absolute rubbish,” said Kate Blackmore of Highgate, an adjacent neighborhood less than a mile from Monday’s sighting.

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The cat was scared during an encounter with a woman in her backyard. Credit: Kate Blackmore

Blackmore told the Daily Mail she’s seen the cat in her yard 10 times over the months, and shot video of the hybrid in September when it crossed her yard.

“Look at you, you’re massive. Wow! Where do you come from?” Blackmore says in the video. “What’s with the growling, mate?”

The cat looks underfed and scared, making unmistakably nervous noises as the camera rolls. At one point Blackmore raises her voice and the cat flashes its teeth in response, hissing anxiously.

Blackmore told the Daily Mail she thinks the large hybrid may have chased one of her cats, who turned up dead in a nearby road last year, but admits it’s speculation. That hasn’t stopped the Mail from reporting the Savannah “has savaged a kitten” with nothing but Blackmore’s word to go on.

Blackmore told the Daily Mail she’s “really passionate about rehoming this cat,” which contradicts statements she gave to the Sun and other newspapers, in which she seems determined to blame the scared ex-pet. She’s the sole source for several irresponsibly speculative articles claiming the Savannah has been eating pets in the neighborhood.

“We have had ten visits from the Savannah. It scared one kitten away and eight weeks later it was found dead,” Karen Kate Blackmore told the Sun. “So you can understand my rage towards the cat — it could be killing other people’s pets.”

Blackmore’s crusade against the Savannah seems especially odd considering she has two Bengal cats, which are also hybrids. Bengals are a mix of domestic felines and Asian leopard cats(*). Like Savannahs they’re sold for thousands of dollars, valued for the wild-looking rosettes on their coats, and can wreak havoc if they’re not provided with enough attention and stimulation.

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Kate Blackmore with one of her Bengal cats.

 

 

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The Savannah at a local park, where it cozied up to a family. Credit: Laura Rosefield.

Other neighbors say they’ve encountered the animal and haven’t seen any signs of aggression. Laura Rosefield, who lives nearby, told the Sun she interacted with the cat in a neighborhood park, calling it “very tame.”

“I suddenly went ‘Oh my god what is that?’ and we saw the cat and said ‘It’s a leopard, it’s a mini leopard,’” Rosefield said.

She said the “shockingly beautiful” hybrid even sat with her family and was comfortable around people.

“We were ohh-ing and ahh-ing, and it padded around us for quite a long time, it padded over my foot for quite a long time,” she said. “My partner stroked it and it purred along while he was stroking it.”

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Credit: Laura Rosefield

Looking at the cat’s condition and body language in the video, it doesn’t seem like a well-loved pet out for a fun stroll near its home — it looks like a sad, confused and abandoned former pet.

Savannah cats retain the energy and intelligence of their wild cousins and are similar to working dogs in that they need near-constant stimulation and socialization. If their needs aren’t met they can become bored, destructive and could escape to make their own adventures.

First-generation hybrids, known as F1 Savannahs, are considered too wild to be kept as pets and are used as breeders. Typically pet Savannahs are third- or fourth-generation (F3 or F4), retaining the rosette-and-dot coat pattern of their wild forebears and most of their size, but with dispositions more like typical house cats.

The animals can fetch up to $20,000 in the US, with F1s commanding the highest prices. Unlike the US, where many caretakers keep their cats indoors for their safety, it’s common for owners in the UK to allow their cats to wander outside.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post misstated the origins of the Bengal breed. Bengals are hybrids of the domestic cat, felis catus, and the Asian leopard cat, Prionailurus bengalensis. Thanks to reader M.A. for pointing out the error.

 

Helicopters, Armed Squads, Scotland Yard…For A Cat?

Wealthy Londoners freaked out at the sight of a Savannah cat on Monday, confusing the domestic-Serval hybrid for a big cat.

The pet kitty was stalking the gardens of a neighborhood known as billionaire’s row in East Finchey, north London, when it caught the attention of a mother and daughter who called police to report a large felid.

“I was sitting having dinner with my daughter in the garden when the head appeared. It looked normal so I didn’t take much notice but then the body came out,” the mother told the Evening Standard. “It was elongated, really too big for a domestic pet. The markings were like that of a cheetah or leopard.”

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A woman having dinner outside took this photo of the cat before calling police.

“We were scared. I said to myself ‘we should not be here’ and ran in the house. I took a picture on the way, it was frightening.”

“We called the police and armed officers started the hunt for the animal. They told us to stay inside. There were two police helicopters overhead. It was very dramatic, I can understand it. At that stage they had to think it was a dangerous wildcat.”

Leon Grant, who lives nearby, told the newspaper that police and neighbors thought they were dealing with a big cat.

“It was pandemonium,” Grant said. “There was a police helicopter whirring overhead and armed police and all sorts. It was being dealt with as a huge incident.”

The police, who were accompanied by a wildlife expert, stood down after they realized they were dealing with a pet, the BBC reported. The cops hadn’t found the owner, but said keeping a Savannah cat isn’t illegal in London or its outlying areas.

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A Serval cat. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Savannah cats are hybrids of domestic cats and servals, mid-sized African wildcats. The somewhat controversial breed is energetic, intelligent and needs a lot of stimulation, much like a working dog.

To be fair to the Londoners who were alarmed by the sight of the rare cat, the breed is considerably larger than typical domestic cats. A pet Savannah is about the size of two, maybe two-and-a-half Buddies: (Although not nearly as ripped or as fearsome, obviously.)

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Credit: Savannah Cat Association
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Not as big as a Savannah cat, but fearsome and terrifying!

First-generation hybrids, known as F1 Savannahs, are not considered suitable pets. Typically breeders sell F3 (third generation) or F4 cats to the general public. A Savannah cat can cost as much as $20,000 in the US, and like all exotic breeds, they’re controversial because many activists feel people shouldn’t buy pets when 1.5 million homeless cats and dogs are euthanized every year.

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A four-month-old F1 Savannah hybrid. Credit: Jason Douglas/Wikimedia Commons

Shelter Throws A Birthday Party For An Adoptable Cat, No One Shows Up

To our British readers,

Employees at a South London shelter threw a birthday party for a two-year-old cat who’s been in the shelter for 115 days, and not one of you jerks showed up.

Look at her. Just look at this beautiful tabby girl, hopeless and dejected because none of you soulless people could find it in your heart to drop by for a cuppa and kibble. Notice the sad little eyes, their accusatory glance seeming to say: “You’ve failed me, British people! I just wanted a forever home!”

I mean, we all know you guys can be cold, but who thought you’d be this heartless and cruel?

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Poor Monique had no one to celebrate with. Credit: Battersea Dogs and Cats

Has our guilt trip made you feel bad yet? 🙂

On a more serious note, this was actually a clever move by the shelter, Battersea Dogs and Cats. With tens of thousands of adoptable animals on sites like Petfinder and Craigslist, and every rescue contending for attention, shelter staff have to think creatively to break through the noise and help get their strays and abandoned pets into real homes.

In 2020, the cat who becomes a meme is rewarded with a home of her own, and the shelter also benefits with a bump in exposure and potential new donors.

In that sense, the birthday party didn’t fail at all: Monqiue the tabby will almost certainly find a real home soon thanks to follow-up articles and the attention they’ve brought to her story.

CATS GOING VIRAL

We’ve seen plenty of shelter stories go viral over the past year: There was Nevada, the sweet abandoned tabby who just wanted a hug, a surrender named Barsik who was dubbed “New York’s fattest cat” at a whopping 41 pounds, a fellow Chonkster named Bazooka whose dementia-inflicted former human fed him constantly, and Plankton, who proved good things come to those who wait when he finally found a home after 2,432 days at a New York shelter.

Perhaps the best example of clever cat marketing was a North Carolina rescue’s adoption ad for the “world’s worst cat.” The scowling black-and-white Perdita was a “jerk,” according to Mitchell County Animal Shelter’s sarcastic and highly amusing ad.

The listing worked, quickly going viral on Facebook and prompting more than 50 local applications within 24 hours.

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Perdita quickly found a forever home thanks to her viral post. Credit: Mitchell County Animal Shelter

Monique has tested positive for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, according to the shelter, and undoubtedly her bad luck can be chalked up to fewer adopters willing to take a cat with FIV. Despite that, Monique is expected to live a long and full life.

Here’s to hoping she finds her very own humans soon.

All photos courtesy of Battersea Dog and Cats. Click the thumbnails for larger versions: