A French couple who answered an online ad to buy a Savannah kitten ended up with a tiger cub instead.
The couple, from Le Havre — a coastal town in Normandy, about 110 miles west of Paris — plunked down $7,000 for the little cat, who they were told was an exotic mix between a Serval and a domestic cat.
After about a week, they realized their “kitten” was a tiger cub and contacted authorities, UPI reported. Specialists from the French Biodiversity Office determined the cub is a Sumatran tiger and are caring for the growing cat.
That happened back in 2018, and the reason we’re only hearing about it now is because French police have completed their investigation in which they tracked down the seller and arrested nine people on animal trafficking laws.
There are only some 4,000 tigers remaining in the wild in the entire world. Habitat destruction, poaching and the illegal wildlife market are the primary causes pushing the iconic big cats to extinction.
Meanwhile, Buddy the Cat believes he too was born of wild tiger stock and was mistaken for a common kitten when he was adopted by Big Buddy.
“Obviously, they dyed my fur gray,” Buddy said. “But they couldn’t do anything to hide how ripped I am.”
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.
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 severalirresponsibly 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.
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.”
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.
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.”
“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.
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.)
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.
Chronicling the adventures of Buddy the Cat and his various criminal enterprises.