The term American "mystery cat" or black "mystery cat" has been used by cryptozoologists to describe the mysterious black cats that some people claim to roam the USA. Mystery cats range from domestic cat size through to lion size felids with many people claiming them to be hybrids, the main point being that their species cannot be definitely identified and a large percentage of them are black rather than spotted, striped or tawny. Britain and Australia also have their fair share of mystery cats.

Recently, an individual has attempted to cash in on the American mystery cat myth by breeding black domestic cats and advertising them as American "mystery cats". These are now being advertised on websites and was approached. I never add information about a breed without following it up, especially when so many things do not add up. I referred a number of breeders and myth-busters to the site for scrutiny. The consensus is that the "story" does not add up and the photos are a mix of retouched black leopard pictures and large domestic black cats. Some of the photos have been traced to other websites.

The self-styled breeder claims the Mystery Cats are derived from a hybrid between a black mystery cat and a domestic and that he took the kittens from the dead mother (whose body later conveniently vanished). The female kittens allegedly bred, but were all killed or vanished, leaving only their 8 week old F2 offspring. This individual now sells black domestic cats, claiming them to be the progeny of "mystery cats". More to the point, he will not work with a registry nor with established breeders and refused to be put in contact with other cat breeders claiming that they "don't have a clue about genetics".

These actions are indicative of a backyard breeder with something to hide, not of a person with a genuine interest in cat breeding. A novice breeder genuinely interested in his/her breed and in the welfare of the breed will always try to get in touch with other breeders for advice. Some of those other breeders include genetics professionals; they would quickly have seen through the Mystery Cat breeder's claims.

It takes several years to produce and stabilise a new breed, not a couple of generations and the early generation cats of a genuine hybrid at such an early stage of breed development would be so valuable that they would not be offered for sale to the general public, they would go to other breeders. All of this means the story just does not add. It can only be fiction aimed at parting people from their money in return for what turn out to be ordinary black mongrel cats of a type that can be found at any cat shelter.

The original version of his website contained photos of supposed American mystery cats. One photo was a pseudomelanistic puma (claimed to be a shot mystery cat) and there was no mystery whatsoever about its species or origin. Another was a photo of a captive melanistic Geoffroy's cat called "Nico" from a rescue foundation which he claimed was a mystery cat photographed in the wild. The current version of the website has photos claimed to be 1999 copyright of the individual, but have been taken from elsewhere on the web and are not his copyright at all. The current version of the website uses photos of black leopard cubs with cats' eyes drawn on - not only is it a Photoshop job, it is a very poor one.

The person is selling plain domestic black cats using a neat story (with some interesting terminology errors) and faked photos. If all of the current cats are descended from the 8 week old kittens conveniently left behind when the 3 female "foundation cats" vanished then the degree of inbreeding is harmful as they will all trace to the alleged original "hybrid" (whose existence is unproven and entirely anecdotal - and if the site uses faked and "borrowed" photos then the story cannot be trusted) Far from having 4 lines as claimed on the website, all of the 4 breeding cats are very closely related.

Any pedigrees will be worthless. The alleged mystery cat parents have all conveniently vanished and, worse, the photos used on the site are a mixture of fakes and mislabelled and misleading images taken from other websites. All of this points to a backyard breeder and a fake breed. Back yard breeders exist purely to make money out of animals. For a $50 deposit and an undisclosed full price, you will get a black domestic cat and a line of hype. Where a fake involves parting people from their money, it becomes a fraud. If you want a large black kitty, you can get one from an animal shelter. If you want a proven black hybrid cat, check out the Machbagral. If you want a pedigree cat, make sure the breeder is working with a recognised cat registry and that their pedigrees are registered - most will have 5 generation pedigrees and most cats on those pedigrees will have cattery prefixes/suffixes that trace to a known cattery recognised by one or more registering bodies. Do not be tempted to buy fake hybrids of unproven provenance on the basis of a neat story.

If you are seeking a hybrid, find a breeder whose cats are registered and who does not promote his cats using faked or mislabelled photos. Do not buy from a back yard breeder who is churning out black domestic cats to make money out of a myth. They will not look anything like the photos because the photos are of black leopard cubs.

Think seriously. Would you really buy a "breed" cat from someone who uses retouched photos of other people's animals, avoids involvement with known breeders and registries, dismisses experienced breeders as knowing nothing about genetics, who has no clearly defined goals or breed standard and whose "breed" has only reached the 3rd generation and will therefore not have consistent type?



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