DOMESTIC X WILDCAT HYBRIDS - MISTAKEN IDENTITY HYBRIDS
MISTAKEN IDENTITY HYBRIDS
This page discusses cases of mistaken identity or falso reports of small cat hybrids. The unverified cases of bobcat/domestic hybrids and lynx/domestic hybrids are not included.
According to H C Brooke in Cat Gossip during 1926, the recently held Vienna cat show had included a litter of kittens said to have been sired by a Civet-cat on a domestic female. Herr Joe Lesti attempted to learn more about the remarkable kittens as well as details of a reported Marten-cross. Brooke was dubious that such hybrids were possible. At that Vienna show there were Tibet Cats, Civets or Genets (Dr Alder had exhibited a Genet at the 1923 Croydon cat show). Brooke himself had exhibited a Civet and an Egyptian cat at Croydon and attracted a great deal of interest. Confusingly, the term "Civet" has been applied to African Wildcats although it is the viverrine civet that is indicated in the reports. At the time, some cat-fanciers, and even some naturalists, genuinely believed in hybrids between true cats and cat-like viverrids.
Lilian J Veley, in 1926/7, claimed to have seen, in a Zoo (probably a continental zoo though she could not remember which and it was never traced!) a litter of Civet/cat hybrids. The mother was a large mackerel tabby and the presumed father was a Civet with whom the mother was "certainly on good terms". The alleged results most resembled the cat, but with longer faces, more bushy tails and more blotchy markings. At the time, some authorities were claiming the Siamese to be the product of a mating between a viverrine Civet and the Bay Cat. Cat-fancier, breeder and writer HC Brooke doubted that the two could interbreed, being from different families. He added that even if they could interbreed, they were unlikely to "fix" a new type since the offspring would breed with either their civet ancestors (losing the feline type) or with cats (losing the viverrine type). Dr P Chalmers Mitchell, Secretary of the Zoological Society responded that hybrids of cat and Civet, and of cat and Genet were unknown at London Zoo. He also disabused fanciers of the conceit that the Siamese cat was a hybrid between domestic cat and the wild Bay Cat. Capt J G Dollman, Assistant Curator of the Natural History Museum, South Kensington (London) added that the Siamese cat and the Bay Cat were unlikely to interbreed and produce fertile offspring and that the Siamese was most unlikely to have been the product of a cross between a viverrine (identified as the Indian (or Yellow-throated) Marten) and a Bay Cat. Siamese cat fancier Lilian J Veley (1926), however, remained adamant that the Siamese was had traits inherited from some type of viverrine, possibly unknown to science, that lived in the region.
A misconception, perpetuated by credulous cryptozoologists, is that the Norwegian Forest Cat (a naturally occurring longhaired breed) is a cross between domesticated longhairs and Scottish Wildcats. Firstly, the Norwegian Forest Cat comes from Norway and would have to swim a long way to meet up with Scottish Wildcats! Secondly, the long haired trait is recessive and crosses between domestic longhairs and Scottish Wildcats will produce shorthaired offspring (such as the Kellas Cat). The Norwegian Forest Cat is not a hybrid with European Wildcats nor with European Lynxes. It is a natural variety of domestic cat which has arisen in an area where harsh local conditions favour hardy, longhaired cats. It is a pedigree breed and may not be crossed with other breeds of cats and certainly not to wild species.
In 1999, the British tabloid "The Daily Mail" reported that Bengal cats were crosses between domestic cats and endangered Asian leopards. This caused concern - and in some people panic - about huge, barely tame cat/leopard hybrids in Britain. This misconception was reinforced by a rogue Bengal breeder in the UK who made the same statement to documentary makers. Bengals are derived from hybrids between domestic cats and a small spotted wildcat species called the Asian Leopard Cat.
Ocicats, sometimes misspelled as "Ocecats", are not hybrids between ocelots and domestic cats. They are a cross between Abyssinians, Siamese and domestic shorthair cats and do not contain wildcat blood. Its name comes from its resemblance to the ocelot and does not indicate ocelot ancestry. To my knowledge, no-one has yet bred ocelot x domestic cat hybrids; although I understand that a Bengal breeder hoped to breed his male ocelot to one of his female Bengals, but had not accomplished this mating due to the ocelot's temperament.
In October 2009, the PeoplePets website falsely reported that Chinese-born actress Bai Ling's cat Quiji was a cheetah hybrid with a cheetah father and domestic cat mother and purchased from a breeder for approximately $30,000. This is either a mistake or an attempt to mislead. Bai Ling's cat is definitely not a cat-cheetah hybrid, yet this story did the rounds of the gullible and people tried to find out where to get a similar cat.
The first hurdle is the comparative sizes: a cat is a snack for a cheetah, not a mate. Even if AI or IVF were used, a housecat's gestation period is around 63 days and cheetah gestation is 93 days. Both size and gestational mismatch are greater than the serval/domestic cat and caracal/domestic cat hybrids. Cheetah have very poor quality sperm and are unlikely to produce hybrids even with more closely related cat species. Even if cheetah sperm was used to fertilise a housecat egg, a domestic cat could not carry the foetus to term - between 63 and 70 days it would be born, ready or not, and being 20 days premature it would not be viable (20 days out of a 93 day gestation is a big chunk).
On her own blog Bai in September 2008, Bai Ling stated her cat is an A1 Supreme and part-serval. Although she says the A1 Supreme is not a Savannah cat, the term "A1 Supreme" just refers to the "supreme" quality of that particular Savannah cat and the corresponding high price. A1 Savannahs apparently used photos of Bai Ling and her A1 Savannah in their adverts. Claiming it is part cheetah appears to be a publicity stunt by the actress.
The other possible options for what Bai Ling's cat really was included Cheetoh (derived from Bengal and Ocicat mixes, cost around $1000 for breeder/show quality), Safari (Geoffroys/domestic mix - with only 70 registered, I couldn't find an "average price" but was advised "upwards of $6000") or Ashera (DNA tests on alleged Asheras found them to be Savannahs bred by Chris Shirk, somehow obtained by Lifestyle Pets and re-sold as Asheras for $40,000). Since the serval is nicknamed "poor man's cheetah" for its leggy appearance, I'm also guessing the claim it's a cheetah hybrid relates to that in the same way some folks still claim Bengal cats are hybrids between leopards and domestic cats. However Bai Ling herself wrote in September 2008 that she had a serval hybrid from A1 Savannahs even though she insisted it was an A1 Supreme and not a Savannah!
As well as genuine hybrids, there are also people selling fake hybrids in order to make money. A "breed" recently brought to my attention is the American Mystery Cat. The breeder claims they 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 vanished). The kittens allegedly bred, but all were killed or vanished, leaving only their 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 or with established breeders and has claimed that they "don't have a clue".
The original version of his website contained photos of a pseudomelanistic puma (claimed to be a shot mystery cat although there was no mystery whatsoever about its species or origin) and a melanistic Geoffroy's cat from a rescue foundation (which he claimed was a mystery cat photographed in the wild). My advice is to avoid such "breeders". The current version of his 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 an invented story. The pedigrees are worthless. This is no more than a back yard breeder. If you are seeking a hybrid, find a breeder whose cats are registered and who does not use fake or mis-labelled photos. Do not buy from a back yard breeder who is churning out black domestic cats simply to make money out of a myth.
The Domestic Lynx claims to be a cross of domestic cats with Bobcats and Canadian lynxes developed in the USA in the 1980s. There are no autheticated cases of Bobcat-domestic hybrids or of Lynx-domesic-hybrids. It is a domestic cat resembling the Bobcat or Canadian Lynx or Jungle Cat (Felis chaus). It is described as a large cat with high cheekbones, an angular muzzle, broad nose, strong chin and powerful jaws. It has hind legs slightly longer than forelegs and tufts of hair between the paw pads. The tail ranges from 10 cm to hock-length. Coat is short to semilong; longer on the belly and thighs, and is thick and silky with a heavy, water-resistant undercoat. A ruff or beard is preferred. Bred in all eumelanistic colors (black, blue, cinnamon, fawn, chocolate, lilac - including colourpoint versions of these) including combination with the silver factor for spotted and ticked patterns only. The legs are striped or spotted. Well-defined belly spots. The tail is ringed with a black tip. Red, cream and tortoiseshell are not accepted. The snow version is colourpointed with blue eyes and a light, spotted body. White markings are not acceptable.
Although there are adverts for such cats, it is not listed by any registry, including the Rare & Exotic Feline Registry (REFR) where the "Lynx" breeds of cats are registered. The description and colour varieties are akin to the American Bobtail.
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