Report from Chris Smith
The black cat phenomenon continues in the area, with reports of further sightings of a large feline creature at Tighnabruaich recently by a council workman.
The witness reports a black cat the size of a small Labrador dog running in front of his vehicle on the concrete road at Portavadie before making its escape into undergrowth.
This sighting follows a pattern of autumn glimpses of the beast in the area, all witnesses giving a similar description.
In October 2001 two lads collecting shellfish at Stillaig Bay claim they saw a puma-like cat crossing the dirt track right in front of them and climbing a rock face before entering the undergrowth. Around that time in the same area another witness saw the feline 150 yards from his home.
At first he thought it was a small Labrador dog, and it wasnÕt until the beast moved that he realised it was a cat, describing it as ''pure black - it had very powerful hind legs and a long tail.''
Owners Peter and Brenda Miller of Stillaig farm where the cat has been seen also glimpsed it last year ''I saw it from my bedroom window'' explains Brenda. ''Also my husband Peter and my children saw it coming out of the barley shed early one frosty morning as the children were going to school. ''
Whether you choose to believe fact or fiction thereÕs growing proof these big cats in some cases at least are real, and there are explanations as to their existence.
In the early 60s keeping exotic and dangerous animals was a sign of wealth - a fashion statement and status symbol.
But with the arrival of the seventies new laws on keeping such animals came into force.
With strict conditions imposed on them owners couldnÕt meet the commitments of keeping such beasts, and soon wildlife parks and zoos were inundated with people looking for secure homes for potentially dangerous animals. Not all owners were conscientious and many exotic species were abandoned in remote parts of Britain - big cats included.
Many adapted to the weather conditions and have thrived to the point that they may be into a third generation of breeding, and will perhaps account for a percentage of the sightings throughout the country.
Another explanation for sightings of a black cat described as a puma is very possible due to a hybrid cat called the Kellas Cat - so called after the northern town where it was first discovered. Experts are divided as to whether this is a new breed or a hybrid.
The Kellas Cat is the offspring of the native Scottish wild cat crossed with a feral cat. It has a sleek body and shiny black coat with a bushy tail and long limbs. Since it can be the size of a fox or small dog itÕs no wonder people mistake it for a puma, since at dusk or bad light it could appear larger than it really is.
But these black cats are no pussycats - they have a squat, ferocious looking head and jaws capable of a powerful bite, and sightings suggest they could be on the increase.
(A stuffed Kellas cat exhibit was donated to Aberdeen University last year and can be seen on display in the foyer).
So if you ever get the glimpse of one of these animals don't feel embarrassed about reporting it - these cats do exist in what numbers is yet to be confirmed.
Organisations now exist for that very reason, the Scottish Big-Cats org has experts that will be only to happy to talk about possible sightings etc, and actively encourages the public to contact them on their web site. This can be done anonymously if wanted on email@example.com or contact Fran Lockhart of Scottish big cats on Tel 01463 811 072
Dunoon Observer and Argyllshire Standard, 28 th November 2003
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