Report from George Markie
A Kingswells woman got the shock of her life when she saw a big cat while walking her dog yesterday. Aleen Shinnie and her husband Andy had taken their golden retriever to wasteland near Wellside Wynd, a popular spot for taking pets, which is situated alongside the Bucks Burn.
The self-employed caterer came across the animal at about 11.30am.
Her husband did not see it, but she was adamant about what she saw.
Describing it as like a dark tabby cat in colour with dark stripes and a long tail, the 35-year-old said: "I am totally in awe. I have seen some deer around there but I have never in my life seen anything like this before.
"I am not sure whether it saw us. It would have been about 30 to 40 yards away from us at the most.
"I kind of panicked when I tried to get my dog on the lead.
"I am concerned because kids come home from school along that way and there are a lot of people that walk their dogs there."
Mark Fraser, of the British Big Cat Society, revealed it was not that unusual for such animals to venture into populated areas.
He said: "These cats are seen more and more coming into towns and on the outskirts of cities.
"They come closer for food and if their territories are expanding because of breeding - that could suggest there are more of them."
But Mr Fraser, who has been investigating sightings for 15 years, does not feel people should be concerned.
He said the creatures were only likely to lash out if cornered and suggested people just leave them alone.
He believes the dog walker may have seen a type of African wild cat.
Police confirmed they were aware of the incident.
A spokeswoman said a description of the animal had been taken and the SSPCA would be notified.
The sighting came as the Scottish Big Cat Society appealed for witnesses of big cats to come forward to try prove the animals exist.
The organisation has built up a dossier on their movements and possible territories and says it has scientific facilities to analyse evidence which could be attributed to big cats.
It is looking for information on past sightings, pictures, video footage, and paw marks and would also like to hear from people keen to become involved in its work. Witness confidentiality will be respected.
Scotland is said to be one of the "hot spots" for big cat encounters.
More than 1,000 sightings of the creatures were reported in the UK last year with more than 200 of them north of the border.
There have been 47 reports of big cats in Scotland this year. Aberdeenshire is one of the most likely places to encounter one.
Press and Journal, 24 th March 2003
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