This article concerning the loose panther in Virginia has attracted the attention of the Scottish Big Cats team, a group of researchers in Britain devoted to unusual and cryptic felines. As a member, I found this article and the incident itself to be most interesting.
While I don't believe the cat in question to be a leopard cub, I think it may very well be a hybrid of exotic cat which has come to be known in Scotland as a Kellas Cat. These felines are approximately twice the size of an ordinary domestic cat. They have a black coat and an extremely ferocious nature.
They are believed to be introgressive hybrids between the wildcat Felis silvestis and the domestic cat.
However, similar specimens have been found in coastal North Carolina where the only indigenous wildcat is the rufus lynx. I personally have an example of one of these cats, which is considerably larger than the common housecat. He is also black, and exhibits exceptionally large claws and long canine teeth.
Judging from the marks from the wounds I observed in the photograph, I would speculate this to have been caused by one of these cats. Contrary to your report, the matter of measuring the distance between the wound punctures is very inaccurate in determining the species. Other than the domestic cat, felines do not bite in this fashion. Rarely will both upper canines penetrate the flesh. Instead, these marks represent the upper and lower canine of one side, therefore the distance between is of no relevence.
In any case, if you are interested, you may view images of the Kellas Cat at bigcats.org.
Chincoteague Beacon, 6 th February 2003
Since that article was initially published, I've come to withdraw my opinion. The supposed panther was said to have been wearing a red collar. Shortly afterward, a neighborhood black cat fitting that description was found in the vicinity. The victim discounted this cat as she claimed it was much too small, and he was immediately eliminated as a suspect because he had been de-clawed.
Images of the injuries on this woman's leg show that each mark is a deep puncture, followed by a long laceration. This is consistent with the larger claws of one of the exotic species of cat. In retrospect, I believe all these marks were caused by the teeth of a domestic cat, and absent any claw marks. A second photograph of this woman's arm more clearly supports this. So, for whatever reason, I think the claw-less cat with the red collar was more likely the culprit.
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