'Scottish wildcat' seized by North Wales Police turns out to be domestic tabby cat

Police said they seized an animal reported to be a rare Scottish wildcat (stock image). Credit: PA Images

A suspected 'Scottish wildcat' seized by police in north Wales has turned out to be a domestic tabby cat following months of investigations.

The one-year-old kitten named Finlay was being cared for by St Asaph-based rescue group Wildcat Haven, which said it was rehabilitating the animal after finding it abandoned and "close to death" in the Scottish Highlands.

The group said it planned to release Finlay back into the wild in Scotland once he was strong enough, adding that the group is anti-captivity.

But North Wales Police said they had received reports that a man in the Conwy area was keeping a protected species without the required licence.

A search was conducted on February 14 this year at a private address and the animal was taken to a specialist facility to determine its identity.

Now, after months of probing, it has been determined that the cat is a domestic tabby.

A police spokesperson said: "Following consultation with NatureScot and Natural Resources Wales, a search was conducted on February 14.

"The animal reported to be a Scottish wildcat was located and taken to a specialist facility to determine its identity.

"It was examined by an expert in wildcat identification, who concluded it to be a domestic tabby cat which may have a low proportion of wildcat genes, lower than that required to consider it to be a Scottish Wildcat (Felis silvestris)."

Police said Finlay is being cared for at a specialist facility and a 43-year-old man is assisting them with their enquiries.

  • YouTube video of Finlay posted by the Wildcat Haven group just before he was seized

Speaking at the time, members of Wildcat Haven claimed that police seized Finlay with no warning or explanation.

In a statement on their website the day after he was removed, the group said: "We asked for details of where he would be taken, what would happen to him, but the police said that they didn’t need to tell us, and so Finlay’s whereabouts are still currently unknown.

"We also explained that capturing him, exposing him to multiple people and disrupting him at such a crucial time would be catastrophic to his rehabilitation."

They added that Finlay was being rehabilitated in Wales due to the "problematic" right to roam law in Scotland, which they claimed could have impacted his rehabilitation due to members of the public being allowed to approach his enclosure.

Responding at the time, North Wales Police said it was working with its partners to ensure that Finlay was cared for.

Following the police investigation, a NatureScot spokesperson said: "In this case, the animal was not assessed as being from a protected species.

"While there are provisions in legislation that allow for the caring and rehabilitation of protected species, NatureScot strongly encourage early communication with our licensing team to help guard against any offences being committed in relation to possession."

Scottish wildcats are an extremely rare and threatened breed, with just a few hundred thought to still be alive.