Sunday 18 May 2014

How Do You Tell A Wild Cat Hybrid From A Wild Cat?

New Jersey Lady Can Keep Her Bobcat

It can be difficult to tell the difference between a wild cat and a wild cat hybrid.  This makes it difficult to enforce laws which forbid people to keep a wild cat in the USA.  The laws on keeping wild cats and wild cat hybrids is complicated at the best of times because of state-by-state variations but the complexity is compounded because there are varying degrees of wildness within a hybrid.  You may well have heard of first filial (F1) wild cat hybrids.  There are also fifth, sixth and seventh wild cat hybrids.

F1 Savannah kitten FOCUS
F1 Savannah cat "Focus"
Sometimes appearance alone is not enough (think F1s) especially if a court of law is involved where you need certainties. You have to do a mitochondrial DNA test or some other DNA test to ascertain whether a particular individual cat is a purebred wild cat or is a mixture of a domestic cat and a wild cat.

If law enforcement agencies are trying to enforce the law how are they to do it when you have to do a DNA test?  Law enforcement cannot arrest a person because he or she is keeping an individual wild cat in their backyard even if that cat looks like a certain species because the cat may just be a hybrid and under the law, in any particular state of the USA, a hybrid cat may be allowed but a purebred wild cat may be disallowed.

Some species of wild cat are known to be able to mate with domestic cats.  The serval is the best-known case because there are breeders who create Savannah cats by mating a male serval with a female domestic tabby cat.  The American bobcat can also mate with the domestic cat to create a hybrid.  The Scottish wildcat can mate the domestic cat and, in respect of this wild cat, this possibility has decimated the purebred Scottish wildcat population.

In Africa, the African wildcat frequently mates with stray domestic cat and there are many hybrids of the African wildcat in Africa.

The difficulties in enforcing the law in respect to the ownership by individuals of exotic cats is is not only difficult because the laws vary from state to state but because it can be difficult, as stated, to be sure that the individual cat is a purebred wild cat or not.

It could be argued, therefore, that there is a pressing need to simplify the law so that it is easier to enforce despite the difficulties referred to above.  Any simplification of the law in the USA, should in my opinion be nationwide because quite frankly it is the only way to simplify the law across the country. In addition, the law itself should be written in simplified language and the criteria to test whether a cat is within the ambit of the law should be plain and simple and easy to comprehend.

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