Big cats in the UK

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I love living in Suffolk, as far as I'm concerned it's the best county in England (no hate mail please, Yorkshire) I have grown up here and whenever I have time I travel via the more scenic routes to get right out into the countryside.

Some of the small villages around here seem untouched by modern life, consisting of not much more than a red phone box and a small cluster of houses in acres of farmland and small alcoves of woodland.

These, and the small roads that link them, are the places you can see all the best wildlife, from badgers to owls, to pheasants and foxes. I'm overjoyed that, since the culling of deer ended a few years back, you can regularly see ever larger herds of deer dashing across the fields - although I think some of the farmers would disagree with me about that one.

Last summer at about midnight on a Friday night, Sam and I were travelling home from spending the evening with some friends near Bury St. Edmunds.

We were heading for Sudbury and had passed through Hartest a few miles back, when all of a sudden I saw a glimpse of something I had never seen before - nor have I seen since.

I say a glimpse because that is truly all it was, but we were so close I have no doubt about what it was. About 20 yards ahead a large beige cat leapt from the cover of the trees on the right bank, touched down momentarily in the middle of the road and deftly continued with another bound into the field on the left, and off into the darkness.

Had I blinked I would have missed it, lucky for me I wasn't blinking at the time.

All the obvious thoughts crossed my mind; maybe it was a deer? Maybe it was a dog? Never seen a deer with a tail that long, never seen a dog that can leap that far. Maybe I imagined it? Sam saw it as clearly as I did.

We discussed it and we had definitely both seen the same thing, a large beige cat a bit bigger than your average muntjac deer. As we have both talked to other locals who claim to have seen big cats we came to the conclusion that, although we were elated to have seen it, maybe it wasn't that unusual.

Last week I was trying to think of interesting cat stories as potential candidates for this edition of the mews-letter. As I was thinking about it I recalled the story I've just told, so I thought I'd do a little research to find out if there are any sites about such sightings, and boy was I surprised - apparently this stuff is news!

I found quite a number of stories on the sites for national news papers and the BBC, as well as a slew of sites enthusiastically dedicated to finding out if there really are big cats in the UK or not - I can assure them all that there are!!

If anyone else has seen any big cats out in the wild, I'd love to hear about it, and not just in the UK either.

Please send me your stories to

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