[The article describes the cat as a house cat that’s 10 generations removed from an Asian leopard. The author probably meant “Asian leopard cat” — esp. since the breeder mentioned in the article breeds bengals (http://www.zarinabengalcats.com/).]
By Brent Curtis Herald Staff
January 24, 2007
When a pair of state game wardens arrived at his apartment Tuesday morning to seize his house cat, Phillip Matte wasn’t as surprised as you might think.
“For the past two to three weeks, I’ve seen the game warden parked outside my house,” said Matte, who lives on Plain Street in Rutland. “I was in bed when they knocked on the door this morning. When they said who they were, I said ‘Uh-oh, I know what this is about.'”
What it was all about was Matte’s cat Chico — yes, as in the man — a spotted brown tabby that looks very much like the Asian leopard from which Chico is 10 generations removed.
Like his distant grandfather, Chico has lush fur, tawny colorations and the telltale spots of a leopard. At just 7 pounds, he lacks the bearing of his ancestors, but the 6-month-old feline has a lot of growing to do. Matte said he expects Chico to top off at around 20 pounds.
Matte said the game wardens who showed up at his door thought he might be harboring a leopard kitten in his home. After questioning him about his pet and taking documents tracing its pedigree, the wardens left, leaving Chico with his owner.
“They thought he was a regular jungle cat,” Matte said as Chico busied himself by gnawing on the bill of Matte’s baseball cap.
Matte said he doesn’t know if the wardens will come back. Calls to state Fish & Wildlife officials weren’t returned on Tuesday.
Standing in his living room with Chico on his shoulder, Matte said the mix-up made him chuckle.
“He does look a lot like a leopard and he is different from other cats, but he’s still a house cat,” Matte said.
The leopard genes Chico carries haven’t entirely gotten lost even after generations worth of cross-breeding.
For one thing, he’s at home in water. Matte said Chico loves to swim in the bathtub. A breeder of spotted brown tabbies in New Hampshire said the cats are known for climbing into the shower with their owners.
They also don’t meow like other cats. When they want something — usually attention, according to breeder Jennifer Melanson in Allenstown, N.H. — they emit a hollow, moaning sort of wail.
The breed has a few unusual character traits as well. For one thing, they prefer to hang out at high elevations — whether it’s a catch perch near the ceiling or the top of Matte’s head.
They also tend to be possessive, bonding with one person.
Melanson said she warned her neighbors that one of her outdoor tabbies might be defensive if approached.
“When Boluga first started going out, I told my neighbors they would see a pretty cat around outside, but to watch out because she could hurt or scratch them because they’re a one-person cat,” Melanson said.
Selling at prices ranging into the thousands of dollars, not too many people can afford more than one of the exotic breed.
Matte isn’t rich. But he is hoping to earn back some of the $700 he paid for Chico by entering his spotted pet into some cat shows.
“The people I bought him from said he has the most beautiful spot pattern they’ve ever seen,” Matte said.
Contact Brent Curtis at firstname.lastname@example.org.