Oz DNA tests conclude it is a (very) big cat|ruby_lang|rebeccalang@ozemail.com.au|12/04/05 at 00:42:00|ruby_lang|xx|0||DNA tests conclude it is a (very) big cat

DNA tests have revealed a mysterious cat shot in Gippsland was a gigantic feral domestic cat.

Big cat researchers have claimed it could be the state's largest feral tabby.
The size of the cat led to initial predictions it was a leopard or jaguar. The tests could end decades of speculation over big cat sightings in the Australian wilderness.

The feral cat's tail was 65cm in length, nearly twice the length of the largest recorded domestic cat tail.

Monash University experts analysed a sample from the tail of the cat, shot by Melbourne hunter Kurt Engel, and have concluded there was a 98 per chance it was a feral cat.

Mr Engel, 67, who photographed the cat and disposed of the carcass, but kept the tail as a trophy, said he accepted the finding but was adamant the cat was extremely large.

"If it was just a pussy cat, it was the biggest in the world," he said.

The laboratory testing compared the cat tail DNA against several samples of DNA taken from feral cats and other big cats from around the world.

In tests against DNA from feral cats, the tail DNA recorded several matches of 100 per cent and was always at least 97 per cent similar.

But when compared against DNA from big cats including leopards, cheetahs, lynx and tigers, the results were a 90 per cent match or less.

Big cat researcher Mike Williams said he was stunned by the DNA result.

"It was so large I just assumed it was an exotic animal," he said.

"I was obviously wrong, but it is extraordinary that Australia has a mutated cat that can grow to the size of a leopard.

"This might explain why there are so many reports of monstrous black cats in Australia.

"It is the world's largest feral cat."

Fellow big cat researcher Bernie Mace said it was an important finding.

"It leaves a question mark over the feral cat how big does it really get?" Mr Mace said.

"It has implications for the native fauna and ecology in Australia."