Dry feet are very important to a pussy cat. We like our paws to be shipshape, our whiskers to float free and our bellies to feel full! But this day my fur glistened with moisture from the endless drizzly rain that fell from the sky. It’s not uncommon to see doggies wearing a waterproof overcoat or a tartan jumper, but cats mostly don’t tolerate costumes or too much bling. And this cat certainly isn’t prissy enough to pull-off a leopard-print mackintosh. So I went ‘á la nature’, in reverence to my unadorned big cat cousins residing at the Wingham Wildlife Park in Kent. John, Natasha (the other photographer in John’s family) and I had driven all the way over to Canterbury to catch a glimpse of Poppy the baby jaguar and it was worth every lick of my coat required later to get myself clean and dry.
Having never seen a jaguar in real life before, I switched from happy-go-lucky ‘human mode’ (which employs the skills I have perfected to communicate with humans in their visual / auditory way) to ‘untamed feline mode’ (which involves using body language and scent to connect with other cats). My whiskers stood proud and bristled with excitement as I flicked a few happy pheromones in the direction of Poppy’s mum whose name is Luna. I wanted her to know I was there to admire her baby so there was no need for her to fret. You can imagine my surprise when I strode purposefully to the fence and found that Poppy looked just like me – sleek, black, handsome and proud. The only difference I could see (apart from the size perhaps) was that Poppy had big blue eyes and mine are yellow. Poppy is the first big cat to the born at the park and she takes after her black mum Luna more than her yellow-spotted dad Loki. She was born in July 2014 and has recently gone on show to the public now the zookeepers are satisfied that her protective mother is comfortable with the idea.
Another new sight for me was the pardine genet. This debonair exotic creature is very shy in the wild and as such there is not much known about its natural mating, courtship and hunting behaviours. This mysterious cat-like mammal is similar to a civet, a fossa or a mongoose and has a vast range from Canada down to the Andes. It’s a protected species throughout most of its range except for a few areas including Ecuador and El Salvador, yet they are hunted in many parts of Canada and the United States. Seems like a contradiction to me but I’ve never understood the killing for sport thing.
There are far too many animals at the park to mention them all but some of the striking ones in these photos are the Puma (also known as a cougar or a mountain cat), the noble lion and magnificent tiger, curious meerkats and the dignified red panda, as well as quirky perky penguins. There was also a monkey with a teddy who made me laugh because I have a teddy at home, but don’t go telling everybody that!