Happy National Cat Day! We're smitten by this kitten. She's no piano-playing YouTube star, nor is her father Karl Lagerfeld (hello, Choupette). She does, however, appear cute and cuddly; but looks can be deceiving – she’s a wild one. The wildcat kitten, whose species is one of Britain’s rarest mammals, is being hand-raised at the Wildwood conservation center in England.
And according to keeper Sally Barnes, she’s already one fierce feline: "Our kitten has already got four teeth that can give quite a nip, her claws are well formed and she is already proving quite a handful.”
We’re ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the too-cute-to-be-real (or wild) pictures of the kitty, but conservationists have more of a reason to be excited. According to Wildwood Trust Chief Executive Peter Smith, the park’s extinction specialists are collaborating with scientists to develop genetic tests that will be able to identify purebred wildcats so extinction can hopefully come to a halt.
The tiny furball is giving Wildwood conservationists a glimmer of hope – they’re one step closer to reviving a species that could possibly disappear in less than ten years. Befittingly, the little one has her very own staff waiting on her hand and foot (or claw and paw, for this matter). Fancy Feast, anyone?
"The team is working around the clock to ensure its survival and we are so proud that she is in excellent health,” Barnes said in a statement. "It's been such a privilege to nurse such an amazing animal and have the honour to protect such a rare creature has been the high point of my career.”
The kitten, who has yet to be named, was born in July at Wildwood to mother Carna and father RJ. Carna, too, was born at the conservation center five years ago and RJ is part of a UK nationwide effort to prevent wildcat extinction. Together, the trio is just three out of fewer than 400 endangered wildcats left in the UK.
"It's well known that, although adorable, wildcat kittens can never be tamed and once weaned we will have to return her to the more natural surroundings of her wild enclosure, never to be cuddled again," Barnes said.
Save your cuddles for your house cats, folks. This girl's got a species to save.