I come from a family of cat ladies. When it comes to our feline friends, the love is very strong which is why I was heartbroken to lose my beautiful cat Mia a few months ago. I miss her very much and keep expecting to see her around the house- my mind has even played tricks on me a few times when I think I’ve seen her lying on my bed, or coming in through the cat flap.
I decided that I wanted to paint a cat piece of artwork whilst the house feels empty and wrong. I like to focus on painting wild animals so I chose the elusive Scottish wildcat.
Wildcats only remain in northern Scotland (they have died out in other areas of Britain) and are under threat due to a variety of factors including hybridization after breeding with domestic cats. There’s a fantastic program underway to try to conserve the Scottish wildcat which you can find out more about here. I was lucky enough to hear about the project on a wildlife tour in Ardnamurchan last year. I’m returning again next year and hope to learn more about how the project is progressing.
Known as the ‘Highland tiger’, the wildcat understandably has many folk tales attached to it and is an icon of the Scottish wilderness. It was even used in clan heraldry in the 13th century. The Clan Chattan Association (‘Clan of Cats’ formed of 12 different clans) use the wildcat in their badges and have the ominous motto of ‘Touch not the cat bot (without) a glove’. Be warned!
Charles St John had this to say of the wildcat,
“When caught in a trap, they fly without hesitation at any person who approaches them, not waiting to be assailed. I have heard many stories of their attacking and severely wounding a man, when their escape has been cut off... If a tame cat has 9 lives then a wildcat must have a dozen”.
There are tales of a Cat Sìth which was said to be either a fairy creature or witch. It appeared as a large black cat with a white spot on its chest and is said to haunt the highlands. It is thought that these stories are inspired by the Kellas cat which was possible a cross between a wildcat and domestic cat.
I really enjoyed creating this painting and the finished piece, entitled ‘Highland Tiger’ is going to be available in original, greeting card and print form very soon and I will be making a donation from every sale to the Wildcat Haven project.
Information from this blog post is from 'Scottish Wildcats: Naturally Scottish' by Kerry Kilshaw