Mysterious pet could be half black panther

By Mona Lang

AURORA — I wish to pass along to readers of The County Compass what has been my experience with regard to the possibility of black panthers in our area. 

Although I’ve never told anyone about my belief that black panthers live here, I’m pretty confident in my opinion that they do. Maybe they have no ‘panther’ DNA in them at all, but they surely are a variety of cat unto themselves.

When I first moved here in 1992 – when our environment was much less traversed by humans than it is now – I occasionally saw a solid black, very large cat near the road when I would be driving home very late at night. I thought to myself at the time that I was not seeing a feral domestic shorthair. 

Then, one dawn about 10 years ago, I heard my dogs, out of their fence and barking furiously. I went out and saw a huge solid black cat perched at the top of a tree where the dogs had him (maybe her?) at bay. I finally got the dogs penned up and went back in the house so the cat could escape.

That was one magnificent animal to be nothing more than a common domestic shorthair. But, I didn’t say anything to anybody about my belief that the cat was a wild, indigenous black panther. Since then, I’ve never glimpsed such an animal again.

However, four or five years ago, a tiny kitten, which obviously was not yet weaned, walked through the chain link fence one evening in an attempt to get to my adult female cat. A road crew had been mowing in this area, and I had seen dead cats on the road. My guess is that the mower, working as far as possible into the edge of the woods, had frightened mamas and babies out of their dens. I suspected my little visitor’s mama had been killed.

I tried to offer the kitten food but once it saw me, it was gone. A day or two later, I saw it again. This time, I just put food down and left it. This went on for a couple of weeks. If I were anywhere in sight, the kitten wouldn’t come near the food. 

Finally – finally! – she progressed to the point where she would go into a big dog cage to get food and somehow I got the door closed on her. Once inside the house, she stayed in the cage for about a week or so before she seemed to feel calm and safe enough to roam the house. 

I’ve known lot of domestic cats in my life, both wild and tamed, but I’ve never known one like this cat. People would surely laugh at me if I admitted I believe she is half panther – but I do believe that!

She moves her head in the same way an owl does when searching for prey. She has absolutely decimated small wildlife here. Even as a kitten, she would leap straight up five feet to catch a gecko that I had not ever seen. Even as a kitten, she caught and killed every fledgling that the thrashers and mockingbirds in my yard tried to raise. 

It made me sick to see what she was doing, but I just could not have her put to sleep.

She couldn’t be a pet for anyone because she will be free when she wants to be free, or else she will bite and scratch to the bone in an instant. I love Mystery and I’m sure she loves me, but if she doesn’t want to be touched, I don’t touch her. 

When I brought a dog home from the pound last year, I discovered to my horror that the new arrival intended to kill my cats. The dog chased Mystery at first, but it didn’t take long for Mystery to start attacking and chasing the dog.

Mystery catches and kills adult birds in trees. She has terrorized birds here so that I don’t need bird netting over my grapes anymore. She doesn’t just catch mice, she digs up and kills moles.

I really would like for Ivia Nathaniel, whose article about panthers appeared in the Jan. 24 issue of your newspaper, to see Mystery in action – but this mysterious cat would never allow that. She is just as wary of anything new to her as any thoroughly wild animal would be. 

I’m so happy Ivia chose to share what she did about our unrecognized black panthers . . . or whatever they are.