A man who found a tiny kitten buried in snow thought it was a lost cat—only to find it was one of the most endangered mammals in Europe.
32-year-old chef Pete MacNab was out for a walk in Scotland’s Cairngorms National Park with his baby son and a friend.
They spotted a group of sheep circling something. As they drew closer, the animals scattered, revealing a tiny tabby kitten lying in the snow in rural Dava Way.
The feline was unable to get on its feet. It looked freezing and its coat was all matted with snow. Not wanting to leave the creature in difficulty, Pete’s friend, Piotr, carried it the three miles back to town. He noted its claws were like “miniature razors,” and the pair joked that the little creature must be a Scottish wildcat: a rare species known to live in the Highlands.
After it was left at the vets on Wednesday, Pete began posting on local Facebook groups but no owner came forward.
Piotr and his partner began planning to get a cat bed and re-home the kitten—which they’d named Huntleigh.
Then the following day, the vet confirmed a specialist had in fact identified the wee tabby as a Scottish wildcat.
There are only around 100 to 300 of the species left. The only wild member of the cat family in the UK, it’s also one of the most endangered mammals in Europe.
Sadly, despite attempts to revive the poorly cat with glucose, hot water, and a heated blanket, the cat didn’t make it through Thursday night.
Because of their bond with the kitty, Peter and Piotr have since begun a fundraiser to raise money for a charity helping other wildcats—which has raised more than £5,000 ($6,800) so far.
Peter’s now been contacted by the Royal Zoological Society, which is part of the breeding program, to say the campaign has boosted their fundraising too.