IT is the mysterious moggie that has been the talk of a leafy Hampshire community.
Residents in the Itchen Valley have spotted what they describe as a ‘wild cat’ in recent days.
The sightings have baffled locals, some of whom thought an exotic feline may have escaped from Marwell Zoo.
One startled eyewitness was the assistant priest of Itchen Valley Parish, Rev Alex Pease, who was driving on Chilland Lane when he spotted the cat in the road on Sunday evening.
Straight away Mr Pease wanted to find out whether anyone else had seen the feline, and discovered that there had been several sightings in the Itchen Valley area.
He was convinced he may have seen a genet – a a slender cat-like carnivore with a long body, a long ringed tail, which is native to Africa.
Mr Pease said: “When I saw it on Sunday evening it was just after dark and I was driving along Chilland Lane and pictured it in my headlights and I thought ‘what on earth is that’.
“I would say it is larger than a normal cat with a much larger and bushier tail, but the thing was its distinctive black face and pointed ears.
“It turned round and looked at me at one stage and then sauntered off down the path.
He reiterated that the creature should not concern residents and added: “It is not an alarming case of lock up your dogs and protect your baby situation, it’s too small for that!”
A Marwell Zoo spokeswoman said none of their animals have escaped: “Marwell has never had genets in the collection but does have a couple of species of wild cat including serval and ocelot.
“We can guarantee that all of our animals are accounted for at Marwell zoo, so this sighting is completely unrelated to us.”
On further inspection and with the help of Luke Hunter, who is President and Chief Conservation Officer of Panthera, a charity devoted to protecting big cats says he believes the cat is likely to be a ‘big domestic’ cat or a Bengal.
Councillor for Alresford and the Itchen Valley, Kim Gottlieb said: “It has been the talk of the area.
“Everybody was fascinated and interested at first now they are concerned about who is looking after it as no-one has admitted to owning it as far as I am aware.”