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A pair of friends who thought they'd discovered a lost cat on a snowy walk received quite a shock when they found out that they had actually picked up one of the most endangered mammals in Europe, a Scottish wildcat.
32-year-old chef Pete McNab was walking in the Cairngorms National Park with his baby son and a mate when he came across what he thought was a shivering kitten amongst a group of circled sheep.
As they approached, the sheep moved out of the way to reveal the small cat, that looks quite a bit like a tabby kitten.
It couldn't stand up, so Pete's friend Piotr Peretko carried it three miles back to the town along with them, making jokes about how it must be a Scottish wildcat, given the sharpness of its claws.
The Scottish wildcat is an extremely rare animal that is known to live in the area, and he didn't know how right he was.
They named the animal Huntleigh, and left it at the vets whilst they tried to help it recover. In the meantime, Piotr and his partner started buying up the things they'd need to rehome the cat.
However, a specialist later identified it as a genuine Scottish wildcat.
There are thought to be only 100 to 300 cats of this kind in the wild, and the species is the rarest in the UK, and one of the most endangered in Europe.
Despite the best efforts of the medical professionals, they were unable to get the cat back onto its feet using hot water, glucose, and a heated blanket.
Huntleigh died last Friday.
Pete said: "Piotr found him and picked him up, he was absolutely tiny, he must have only been a couple of months old.
"I grew up with cats and so did my friend who I found him with.
"At first we thought it was a domestic cat which had run away, it was absolutely freezing and it's coat was matted from lying in the snow.
"My friend had a proper bonding session with it, he took it to the vet and I posted on local Facebook groups trying to track down the owner.
"He was looking forward to rehoming the cat if nobody came forward, they wanted to get him a cat bed, they phoned the vets and the cat was starting to revive.
"But due to his personality the vets began to suspect he was a wildcat."
He continued: "It was a massive blow for my friend, there was a bath on the cards for the cat if he got it back, I doubt that would have ended well now we know it's a wildcat.
"There is a massive breeding programme, and the second day we were told it was confirmed as a wildcat.
"Specialists were saying 'it's amazing you managed to carry a wildcat for three miles without it ripping you to shreds' - we had been joking it was a wildcat because its claws were like miniature razors.
"There are only around 100 to 300 left in the wild, and one of the most endangered mammals in Europe, and one of the most endangered in the world.
"The next day we got a call saying 'we are sorry the cat has passed away'.
"But it was the experience of a lifetime."
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