Mystery cats often create more buzz than other cryptid sightings, because everyone loves cats. Cats that want burgers, ceiling cats, basement cats, box cats, nyan cats, cats that cat, cats cat cats – the fucking Internet can take any picture of a cat and make it so ball-twistingly omnipresent that you can barely search for porn these days without stumbling upon a video that you have no interest in seeing of some cooing Japanese bellend trying to coax his cat into a shoebox with a piece of ham. Then some other bellend will take that video, cut it with another video of another cat playing the ukelele, dub some obscene electronica music over the top of it and impose the words CAN HAZ HAM UKELELELE over every other frame and for no other reason than they hate you, every awful and tedious bore that you’ve ever worked in an office with will send it to you via every medium ever invented with the subject line “LOL CATS!” until you are so fucking surrounded by cats that you choke to death on all the airborne hair and are eaten by cats. This, the Internet has proven, is the evolutionary path that we have chosen for ourselves, and it’s a more terrifying prospect than Skynet.
Owing to hundreds of sightings of creatures like the Beast of Bodmin Moor, mystery cat scares are quite a British phenomenon – no other country in the world has had a police helicopter scrambled over a spaz-panic caused by a giant toy tiger – but local legends about mystery felids aren’t unique to our green and pleasant shores. Australia also has its own furball-hawking cryptid, and it’s a more intriguing prospect than an out-of-place big cat from a recognised species.
The Queensland Tiger has been known to the Aborigines for centuries as an animal the size of a German shepherd with a distinct striped back, prominent teeth in its catlike head and mean claws on its front paws with which it disembowels its victims. Of course, this being Australia, where animals are generally insane Picasso explosions of misplaced body parts (all of which are generally poisonous, pointy, racist or confusing), the Queensland Tiger probably isn’t a tiger at all. Or even a cat. Are you confused yet?
Just because everything that breeds and lives in Australia is apparently a big fan of dungarees with a front pocket, the tiger is believed to be a still-living descendant of the Thylaceo, marsupial predators that were once the biggest carnivores in Australia. Thylaceo Carnifex was the size of a small lion and was terrifyingly specialised in killing the shit out of things, with the most powerful pound-for-pound bite of any mammal to have ever lived and a tail it could anchor as a tripod to free up the cat-like claws on its front legs. Just because the most powerful bite in mammal history isn’t enough when you could also be shredding stuff with greater haste and ferocity than an executive at Enron in its final days.
Although presumed extinct now, there’s at least one ancient example of Aboriginal cave art depicting a standoff between a Thylaceo and a hunter that would put it in much more modern times than the fossil record suggests. The picture features details like a tufted tail and striped back – details that the artist couldn’t have known from anything other than a real-life encounter with the animal.
A flurry of sightings around the tropical Queensland forests in the 1950s and 60s led to several expeditions being led in search of the elusive beast. No solid evidence has been found to prove its existence. However there’s one possible photo of the animal, taken by a woman named Rilla Martin in 1964. She was driving her car in Ozenkadnook (bless you) when she spotted a strange animal by the side of the road, which she managed to get a snap of just as it turned to move away:
Hardly conclusive, but it was enough to cause a bit of a stir at the time. Some have claimed it as a hoax, while others claim it’s more likely to be a Thylacine, more commonly known as the famous Tasmanian tiger – if that were the case, it’d be just as important a crytozoological find, as the last Thylacine is supposed to have died in a zoo in 1936.
In summary – well done Australia. As if you didn’t have enough terrifying animals in the first place.