Several Haymarket-area residents called police in Prince William County last week to report an animal sighting: a bobcat, they said.
The animal they saw, it turns out, was not a bobcat but a pixiebob, a breed of domestic cat that resembles bobcats.
Three pixiebobs, caged together to create more pixiebobs, escaped from a breeder in Nokesville in mid-May, according to the owner of one of the three cats. Since then, they’ve been on the loose.
And James Herald, owner of the one male cat in the group of roaming pixiebobs, is concerned about his pet being mistaken for a wild animal. “We’re worried to death. He’s our baby,” Herald said. “We’re trying to spread the word so nobody shoots him.”
The pixiebob breed was started by Carol Ann Brewer in Washington state in 1985, according to the International Cat Association, which recognized the cats Brewer raised as a separate breed starting in 1993.
These domestic cats, usually large, have the distinctive “bob” tails of wild bobcats and are known for their intelligence — the International Cat Association calls them “dogs in disguise.”
In the case of Cam, the escaped male cat, that intelligence means he can do tricks, such as rolling over or high-fiving a human on demand, Herald said.
Cam got his name from another wild cat — not a bobcat, but a Panther. A Carolina Panther, that is: NFL quarterback Cam Newton.
Herald said he named his kitten for Newton because he could already tell, when Cam was born two years ago, that this kitten was going to be big.
Now, this pixiebob, despite the diminutive name, is quite large — about 19 pounds, Herald said. He also has massive paws, with five toes on two feet and seven toes on the others. Polydactylism is common in pixiebobs.
Herald, who lives in Cincinnati, drove Cam to Prince William County last month to breed with three or four female pixiebobs there. He later got a call from the breeder he left his cat with, who said that a board fell onto the cage where Cam and two females were being kept. It knocked a hole in the wiring, and the three cats went on the lam.
The breeder couldn’t be reached on Monday.
Herald said he thinks the three cats have stuck together as they apparently traveled from Nokesville to Haymarket, about 10 miles. “Knowing him and the way those females were with him, they’re probably all together,” Herald said. “He loves females, female cats. He just loves them. He adores them. He’ll follow them around.”