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Mystery Cat Photo: Decatur, Illinois

Posted by: Loren Coleman on September 24th, 2006

What kind of feline is this one photographed near Decatur, Illinois?

Illinois Mystery Cat

According to the Eastern Puma Research Network (EPRN): “This mystery cryptid animal was caught on film by the wife of an EPRN associate member, who had gone hunting at 0530 hours in November 2004…The animal was filmed at 0547 hours in an area that empties into Sangamon Run…..EPRN knows it is not a black puma nor a housecat due to its features. It was estimated to weigh 40 – 60 pounds.

I have my own thoughts, but, first, what do you think?

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

51 Responses to “Mystery Cat Photo: Decatur, Illinois”

  1. Scrabbydoo responds:

    That is a Black Bermese Cat. Basically a muscled up Siamese. I have a Bermese named Patch. He looks exactly like this cat, but he has a white patch on his chest. Patch weighs 24 lbs, is over 3 foot long, and has 1 1/4 inch claws. He’s only a year old! Large cat, but still just a house cat. My neighbor actually asked if Patch was part cougar due to his size when he got out once and patroled our fence! I bout fell down laughing!

    I believe they over estemated this cat’s weight. Also if you notice there is no true way of telling scale in this picture. The cat is on top of a mound or hill. The cat is also not bothered by the fact that there is a human near it. It’s acting as tho it’s quite used to humans. It’s also in good health and well fed.

    So my vote is a Black Bermese House Cat out for a jont.

  2. cor2879 responds:

    It’s hard to get a perspective to me even though there are trees all around. To me it really really looks like a picture of a house cat that has been cropped to make it look bigger…

  3. swnoel responds:

    A mysterious cat???

    What’s so mysterious about a black cat?

    Probably looking to get the chickadees at the bird feeder.

    Wait a minute….

    Upon further examination I believe I detect large fangs from this cat.

    Could it possibly be the elusive black Sabertooth…

  4. oldbutnotstupid responds:

    My pussycat T Bone says thats definately his American house cat cousin and sends his best Meows. I agree with him house cat.

  5. Shihan responds:

    Yep – plain old house cat!

  6. MrInspector responds:

    There’s nothing in this photo to offer scale relation. The animal appears to be nothing more than a common house cat. It’s coat is clean and well kept, it looks to be healthy and well fed. My guess is that this is someone’s pet.

  7. twblack responds:

    I agree just a plain old house cat.

  8. texasgirl responds:

    Big old tomcat.

    I don’t think that animal is anywhere near 60lbs but a healthy tomcat could easily tip the scales at 30+lbs.

  9. stompy responds:

    house cat

  10. shumway10973 responds:

    yes, house cat. It is amazing how deceptive they are on the ratio of size vs. weight. I have a grey stripey that when you first see her you think, “awe, health kitty,” then you try to pick her up and get a hernia. It is always possible that there might be a small amount of a less common feline breed in this one, a breed that is larger than the average house cat in america. I know a couple people whose job sends them around the world and they will capture all sorts of wild cats and send them home. You would be amazed at the outcomes of a domestic house can mating with one of these wild ones. The outcomes can vary from looks (cute, pretty, ugly…) to size and abilities. So just someone’s pet out looking for something to hunt.

  11. scottmaruna responds:

    Now I am not going to bet the mortgage on this, but I am going to be far less skeptical than previous posters to this fascinating photo. Yes, some breeds of house cats can get quite large, but–being a resident of central Illinois who has done extensive research on the NUMEROUS large black cat sightings in the area both recent and historic (I have spoken with several reputable witnesses)–I have little doubt that there is a melanistic big cat breeding population of some sort in central Illinois. The trees in the pic, though not conclusive, do offer some perspective of size. And this is (whether Felis domesticus or otherwise) quite a large cat. Don’t write it off as a domestic too quickly.

  12. The Dirty Bubble responds:

    This very definitely is a large house cat. Like someone said before, the cat doesn’t even looked spooked that it’s picture is being taken. It surely knew someone was there, with a cat’s hearing and eyesight.

  13. skunkape_hunter responds:

    Looks like a feral domestic cat to me. We live pretty far out in the stix, and my other half insists on putting food out for the ones near us. The point being that I have seen some of these males get HUGE from being out in the wild and not being fixed, I assume. But there is an upside. They keep the snakes and the other critters away from the house.

  14. Tengu responds:

    I’m told house cats are so rare outside in the US that its no surprise that its misidentified.

    But it seems to be pure black, which is very rare.

  15. One Eyed Cat responds:

    Al right who snuck into Alabama and got a photo of Hymie’s ghost? And from his good eye side to boot! (He only had one)

    For there to be any reason to suppose this is larger then a housecat we need a scale indicater. Preferably something man-made, that would normally be outside. The pure black is indeed rare.

    Otherwise I can only say somebody needs to keep their kitty safer.

  16. One Eyed Cat responds:

    Alright let me explain my first tongue-in-cheek question above by noting I live and Hymie is buried in North Alabama. I in no way meant that was where the story came from. The photo was a bit startling.

  17. mystery_man responds:

    Hmmm, it’s interesting that the person who photographed this said “EPRN knows it is not a black puma nor a housecat due to its features.” Say what? It’s features look pretty much like a black housecat to me. If I were to see this photo in with a stack of family photos, I would not think it was unusual in the slightest, wouldn’t even give it a second glance.

  18. kittenz responds:

    Oh fer cryin out loud. It is a regular Felis catus (some would say Felis sylvestris catus). A house cat. Maybe a feral house cat, or maybe somebody’s pet out for a prowl. And just who is the Eastern Puma Research Network (EPRN), anyway? I know of one guy near here who says that he runs the Eastern Puma Research Network & he is a guy in Gilbert, WV. If they cannot look at a housecat and see a housecat, I sure don’t see how they are qualified to critique possible puma sightings if they can’t look at this and tell it is a housecat.

  19. CamperGuy responds:

    Wish there was something to give more scale. Guessing the light source is a flashlight from the point where the picture is taken I am guessing that it is indeed larger than a common housecat. I think that its size is the only thing that might be unusual about it though.

    It is night with a light shining on it and someone very close and doesn’t seem to care in the least. Typical domesticated cat nature to me.

  20. planettom responds:

    Black house cat, maybe large, can’t really tell size, need a better object for size comparison, maybe stray or feral, maybe lost, maybe the Halloween Black cat! Look Out! Nothing extraordinary to me. Meow.

  21. planettom responds:

    Oh yeah, they should set a trap, maybe put some fancy feast in a bowl… 😉
    They’ll have a fine specimen in a day or so, and be able to take a better look.

  22. YarriWarrior responds:

    Looks like a regular ole’ kitty cat to me. I was a bit pleased to see my hometown in a headline here! Yarri

  23. afigbee responds:

    Wasn’t there a story about someone in Australia who shot a very large mystery cat, buried it, but sent in the tail for a dna analysis only to have it come back as a common housecat, yet he insists it was about the size of a cougar?

  24. kittenz responds:

    Look at the face in this picture. First of all, there is a sharp shadow from the bright light, that makes the face look a bit longer than it really is. But when you look closely you can see the shadow behind the head. Next, look at the eyes & compare them to the size of the face and muzzle. The proportions are pure housecat. I doubt it’s even feral, because feral cats tend to be very wary and it would be difficult to phtograph a feral cat so clearly. It seems to be completely unconcerned with the light or the photographer. It looks like my cat Halloween, who is all black & weighs about 15 pounds. She looks a lot bigger than she really is because her fur is so thick and plush.

    The all-black mutation in cats is NOT uncommon – it was probably the first mutation from the tabby gene, and is actually the most common color variant of the domestic cats in most regions. Almost every species of cat has a melanistic phase – some are fairly common and some are very rare. But black domestic cats are very common indeed.

    And there are MILLIONS of cats in the United States that do not live in houses.

  25. sausage1 responds:

    It would be helpful if people who catch a picture such as this, even if they are not there to witness the event, could take another picture later on at the same place with another object for size reference. For example, they could place a 30cm rule in the picture where the animal was, and state how far the camera is from the object, just to give us an idea. I mean, how big is this thing? We have no real idea.

  26. sausage1 responds:

    Although, of course, it could be the Decatur D’Yeti!

  27. brineblank responds:

    Feral dogs, poorly focused deer, and house cats. Next someone will turn in a picture of an overweight rabbit and claim that Night of the Lupus was a documentary. And in spite of appeals that continue with such stories, please, let’s quickly write this off. Unless of course Loren can spring some cash from the humane society and we can start a “Have you seen my (fill in pet type here)?”

  28. Sunny responds:

    Put me in the housecat column — and I second the deduction of Burmese — leggy, sleek, jet black, and very muscular, thus heavy, golden-green eyes (unique to the breed).

    We had a stray Burmese decide that our offices were his next home, and that we should be its staff. He looked exactly like this photo — and yes, he was *pure* black. The vet surmounted that he was a Burmese, and we ran ads and stuck posters all around to try to find an owner, but none ever showed.

    Boss slept on my desk and picked candy out of my desktop jar for his own fun (didn’t eat it, just made a mess) for many years. I sure do miss his big black ornery self.

  29. One Eyed Cat responds:

    Pure, jet or all black –that is NO white markings or hairs– cats are rare due to thet strange notion in the medievil age tht not one speck of white mean pure evil. Even Hyme had two streaks of white, one between his hind legs and one between the forelegs. thought the streatched foreleg in the photo is not far enough forward for such a mark to be visible.

    Head and features look house cat to me

  30. scottmaruna responds:

    I think what everyone is overlooking is the fact that we are all making our interpretation based on one photograph. There was a witness–I do not know the woman, but as she is a hunter and the wife of an EPRN member, I can only assume that she would be experienced in gauging animals in the wild and would be at least a somewhat reliable and reputable witness. I would think that she could tell the difference between a 24 lb Burmese and a “40-60 pound” big cat, as she described it. Just a few thoughts to chew on…

  31. Lesley responds:

    Looks like a large house cat to me.

  32. Sunny responds:

    Go have a spin round the EPRN website, this sighting isn’t listed.

    If EPRN are convinced that this is not a housecat “because of its features”, I’d be very interested in hearing their reasoning, ’cause I (and most of the posters above) just see housecat.

    I’m not saying it is, I’m saying it LOOKS like a housecat to me — specifically, a Burmese — *because of its features*, and I’d very much like to hear what they believe makes it something else.

  33. ilexoak responds:

    You can tell it’s not a big cat by the way the lifted paw isn’t flared. Domestic cats are the only ones that don’t flare the toes when lifting the front paws.


  34. Mnynames responds:

    This pic pretty much looks identical to my cat, Orion, who’s almost 20 pounds, even down to the unusually large fangs. I always thought he was an Oriental Shorthair, but he may very well be a Burmese, as others have suggested this supposed cryptid is.

    As a note of trivia, most black domestic cats bear at least some sort of white spot on their chest, sometimes only barely visible. My Orion is no different in this regard either, and if this were a pic of him, the position the cat is in would conceal it completely.

  35. cradossk responds:

    “Wasn’t there a story about someone in Australia who shot a very large mystery cat, buried it, but sent in the tail for a dna analysis only to have it come back as a common housecat, yet he insists it was about the size of a cougar?”

    – Yep, that is 100% correct. I think the DNA results said something “most likely a house cat”, which for all intensive purposes is a house cat, but the cat itself was quite large. (Theres photos of it somewhere on this site i think. The guy has it strung up next to him… its huge!)

    This photo however is clearly NOT anything but a normal cat

  36. Rillo777 responds:

    I agree, no mystery here. However, I live in Indiana and have done research on the black mystery cats and they do appear (and then disappear) a bit regularly. The last incident was a few years ago when a large cat attacked a horse north of Indianapolis. As always, the cat is seen a few times (and it is almost always black and cougar size) then is not seen again. Illinois and Indiana have a very long and rather frequent association with these creatures. Not far from where I live the older folks actually still warn eath other not to let their pets or young children wander off into the fields for fear the “cougars will get them” although I don’t remember a child ever actually being attacked. This photo, however, is simply a housecat.

  37. shovethenos responds:

    Put me down for domestic cat or hybrid.

    As the case from Australia illustrates domestic cats can get quite large. Throw in the tendency of even experienced observers to overestimate the size/weight of cats and other furred animals and the likelihood is even stronger.

  38. purrlcat responds:

    The only thing about this photo that bothers me is the cat’s tail. If that is its tail shown, it is hanging straight down. When a cat is walking, especially outside, wouldn’t it be held out in a sloping curve at least? I’m not sure if that is its leg or tail at the rear.

  39. Craig Woolheater responds:


    I did post an article regarding the Austrailian black feral cat that was shot here on Cryptomundo. There is a photo of that cat there as well.

  40. Esther responds:

    ok Loren,
    I have been reading comment after comment, just waiting to hear what you think about this Mystery Cat Photo, but no comment from you yet. Yer making me crazzzy! Ahhh…ok, now that I am over that could you pleeze let us know what your thoughts are about this kitty kat err I mean Mystery Cat! Thank you!!

  41. mystery_man responds:

    Boy, this is sure a lot of coverage for what most people seem to think is just a housecat. Are we going to have a big discussion on every pic of someone’s pet? I really do wish Mr. Coleman would come in and give his take on it. I’m a bit flabbergasted at how much this is being discussed when it looks pretty open and shut to me!

  42. Ray Soliday responds:

    The cat has pointed ears, not rounded. I vote house cat.

  43. kittenz responds:

    My cat Halloween is all black, not a white hair on her. When I adopted her she had 6 kittens and they were also all black, every last one of em.

    I too have heard many tales of credible people seeing “black panthers” in the Appalachian mountains and the midwest. The odd thing is that there are no confirmed records of black or melanistic pumas. I do believe that they exist; howerver I think that most reports of “black panthers” in the US are misidentifications.

    A house cat, when it is hunting out in a field or at the edge of a forest, can seem larger than it really is, especially if someone comes upon it unexpectedly and it bounds away & disappears from sight.

    That photo of the black cat from Australia looked like it had been deliberatley manipulated to make the cat appear larger that it really was. I have seen similar photos of bears lately, that were obviously manipulated. Some people get their kicks from initiating hoaxes, just to stir things up.

    I do believe that big cats exist in the wild in the Eastern US, and that there is a viable breeding population of the Eastern puma. I am open to the possibility that there may be a black color phase, or at least a very dark form that looks black to the casual observer. But the cat in this photo is not any kind of big cat. It is a house cat.

  44. larrykat responds:

    A black housecat – looks exactly like my own. Absolutely no question.

    Funny this even made a ripple; even the photo’s proportions do not make the cat look any larger than it should.

  45. aaha responds:

    A little Friskies and catnip and I can cage that fierce house cat.

  46. soonersquatch responds:

    All this from people who are convinced with some footprints and fuzzy photos of gigantos in their backyards. It may be a house cat, but there are plenty of black panthers off in the remote places of this country, especially Arkansas where you still find black panthers the state re-introduced there. They are more apt to predate on humans than mountain lions and they definitely are found in Montgomery County Arkansas. They look much like this cat except for the pointed ears and carry a high fine & jail time for shooting them.

  47. julie responds:

    Hi everyone, new member from Australia here. I’ve been reading the blogs for a couple of months or so. All very interesting! I’ve been a crypto-fan since the 1970s when I realised people weren’t just investigating Big Foot & Nessie!

    The feral cats seen in Aussie newspapers recently have all been similar to the poor puss that Craig Woolheater has linked back to – held very close to the camera to make them look more impressive.

    Which is not to say we don’t have some quite big ferals in the outback. A friend on a driving holiday came across a dead black feral cat estimated at about 40 lbs, which seems to be the realistic limit for these cats here in Oz. I’ve had a rescued feral kitten that grew to a good 20 lbs, but in reality most feral cats seem to be smaller and more wiry than better-fed domestics.

    As for our mystery cat in the photo – definitely a lovely domestic; possibly half-Siamese or Burmese tom (hence the ‘jowly’ face) as these tend towards glossy jet black coats when crossed. Pity we don’t have a better look at the colour of the eye reflection – Siamese eyes reflect red instead of the usual green in most other breeds, the Himalayan coat pattern being a form of albinism. The domestic’s paw neat paw shape and pointed ears give it away.

  48. Bob Michaels responds:

    Nothing unusual about this cat. It’s out looking for a mate.

  49. Spinach Village responds:

    the maincoon and ragdoll are the largest of domestic cat breeds… but to reach 30 pounds they would most likely be obese and have difficulty walking … plus they have shaggy coats and the maincoon is striped

    (unless u are talking about certain hybreds that cost 1000 dollars or more in which case they would probably have a collar on and im pretty sure the owner would freak out if it got outside, and melanism being bred into these hybreds is even more rare)

    large house cat hmm, im not sure about that

  50. rjsnyder114 responds:

    This is obviously a house cat. The primary points of identification are the very sharp points on the ears, the shape of the jaw and the fatty bodystyle as opposed to a muscular bulging of the shoulder region. This in my opinion is the reason that the few of us with a true to life sighting of a large black cat in central Illinois don’t have a chance of being believed. I will go further in saying that there is a high probability that this photograph is a hoax and was a total set up.

  51. bigcathunter24 responds:

    just look at the paws and the ears and i dont like that you cant see the tail

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