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An EARLY morning visitor to an Inverurie garden has got locals convinced that a big cat is again prowling around Aberdeenshire homes.

Middlepark resident Ian McDonald, 54, was leaving his home just after 6am yesterday when he spotted the large, black cat.

"It was bigger than a normal cat - I thought it was a young dog," Mr McDonald, who described the animal as "fearsome", said yesterday.

"I've never seen a cat like that in my life. It had a big face and it looked like it had big teeth."

Mr McDonald, who describes himself as an animal lover, said he had already decided not to get too close to the animal before it shot off through a hedge.

"Its back went up and I think it was roused. I didn't want to touch it in case I got clooked (scratched)."

Mr McDonald's neighbour, Helen Currie, said last night that she had seen Mr McDonald, who seemed very agitated.

"He said, 'There's a great big black beast went in there just now', and he was showing me how big it was," she said.

"He said it came down from Gordon House - it's just across the road. It crossed the road right in front of him - he got a good sighting of it. He was very agitated and worked up, but I didn't actually see it myself.

"I was very nervous of it, in fact I was wishing he would stop speaking about it," she said. "I've no desire to see it. I would just prefer not to think about it, because I go out with my pet dog and I don't want to meet that. I don't want to meet anything like that."

Mark Currie, who has been investigating sightings of big cats in Scotland for several years, said the animal could be one of the Kellas cat variety - only bigger.

"People say they're leopards but I'm not sure they're leopards. I would say Kellas Cats - but not little ***** cats - they can get as big as alsatians," said Mr Currie, who was last night arranging transport to Yorkshire to collect the carcase of a big cat which had apparently been struck by a car.

He speculated that the animal Mr McDonald had seen could even be an indigenous beast.

He has no doubt that big cats are prowling the North-east, saying they had been in the area for hundreds of years and there had been many sightings.

Yesterday's sighting is just one of a number of similar incidents over the last few months.

The most notorious was when Insch resident Doris Moore, of Craigieford, suffered puncture wounds to her thigh after an ani- mal pounced on her as she walked to her car from a steading at the beginning of January.

The animal was described by a friend who witnessed the attack, Wilfred Simpson, as a "sleek black beastie", about the size of a Labrador with a feline appearance.

The incident attracted national attention, with Mrs Moore appearing on television to recount her experience and later putting pen to paper to write the poem The Shadow of the Cat.

In June, members of Inverurie Golf Club - not far from yesterday's sighting - spotted what appeared to be a big cat on the course

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:st Hello Althalus, thanks for the story. It is interesting to note that a 'big' black cat has also been spotted over the last several years around the Blue mountains region in New South Wales. Locals here refer to it as the "Black Panther". I have seen footage of it on the news broadcast, but of course the image is not clear. :-/

The latest sighting from memory was around late last year Aug-Sept 2001. Here is some further info regarding the Aussie version of the black cat :

I've camped very close to where the cat has been spotted, but to my disappointment there were no signs of our feline friend. See ya later  :st

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