Police mistook kitten for an endangered Scottish wildcat and held it for four months

An animal rights group has slammed a police force after seizing a kitten it believed was a rare species of Scottish wildcat. 

Finlay, an ordinary household cat, was seized by North Wales Police following a search of a property in the Conwy County area in February earlier this year.

But an animal rights group says the kitten suffered 'serious physiological and psychological trauma' after being held for four months so tests on its species could be carried out.ch

It was subsequently examined by experts and found to be just a normal tabby - not a protected wild animal. 

Investigators assessed its features and found it may have a low proportion of wildcat genes, but not enough to consider it a Scottish wildcat. 

North Wales Police has now revealed it received 41 complaints from members of the public alleging 'animal mistreatment'.

However, a police and crime panel meeting was later told the complaints were deemed non-recordable and the matter closed. 

A spokesperson for the force said: 'The cat was cared for at a specialist facility and once it was determined that it was a domestic cat, it was returned to the sanctuary, and the matter is now closed.'

A statement added that Finlay had received regular visits from veterinarians.

It comes after the Wildcat Haven group, an organisation that claims to protect the rare species, accused North Wales Police of taking the feline with no explanation or warning earlier this year.

The group claims it was rehabilitating the animal after finding it injured in the central Highlands, before planning to release it into the wild in the next six to eight weeks. 

A statement at the time said: 'Finlay was seized and detained, in our opinion without due cause or reason by the North Wales Police.

'He was detained at an undisclosed location for four and a half months until his return on Tuesday evening this week. 

'He left us in prime physical condition and we hoped he would have been treated with due care and respect and returned in the same condition.

"However, it is clear that Finlay has experienced serious physiological and psychological trauma at the hands of his captors.

'We were assured by the police that Finlay was receiving specialist care. Such mental and physical deterioration in four and a half months, does not suggest specialist care.

'The police also told us numerous times that Finlay was being kept in a naturalistic enclosure. However, notes provided to us by the police, show that he was kept in an enclosure with a mulch floor. He didn't even have grass under his feet.

'He was taken from an expansive, natural and stimulating environment to one that clearly didn't meet his needs.'

Scottish wildcats are extinct in England and Wales but there are believed to be only a few hundred left in northern and eastern Scotland.

They are similar to a large tabby cat and have been under threat because of habitat loss and being bred with domestic cats.