How we Became Friends with Sophie
We got Sophie from our friends Caro, Martin, Jack and Max in France in the summer of 2003. They lived at the edge of a forest in Champagney, close by Dole, in the Jura. She was living in their tractor in their garden for many months and it was an extremely hot summer. They were going to Spain for many months, and did not want to leave her alone. So we happily said we would take her back to Holland.
It was a very adventurous ride back home with Sophie. She seemed to like camping with us, but she did not like the car. Our electronics had broken and we could not open the windows or use air conditioning and it was 35 degrees in the shade.She pooped the whole way! We were so glad to finally get home, and Sophie seemed very happy to be living with us, and we liked her very much too. We brought Sophie to the vet, and she thought she was about 1 year old at that time.
Sophie's a Wildcat!
We are quite sure now that Sophie is a European wildcat Felis silvestris silvestris (Europese wilde kat in Dutch). They are a subspecies of the larger wildcats and the ancestor of the domestic cat. They usually inhabit forests, especially in the South of Europe. The European Wildcat is quite rare in Holland, and probably became extinct in the Netherlands at least 150 years ago, but some even say in Roman times. We did not know this when we brought her home from France, until Jack sent us some links about "Le Chat sauvage" about 2 years later. Now Andijk has their very own wild cat!
We think Sophie is a wild cat because she matches the description and pictures exactly. She looks like a muscular tabby, with a thick coat, broad head, and comparatively flat face. She is rather compact, with short legs, and wide set ears. She has a beautiful coat with well-defined dark stripes on the head, neck, legs and along the back. Sophie's tail is thick and blunt-ended and is marked with dark rings and a black tip. Her tail is even more unique because she has an extreme "kink" and it is curled up. She also has big seasonal weight changes and can be more than a kilogram heavier in the winter.I once measure her belly at 32 cm around!
A couple of weeks after Sophie came home she had a littler of 3 kittens. We kept one kitten named Sally, who is an orange female cat, which is also rather unique. Sophie surprised us the next summer and had another nest of 3 kittens. We had Sophie on birth control pills, but they did not work. We kept one kitten named Sam, a black cat. We had many people who wanted an orange cat, so when we saw Sally was friendly with a neighbour’s orange tabby, we let her have a litter. She had 4 kittens, all of them orange. And of course, we kept one kitten named Pinky. So now there are a few hybrid wild cat/tabbys in West-Friesland and also Amsterdam.
Wild cats are more solitary animals than domestic cats, and are not as social and do not like living in cat family groups. Sophie mostly likes to be outside, but when she comes into the house she is very affectionate with us, but it is on her terms. She is very stubborn, and if she is sitting somewhere and you try to move her, you are likely to get a big scratch (ask Max). Over time she has become more solitary, and does not get along with her adult children Sally, Sam and Pinky. She also does not like our Jack Russell dogs.
Sophie has always spent most of her time wandering around alone on the dike, by the harbour or by the Ijslemeer a few hundred meters away. Along with forests, wildcats like marshes and coastal areas. Living by the Ijslemeer is probably perfect for her, along with there being a bird reservation nearby! Often she would be missing for a couple of weeks at a time. Once we found out that she was living on someone's boat at the harbour and another time in someone's shed. We would usually then find her sitting on her favourite bench overlooking the Ijslemeer as if she owned it and knew that she had come back home.
Sophie's New Home
The last time Sophie went missing we heard from our friend Jaap that she was hanging out at the harbour by Chris Slagmolen our local boat builder (Scheepstimmerman) and his wife Ellie. Chris is a nice guy who has also done beautiful work on our old wooden Dutch boat. We went to go get her with a bottle of Kruidenbitter in hand to say "thank you". What we had not expected was that Chris would be very sad to lose her. They had a beautiful place for her to stay, and it was clear that she had become the queen of the palace.
Because Sophie is so independent, we all decided to let her decide. She looked around, and it was clear that she wanted to stay put. Although we were hoping that she would come visit with us, she seems to like it better by Chris and Ellie. They seem to like to have here there too, and she seems happy to be the only cat and in her element at the harbour. She also has a new addition to her name with “Anna” Sophie.
To us she will always be “Madame Sophie” or “Stumpy”, but we just love to see how much joy she brings, no matter what her name is! We miss our wildcat Sophie, but we know we are able to visit her whenever we like.
N.B. I had been meaning to write this a long time ago for Jacques and Max. A few weeks ago Chris came by our house and gave us a beautiful calendar of "Anna Sophie". What a wonderful gift. So we also wanted to share this story with Chris to thank him.
This is a good article with Wildcat videos, photos and facts. Here are some pictures of our very unique wildcat Sophie and all of her kittens.