Huge Australian feral cats - legitimate?
Yes. I’ve seen one. Once. For ten seconds. In 1985.
Seriously, I’ve seen one of these things. My word is my cite - up to you to take it or not.
In 1985, at age 15, I was camping with my family at Hartley, near Lithgow. My stepfather and I had risen earlier than the others, to get the fire restarted, and make some tea and breakfast. This area wasn’t exactly wilderness - it was a private camping area near a road, with a toilet and shower block, and even a little kiosk. On the other side of the river was farmland. On the other hand, it wasn’t far to virgin forest either.
Sitting about eighty or so feet from the river (really only a stream ten feet wide), my stepfather and I simultaneously saw a very large, black cat appear in the farm opposite. It approached a barbed wire fence. This fence was about four feet high, and had about four strands of barbed wire. A normal cat would have simply walked under the bottom one, but this cat decided to go over. It half jumped, half climbed to the top of the fence post, and - this is where we got a bearing on its size - to climb down the other side (our side) of this four foot post, it had its hind paws on top of the fence post (leaving its rear end significantly higher still), and its front paws on the ground at the same time. Then it disappeared into the bush and was gone.
So what do I think I saw?
There are legends (which I didn’t hear about until just after I saw this, when my stepfather - a local in the area - told me) of big cats in the Lithgow area (as quoted in the OP’s link). There’s the “Lithgow Panther”, the “Tarana Tiger”, and “Those Bloody Big Cats”. There was apparently a large, exotic cat which escaped from a circus in the Tarana area, but it wasn’t that because a) I think that story is apocryphal anyway, and b) that supposedly happened in the 60s, twenty years earlier, and there would have been nothing for it to breed with to have descendants - it is unlikely to have lived to that age.
Also, it didn’t look like an exotic cat I’m familiar with. It looked like a domestic cat in everything except size. I’d estimate it to have been between four and a half and five feet long, jet black and sleek - but not exotic.
Feral cats in Australia, as an introduced species, tend to either do very well, or not survive. I’ve seen many scrawny little adult cats the size of kittens, mangy and dangerously malnourished. I’ve also seen big, healthy, plump bastards. I think, in the Lithgow area, there is a family of cats that has simply had the right genes to adapt well to the area, and over years or decades, has prospered. They may have been an unusually large house cat to start with, they may have been at the upper end of intelligence. But what I saw was no panther. It was black, it was big, but it had the shape of a domestic cat. My stepfather and I both got a good, clear view of it.
So nothing worthy of crackpot theories, but an interesting story anyway from a scientific viewpoint. These cats are definitely real.