A couple weeks ago, I saw on the news and in the social media that at least one resident in Knoxville, Tenn., had reported seeing a tiger on the loose. This being 2020, I didn’t find the news surprising. 

Indeed, if a tiger strolled up my driveway and onto my porch, I would merely shrug. If said tiger then unlocked the front door with its teeth, bounded into the house, made itself a grilled cheese sandwich — even though I do not keep loaves of bread or sliced cheese on hand — and then joined the cat army and me in the living room, I would accept it as part of my herd and give it an appropriate moniker.

Anyway, a few days after the report, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency announced that the tiger sighting had been a case of mistaken identity.

Huh. Let’s imagine a conversation held the morning of the report in a Knoxville area household.

“Honey, do you remember that tiger we saw the other day?”


“Sure, you do.”

“Don’t tell me what I remember.”

Barely audible sigh. “We had been to the dollar store. They had pop on sale and we found those eggs you like.”

“Oh, yeah. Those are some good eggs. What about that tiger?”

“Well, you know how we thought it was Tony? From the commercials? It wasn’t him. It was Tigger. That feller who hangs around with Winnie the Pooh.”

“Is that so? I could have sworn it was Tony. How about scrambled eggs for breakfast?”

In spite of the potential implications of this fictional conversation, that’s not what the authorities meant by mistaken identity. As it turns out, the resident(s) did not spot a tiger. The big cat spied is believed to have been a bobcat.

I’m no big cat expert — I’m more of a small cat kind of gal — but my research reveals that a tiger is the size of an SUV whilst a bobcat is the size of a bicycle. What’s more, a tiger is usually orange and black striped whilst a bobcat is reddish-brown and spotted. 

Furthermore, tigers aren’t native to eastern Tennessee so I’m not sure why someone would see a 13 to 30 pound cat and immediately think, “OMG! Tiger!” I could, on the other hand, understand someone mistaking the bobcat for an obese house cat. 

Then again, there are those among us who mistook the Coon Creek crane for a pelican, so who am I to judge.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.