Armed police called to billionaires' row after large cat spotted by anxious neighbours

Helena Horton
The cat startled well-heeled residents in Hampstead, north London - Lance Forman

Armed police were called to one of the world's most expensive streets after worried residents reported sightings of a large cat.

A helicopter was also dispatched to assist with the search at around 9pm on Monday after the feline was reportedly spotted in a garden in Hampstead, North London.

The cat was reported by terrified residents of Winnington Road, which backs onto Bishop's Avenue, also known as billionaires' row due to its huge mansions and their very wealthy occupants.

While neighbours believed it could have been a wild cat, it is suspected to be a Savannah cat – the largest domestic cat one can buy.

Savannah cats are bred as a cross between servals, a wild African breed, and a moggy, and are prized for their exotic looks. The pets sell for over £5,000 a kitten, and the pop star Justin Bieber has two.

The animal was visually assessed by an expert who said it did not pose a danger to the public. Officers are still hoping to locate it after it made a quick escape.

However, the RSPCA and other organisations warn against keeping Savannah cats as pets, as their wild breeding means they could be unpredictable. They are much larger than an average house cat, meaning they could do damage with their sharp teeth and big paws.

One local said: "Originally we were told it was a tiger or leopard – but it turns out to be a Savannah cat.

"Rumours that some of the road's occupants have been debating whether it's big enough for a coat or would only stretch to a jacket are entirely untrue."

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: "Police were called at approximately 9pm on Monday, May 25 to reports of a large cat seen in a garden in Winnington Road, N2. Officers attended the scene.

"An animal expert also attended and visually assessed the cat. It was concluded the animal was not thought to be dangerous or a threat to the public.

"The cat made off from the garden, and inquiries continue to locate it. There are no reports of attacks/injuries to members of the public."