It's no secret that cats can be total jerks (there's even some science to back it up), but a tour guide working in South Africa's Kruger National Park recently learned that it's not just domestic felines that misbehave. Johann Jurgens was taking a group of tourists out on an early-morning game drive when a leopard sauntered over to his vehicle and, inexplicably, began gnawing on one of the tyres.

Leopards are known for their elusive nature, so Jurgens was understandably excited when he spotted a female cat slinking across the tarmac near Klipspringer Koppies in the south of the reserve. As he edged closer, a male leopard emerged from the tall grass and moved purposefully towards his vehicle.

"Moments later, I lost visual of the leopard as he disappeared in front of the vehicle," Jurgens told Latest Sightings. And that's exactly when the unmistakable hiss of escaping air told him the cat had sunk its teeth into the front left tyre.

As soon as Jurgens realised what was happening, he thrust the vehicle into reverse and pulled away from the feline tyre-biter. The leopard, meanwhile, turned his attention back to the female, who was lying in the grass nearby. The two mated briefly before both melting into the thick bush as quickly as they had appeared.

"We managed to drive away … and get ourselves into an open area away from the cats to assess the damage. By the time we stopped, the tyre was totally deflated," Jurgens recalls. Closer inspection revealed seven fresh puncture marks.

Jurgens, an experienced safari guide who has spent many hours observing animals in the wild, has never seen a leopard behaving like this, and while it's unclear what drove the cat to chomp down on the wheel, it's likely that the presence of a lady leopard had something to do with it. The cat's intense focus on the tyre, and the absence of any other aggressive behaviour, suggests the scent of another predator may have been the trigger.

Jurgens recalls encountering a different leopard in the area about 45 minutes before stumbling upon this mating pair, and he speculates that he may have driven the vehicle through some urine or scat that left one of the tyres smelling like a rival male. It's certainly an interesting hunch.

Dr Guy Balme, Leopard Program Director for Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organisation, suspects that the male could have been hopped up on hormones. "There may or may not be any scientific evidence to back this up, but male cats often appear to be more aggressive when mating," he explained to us via email. "On several occasions, I've been charged by male lions – that are usually very relaxed with vehicles – when they are consorting with a female."

If you ask us, this cat was just being a jerk.

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Top header image: Jessica Shippee/Flickr