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Overview

Brief Summary

Wildcats (Felis silvestris) are found in Africa, Asia, and Europe. Although their physical appearance across their large geographic range is somewhat variable, they generally closely resemble domestic cats, which were apparently derived from Wildcats in the Near East between around 9500 to 3600 years ago (Driscoll et al. 2007. 2009). Wildcats are mainly nocturnal. They live in a wide range of habitats, but are absent from very high elevations, tropical rainforests, and areas that receive less than 100 mm annual rainfall. In Europe, coniferous forests are likely generally avoided. Where large-scale deforestation has occurred (e.g., in Britain, where the species has mostly disappeared but persists in northern Scotland, where it is the focus of conservation efforts), Wildcats have sometimes adapted to living in the foothills of mountains and on moorland where rough grazing occurs.

Wildcat prey consists largely of murid rodents, although studies in some areas have identified other important prey items, such as solifuges (sun spiders) in a semi-desert area of Botswana. Wildcats are primarily terrestrial hunters (although they can climb well if pursued). They may ambush prey or simply hunt opportunistically. A prey animal is seized with the claws and pinned to the ground or held with the paws until the killing bite is delivered. Prey may be cached by hiding it under vegetation or in holes in trees or by covering it with debris. Wildcats are believed to be highly territorial. In captivity, females may breed at a year old. Mating is noisy, with much screeching and yowling.

In general, the Wildcat is among the most common of the wild felids (Driscoll et al. 2011). In Africa, populations appear to be generally secure and have probably benefited from the increase in rodent populations associated with farming. Although Wildcats have historically been trapped extensively in Asia for their fur, there currently appears to be little international trade for their pelts. Population status in most countries in Asia is not well known, but Wildcats are reportedly rare in some parts of Asia. An estimated 90% of Wildcat habitat in India has been lost. In a study in Scotland, nearly half of Wildcat mortality was attributed directly to humans, mostly persecution and road accidents. On all three continents where the Wildcat is found, however, the greatest threat comes from hybridization with domestic cats, with domestic cat genes having already mixed extensively with Wildcat genes in some areas, such as Scotland (Driscoll et al. 2011 and references therein). There are thought to be more than a billion domestic cats on Earth, with perhaps half of them living independent of humans. Feral domestic cats inhabit most sea islands and every continent except Antarctica. Given the ubiquity of domestic cats, interbreeding with Wildcats is pervasive and has been reported everywhere the problem has been studied.

(Sunquist and Sunquist 2009 and references therein; Driscoll et al. 2011 and references therein)

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Distribution

Wild cats are found throughout continental Europe, southwestern Asia, and the savannah regions of Africa. Felis silvestris is currently regarded as being made up of three, distinct groups (or subspecies): F. silvestris lybica, African wild cats, F. silvestris silvestris, European wild cats, and F. silvestris ornata, Asiatic wild cats. African wild cats are found in appropriate habitat throughout Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. European wild cats are found throughout Europe and western Russia, except for much of the British Isles (they are found in Scotland) and Scandinavian countries. Asiatic wildcats are found in the Middle East, southern Russia, western China, and western India. Some authorities recognize F. s. silvestris as a species distinct from both F. s. lybica and F. s. ornata. Domestic cats are thought to be descended from African wild cats and are found virtually worldwide in association humans.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Introduced ); palearctic (Introduced , Native ); oriental (Introduced ); ethiopian (Introduced ); neotropical (Introduced ); australian (Introduced ); oceanic islands (Introduced )

Other Geographic Terms: cosmopolitan

  • IUCN Cat Specialist Group, 1996. "African wildcat, Felis silvestris, lybica group" (On-line). IUCN Cat Specialist Group; Species Accounts. Accessed March 12, 2004 at http://lynx.uio.no/catfolk/sp-accts.htm.
  • IUCN Cat Specialist Group, 1996. "Asiatic wildcat, Felis silvestris, ornata group" (On-line). IUCN Cat Specialist Group; Species Accounts. Accessed March 12, 2004 at http://lynx.uio.no/catfolk/sp-accts.htm.
  • IUCN Cat Specialist Group, 1996. "European wildcat, Felis silvestris, silvestris group" (On-line). IUCN Cat Specialist Group; Species Accounts. Accessed March 12, 2004 at http://lynx.uio.no/catfolk/sp-accts.htm.
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Geographic Range

Domestic cats are thought to be descended from African wild cats and are found virtually worldwide in association with humans. Wild cats are found throughout continental Europe, southwestern Asia, and the savannah regions of Africa.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Introduced ); palearctic (Introduced , Native ); oriental (Introduced ); ethiopian (Introduced ); neotropical (Introduced ); australian (Introduced ); oceanic islands (Introduced )

Other Geographic Terms: cosmopolitan

  • IUCN Cat Specialist Group, 1996. "African wildcat, Felis silvestris, lybica group" (On-line). IUCN Cat Specialist Group; Species Accounts. Accessed March 12, 2004 at http://lynx.uio.no/catfolk/sp-accts.htm.
  • IUCN Cat Specialist Group, 1996. "Asiatic wildcat, Felis silvestris, ornata group" (On-line). IUCN Cat Specialist Group; Species Accounts. Accessed March 12, 2004 at http://lynx.uio.no/catfolk/sp-accts.htm.
  • IUCN Cat Specialist Group, 1996. "European wildcat, Felis silvestris, silvestris group" (On-line). IUCN Cat Specialist Group; Species Accounts. Accessed March 12, 2004 at http://lynx.uio.no/catfolk/sp-accts.htm.
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Distribution in Egypt

Widespread.

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Physical Description

Morphology

Wild cats range in weight from an average of 2.7 to 4 kg in females (F. s. silvestris average 3.5 kg, F. s. notatus average 2.7 kg, F. s. libyca average 4 kg) to an average of 4 to 5 kg in males (F. s. silvestris average 5 kg, F. s. notatus average 4 kg, F. s. libyca average 5 kg), although the weight of individual cats varies substantially throughout the year. Domestic cats are similar in size, though can become much heavier as a result of over-feeding. Body length is usually 500 to 750 mm and tail length ranges between 210 and 350 mm.

Wildcats are generally grey-brown with bushy tails and a well-defined pattern of black stripes over their entire body. Their fur is short and soft. Their coloration is similar to that of a tabby domestic cat and makes them difficult to see in their forested habitats. European wild cats (F. s. silvestris) have thick, winter fur, which sometimes makes them look larger than other wild cats. Asiatic wild cats (F. s. notatus) tend to have a background fur color that is more reddish or yellow, with an overlying pattern of dark spots that sometimes converges into stripes. African wild cats (F. s. libyca) are difficult to distinguish from domestic cats. Their fur is lighter and less dense than European wild cats, and their tails are thin and tapering. African wild cats (F. s. libyca) span a large geographic range, though, and coat coloration and density varies with latitude, ranging from sandy yellow to gray and brown, with darker stripes and spots. They have a characteristic reddish tint to the fur on the backs of their ears.

Domestic cats have been selected by humans to display a wide array of body shapes and colors, from hairless forms to long-haired Persians and tail-less Manx cats to very large Maine coon cats. Colors range from black through white, with mixtures of reds, yellows, and browns also occurring.

Wildcats have five toes on each of their forepaws, but only four toes on each back paw. Cats have claws that can be drawn back into sheaths when not in use, thus keeping them quite sharp.

Cat teeth are highly specialized for carnivory. Canines are excellent for stabbing and holding prey as the upper ones point almost straight down and the lower ones are curved. Molars are specialized for cutting. Since wildcats lack any teeth for crushing, they eat their food by slicing it. The tongue is covered with tiny, curved projections called papillae. These are used for grooming and licking meat off bones.  Although cats have whiskers, they lack eyelashes. They have a full inner eyelid, or nictitating membrane, which protects the eye from damage and drying.

Range mass: 3.5 to 5 kg.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: male larger

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Physical Description

Wild cats range in weight from an average of 2.7 to 4 kg in females to an average of 4 to 5 kg in males, although the weight of individual cats varies a lot throughout the year. Domestic cats are similar in size, though can become much heavier as a result of over-feeding. Body length is usually 500 to 750 mm and tail length ranges between 210 and 350 mm.

Wildcats are generally grey-brown with bushy tails and a well-defined pattern of black stripes over their entire body. Their fur is short and soft. Their coloration is similar to that of a tabby domestic cat and makes them difficult to see in their forested habitats.

Domestic cats have been selected by humans to display a wide array of body shapes and colors, from hairless forms to long-haired Persians and tail-less Manx cats to very large Maine coon cats. Colors range from black through white, with mixtures of reds, yellows, and browns also occurring.

Wildcats have five toes on each of their forepaws, but only four toes on each back paw. Cats have claws that can be drawn back into sheaths when not in use, thus keeping them quite sharp.

Cat teeth are highly specialized for eating meat. The canine teeth are excellent for stabbing and holding prey as the upper ones point almost straight down and the lower ones are curved. Molars are specialized for cutting. Since wildcats lack any teeth for crushing, they eat their food by slicing it.

If you've ever been licked by a house cat, you may have noticed that the tongue feels rough. That's because the tongue is covered with tiny, curved projections. These are called papillae. These papillae are used for grooming and licking meat off bones.

Although cats have whiskers, they lack eyelashes. They have a full inner eyelid which protects the eye from damage and drying. This inner eyelid is called a nictitating membrane.

Range mass: 3.5 to 5 kg.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: male larger

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Type Information

Type for Felis silvestris
Catalog Number: USNM 182220
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Mammals
Sex/Stage: Female; Adult
Preparation: Skin; Skull
Collector(s): E. Heller
Year Collected: 1911
Locality: Voi, Coast Province, Kenya, Africa
  • Type: Heller, E. 1913 Sep 16. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections. 61 (13): 14.
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Type for Felis silvestris
Catalog Number: USNM 182367
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Mammals
Sex/Stage: Male; Adult
Preparation: Skin; Skull
Collector(s): E. Heller
Year Collected: 1912
Locality: Lukosa River, headwaters, Nandi Escarpment, Kisumu, Rift Valley, Kenya, Africa
Elevation (m): 2134
  • Type: Heller, E. 1913 Sep 16. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections. 61 (13): 14.
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Ecology

Habitat

African wild cats occur throughout Africa in a wide variety of habitats. They are absent only from tropical rainforest. In desert regions they are restricted to mountainous areas and waterways. They occur up to >3000 m in montane areas.

Asiatic wild cats are found primarily in scrub desert, but can be found in a wide variety of habitats. They are absent from alpine and steppe grasslands and the northern limit of their distribution may be determined by snow depth. They can be found up to 3000 m in mountains and are usually found in areas near water sources.

European wild cats are found primarily in deciduous forests. They are also known from coniferous forests, but these may be marginal habitats. They are restricted in their northern distribution by snow depth and are typically found in areas of low human populations. European wild cats cannot persist in areas where snow depth in the winter is more than 20 cm deep for more than 100 days. They are known from human dominated landscapes where grazing is the dominant form of agriculture and, therefore, land use is not intensive. They are also known from scrublands, riparian habitats, and coastal areas.

Domestic cats occur in many habitat types because of their association with humans. They do best in areas where winters are not severely cold.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; chaparral ; forest ; scrub forest

Other Habitat Features: urban ; suburban ; agricultural

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African, Asiatic, and European wild cats are generally found in forested and scrubby landscapes, although they can be found in a wide variety of habitats. They are absent from extremely dry regions, such as desert and steppe, and from tropical rainforests and areas where snow depth in the winter is more than 20 cm deep for more than 100 days. They are found in areas where humans live, but usually rural areas where the main form of agriculture is grazing livestock.

Domestic cats occur in many habitat types because of their association with humans. They do best in areas where winters are not severely cold.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; chaparral ; forest ; scrub forest

Other Habitat Features: urban ; suburban ; agricultural

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Trophic Strategy

As with most small cat species, the diet of wild cats, or domestic cats, is mainly made up of small rodents, such as mice and rats. Rabbits may be preferred prey in some areas and seem to be the dominant prey for European wild cats (F. s. silvestris). Other prey items include birds, young ungulates, reptiles, amphibians, eggs, and large insects and arachnids. European wild cats (F. s. silvestris) have been recorded scavenging carrion, but this is reported to be rare in African and Asiatic wild cats (F. s. libyca and F. s. notatus). Food caching has been reported in European wild cats (F. s. silvestris). Rodents preyed on by Asiatic wild cats (F. s. notatus) include jerboas, gerbils, voles, and mice. Occasionally, cats eat grass in order to clear their stomach of indigestible food, like bones, fur, and feathers. Wild cats are able to subdue prey almost as large as themselves and tend to avoid prey that is spiny, has shells, or has an offensive odor. Female wild cats may teach their young how to capture prey by bringing them injured animals on which to practice.

Animal Foods: birds; mammals; reptiles; carrion ; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods

Foraging Behavior: stores or caches food

Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates)

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Food Habits

The diet of wild or domestic cats is mainly made up of small rodents, such as Mus musculus and Rattus norvegicus. Other common prey are Talpidae, Soricidae, Leporidae, and Aves. However, these cats will prey on almost any small animal, such as Squamata, Squamata, and large insects. They are capable of subduing prey that is almost as large as they are. They tend to stay away from prey that have spines, shells, or offensive odors. Occasionally, cats eat grass in order to clear their stomach of indigestible food, like bones, fur, and feathers.

Animal Foods: birds; mammals; reptiles; carrion ; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods

Foraging Behavior: stores or caches food

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Associations

European wildcats play an important role in controlling populations of rodents and other small mammals. Indeed, it is this characteristic that probably led to the domestication of European wildcats. Domestic cats are still primarily kept worldwide to control rodent populations in urban and agricultural areas.

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Most wild cats are preyed upon as young cats by larger predators, such as foxes, wolves, other cats, and large birds of prey, such as owls and hawks.

Wild cats are fierce when threatened and can protect themselves from animals larger than themselves. They are also secretive and agile.

Known Predators:

  • red foxes (Vulpes vulpes)
  • gray wolves (Canis lupus)
  • domestic cats (Felis silvestris)
  • owls (Strigiformes)
  • hawks (Accipitridae)

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Ecosystem Roles

In urban and agricultural areas worldwide, domestic cats are kept to help control rodent populations. European wildcats play an important role in controlling populations of rodents and other small mammals. It is this characteristic that probably led to their domestication.

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Predation

Most wild cats are preyed upon as young cats by larger predators, such as Vulpes, Canis lupus, other Felis silvestris, and large birds of prey, such as Strigiformes and Accipitridae.

Wild cats are fierce when threatened and can protect themselves from animals larger than themselves. They are also secretive and agile.

Known Predators:

  • red foxes (Vulpes_vulpes)
  • gray wolves (Canis_lupus)
  • domestic cats (Felis_silvestris)
  • owls (Strigiformes)
  • hawks (Accipitridae)

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Known predators

Felis silvestris is prey of:
Strigiformes
Accipitridae
Felis silvestris
Canis lupus
Vulpes vulpes

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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Known prey organisms

Felis silvestris preys on:
Eumeces fasciatus
Storeria dekayi
Storeria occipitomaculata
Thamnophis butleri
Anas cyanoptera
Zenaida asiatica
Columbina inca
Chordeiles minor
Amazilia tzacatl
Certhia americana
Dendroica petechia
Wilsonia citrina
Carpodacus mexicanus
Passer domesticus
Sturnus vulgaris
Corvus caurinus
Sorex cinereus
Blarina hylophaga
Neurotrichus gibbsii
Parascalops breweri
Myotis grisescens
Eptesicus fuscus
Spermophilus beecheyi
Glaucomys sabrinus
Glaucomys volans
Tamias dorsalis
Thomomys mazama
Dipodomys microps
Dipodomys venustus
Peromyscus polionotus
Microtus californicus
Rattus norvegicus
Mus musculus
Felis silvestris
Petrogale assimilis
Eremophila alpestris
Neopsephotus bourkii
Eulemur rubriventer
Saguinus nigricollis
Ctenomys conoveri
Notomys alexis
Ratufa indica
Tatera indica
Lepus nigricollis
Solenodon paradoxus
Sorex araneus
Plecotus auritus
Plecotus austriacus
Plecotus rafinesquii
Epomophorus gambianus
Megaderma lyra

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Wild cat males mark territories by spraying strong urine on objects throughout their home ranges. Females also communicate when they are ready to breed with scents that they emit which are highly attractive to males. Cats have scent glands on their foreheads, around their mouths, and near the bases of their tails. A cat rubs these glands against objects to mark them with its scent.

Wild cats communicate with visual cues, such as raising the hair on their backs, moving their tails, and facial expressions. They also have a variety of sounds that communicate different intents, including aggressive hisses and yowls, affectionate purring, and a 'be quiet' squeak used to silence kittens.

Wild cats have a well developed sense of smell and hearing. The ears of a cat can rotate rapidly to identify the source of a particular sound and are able to respond to frequencies up to 25,000 vibrations per second. Because of this ability, cats can hear even ultrasonic noises made by small rodents. This sometimes allows them to locate and capture prey without seeing it.  Their sight is good but probably not better than that of humans. The range of colors seen by cats is smaller than the human range. The eyes of cats are located on the front of the head. Although this allows them to have excellent depth perception, a useful tool in hunting, cats cannot see directly under their noses. They also have the ability to see even tiny movements, helping them to locate prey. Their eyes are adapted for vision in dim light for hunting just after dusk or before dawn.

Another notable mode of sensation in cats are whiskers, or vibrissae. Whiskers are special hairs that are used as highly sensitive touch organs. A cat uses its whiskers to determine if their bodies can fit through small openings such as small pipes, and other various objects. They also use them to detect the movement of prey.

Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

Other Communication Modes: scent marks

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Communication and Perception

Cats have scent glands on their foreheads, around their mouths, and near the bases of their tails. A cat rubs these glands against objects to mark them with its scent. Male wild cat mark territories by spraying strong urine on objects throughout their home ranges.

Cats communicate with visual cues, such as raising the hair on their backs, moving their tails, and facial expressions. They also have a variety of sounds that communicate different intents. These include aggressive hisses and yowls, affectionate purring, and a 'be quiet' squeak used to silence kittens.

Cats have a well developed sense of smell and hearing. The ears of a cat can rotate rapidly to identify the source of a particular sound. They are able to respond to frequencies up to 25,000 vibrations per second. Because of this ability, cats can hear even ultrasonic noises made by small rodents. This sometimes allows them to locate and capture prey without seeing it.

Their sight is good but probably not better than that of humans. The range of colors seen by cats is smaller than the human range. The eyes of cats are located on the front of the head. This allows them to have excellent depth perception and is a useful tool in hunting. However, it also means that cats cannot see directly under their noses. They do have the ability to see even tiny movements, helping them to locate prey. Their eyes are adapted for vision in dim light. This allows them to hunt just after dusk or before dawn.

Cats also sense a lot through their whiskers (vibrissae). Whiskers are special hairs that are used as highly sensitive touch organs. A cat uses its whiskers to determine if their bodies can fit through small openings. They also use their whiskers to detect the movement of prey.

Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

Other Communication Modes: scent marks

Perception Channels: visual ; acoustic

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Life Expectancy

European wildcats live up to 15 years in the wild, though most die before the end of their first year. Domestic cats may live for longer in captivity: 30 years or longer in unusual cases.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
15.0 (high) years.

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
30.0 (high) years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
15.0 years.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
15.0 years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
18.0 years.

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Lifespan/Longevity

European wildcats live up to 15 years in the wild, though most die before the end of their first year. Domestic cats in a house (not roaming free) also live 15 to 20 years. A few domestic cats have been recorded living up to 30 years.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
15.0 (high) years.

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
30.0 (high) years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
15.0 years.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
15.0 years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
18.0 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 19 years (captivity) Observations: Wild cats live up to 16 years. Some estimates suggest they may live up to 18 years in the wild (Bernhard Grzimek 1990), but these are unverified. One wild born female of the *lybica* subspecies was about 19 years old when she died in captivity (Richard Weigl 2005).
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Reproduction

When a female wild cat goes into estrous, local males congregate near the female and compete for access to her. Males screech, yowl, display, and fight. Females will mate with multiple males and multiple paternity in single litters is possible.

Mating System: polygynous

Breeding in wild cats occurs at different times of the year, depending on local climate. In European wild cats (F. s. silvestris) breeding occurs in late winter (January to March) and births occur in the spring, usually in May. Breeding has been recorded nearly year round in Asiatic wild cats (F. s. notatus) and, in African wild cats (F. s. libyca) breeding has been recorded from September through March. Females are pregnant for 56 to 68 days and give birth to 1 to 8 young, with an average of 3.4, in a protected burrow, often a space under rocks or in dense vegetation. Females become sexually mature at about 10 to 11 months old, and males from 9 to 22 months old.

Domestic cats may breed much more frequently, as often as 3 times a year, as they are not typically limited by nutrition or climate. Average litter size in domestic cats is 4 to 6. The gestation period averages 65 days. Domestic kittens are weaned at about 8 weeks old and become independent at about 6 months old. Females become sexually mature as early as 6 months old.

Breeding interval: European wildcats give birth to one litter each year. Sometimes they may give birth to a second litter if the first was lost early in the season.

Breeding season: Births occur usually in May.

Range number of offspring: 1 to 8.

Average number of offspring: 3.63.

Range gestation period: 60 to 70 days.

Average gestation period: 66 days.

Range weaning age: 42 to 84 days.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 9.0 to 12.0 months.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 9.0 to 12.0 months.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization ; viviparous

Average birth mass: 100 g.

Average number of offspring: 3.7.

The young are born with eyes closed and are unable to walk. They are nursed and cared for in the den by their mother for 4 to 12 weeks. Their eyes open at 10 days old and they nurse for about 30 days. They remain with their mother, learning hunting and survival skills for from 4 to 10 months, usually around 5 months. After that they are driven from their mother's range and must become independent. Males do not help to care for kittens.

Parental Investment: altricial

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When a female wild cat goes into estrous, local males congregate near the female and compete for access to her. Males screech, yowl, display, and fight. Multiple males may father different kittens in a single female's litter.

Mating System: polygynous

Breeding in wild cats occurs at different times of the year, depending on local climate.

Domestic cats may breed much more frequently, as often as 3 times a year. They can do this because they are not typically limited by nutrition or climate like wild cats are. Average litter size in domestic cats is 4 to 6. The gestation period (pregnancy) averages 65 days. Domestic kittens are weaned at about 8 weeks old and become independent at about 6 months old. Females become ready to mate as early as 6 months old.

Breeding interval: European wildcats give birth to one litter each year. Sometimes they may give birth to a second litter if the first was lost early in the season.

Breeding season: Births occur usually in May.

Range number of offspring: 1 to 8.

Average number of offspring: 3.63.

Range gestation period: 60 to 70 days.

Average gestation period: 66 days.

Range weaning age: 42 to 84 days.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 9.0 to 12.0 months.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 9.0 to 12.0 months.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); fertilization ; viviparous

Average birth mass: 100 g.

Average number of offspring: 3.7.

All baby kittens are born with eyes closed and unable to walk. They are nursed and cared for by their mother for 6 to 12 weeks. They remain with their mother after that, learning hunting and survival skills from 4 to 10 months. At the end of 10 months, wild cats are driven from their mother's range and must become independent.

Parental Investment: altricial

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Felis silvestris

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 2 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.

Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.

See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

ATTGGTACTCTTTACCTTTTATTCGGTGCCTGAGCTGGCATGGTGGGGACTGCTCTT---AGCCTTCTAATCCGGGCCGAACTGGGCCAACCTGGTACACTACTAGGAGAT---GATCAGATTTACAATGTAATCGTCACTGCCCATGCTTTTGTAATGATCTTTTTTATGGTGATGCCTATTATAATTGGAGGGTTCGGAAACTGATTGGTCCCATTAATA---ATTGGAGCTCCTGACATAGCATTTCCCCGAATAAACAACATGAGCTTCTGACTCCTCCCTCCATCCTTTCTACTCTTACTCGCCTCATCTATGGTAGAAGCCGGAGCAGGAACTGGCTGAACAGTATACCCACCCCTAGCCGGCAACCTGGCTCATGCAGGAGCATCCGTAGACCTA---ACTATTTTTTCACTACACCTGGCAGGTGTCTCCTCAATCTTGGGTGCTATTAATTTCATTACTACTATTATTAATATAAAACCTCCTGCCATGTCCCAATATCAAACACCTCTATTTGTCTGATCAGTCTTAATCACTGCTGTCTTACTACTTCTATCACTTCCAGTCTTAGCAGCG---GGAATCACTATATTACTAACAGATCGAAACCTAAACACCACATTCTTTGACCCCGCTGGGGGAGGAGATCCTATCTTATACCAACACTTA------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------TTC
-- end --

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Felis silvestris

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

African and Asiatic wild cats remain fairly common throughout their range, although habitat destruction continues to result in a loss of suitable habitats.

European wildcats are critically endangered in their native range. They were largely exterminated from western and central Europe during the 19th and 20th centuries because they were considered a danger to game and domestic animals. They continue to be threatened by habitat loss, but populations are making a recovery in many parts of their former range. Other threats to European wildcats include population isolation, deaths from being hit by automobiles, and vulnerability to diseases transmitted by domestic cats. They are currently protected throughout Europe and several re-introduction efforts are underway.

The main threat to all wild cat populations, especially those of European wildcats, is continuing hybridization (inter-breeding) with domestic forms. Hybridization results in decreased genetic purity of the wild forms. Some researchers suggest that genetically pure European wild cats are extinct as a result of extensive hybridization.

Domestic cats are not threatened. Instead population control mechanisms are needed in most areas.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Domestic cats are not threatened. In fact, population control mechanisms are needed in most areas.

African and Asiatic wild cats remain fairly common throughout their range. As habitat destruction continues, they may run out of suitable habitats.

European wildcats are critically endangered in their native range. They were largely exterminated from western and central Europe during the 19th and 20th centuries because they were considered a danger to game and domestic animals. They continue to be threatened by habitat loss, but populations are making a recovery in many parts of their former range. Other threats to European wildcats include population isolation, deaths from being hit by automobiles, and vulnerability to diseases transmitted by domestic cats. They are currently protected throughout Europe and several re-introduction efforts are underway.

The main threat to all wild cat populations, especially those of European wildcats, is continuing hybridization (inter-breeding) with domestic forms. Hybridization results in decreased genetic purity of the wild forms. Some researchers believe that genetically pure European wild cats are already extinct as a result of extensive hybridization.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Status in Egypt

Native, resident.

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Domestic cats carry a number of diseases that may be transmitted to humans, including rabies, cat-scratch fever, and several parasitic infections. Domestic cats are also responsible for population declines and extinctions of many species of birds and mammals, particularly those restricted to islands. Efforts to control populations of domestic cats that have been introduced to islands cost many thousands of dollars to those governments, and cost us all valuable parts of global biodiversity.

Wild cats generally have little or no negative impact on humans.

Negative Impacts: injures humans (carries human disease)

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Domestic cats are highly valued as pets and as working animals throughout the world. They help to control rodent populations and have been used as animal subjects in behavioral and physiological research.

Wild cats are important members of natural ecosystems. They are instrumental in controlling populations of small mammals throughout their range.

Positive Impacts: pet trade ; controls pest population

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Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Domestic cats carry a number of diseases that may be transmitted to humans, including rabies, cat-scratch fever, and several parasitic infections. Domestic cats are also responsible for population declines and extinctions of many species of birds and mammals, particularly those restricted to islands. Efforts to control populations of domestic cats that have been introduced to islands cost many thousands of dollars to those governments, and cost us all valuable parts of global biodiversity.

Wild cats generally have little or no negative impact on humans.

Negative Impacts: injures humans (carries human disease)

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Domestic cats are highly valued as pets and as working animals throughout the world. They help to control rodent populations and have been used as animal subjects in behavioral and physiological research.

Wild cats are important members of natural ecosystems. They are instrumental in controlling populations of small mammals throughout their range.

Positive Impacts: pet trade ; controls pest population

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Wikipedia

Wildcat

Not to be confused with Feral cat.
This article is about the Old World wildcat. For other uses, see Wildcat (disambiguation).

The wildcat (Felis silvestris) is a small cat found throughout most of Africa, Europe, and southwest and central Asia into India, China, and Mongolia. Because of its wide range it is classed by the IUCN as Least Concern. However, crossbreeding with housecats is extensive and has occurred throughout almost the entirety of the species' range, potentially threatening the genetic diversity of the wild subspecies.[2]

The wildcat shows a high degree of geographic variation. Asiatic subspecies have spotted, isabelline coats, African subspecies have sandy-grey fur with banded legs and red-backed ears, and European wildcats resemble heavily built striped tabbies with bushy tails, white chins and throats. All subspecies are generally larger than house cats, with longer legs and more robust bodies.[4] The actual number of subspecies is still debated, with some organisations recognising 22,[1] while others recognise only four, including the Chinese mountain cat, which was previously considered a species in its own right.[2]

Genetic, morphological and archaeological evidence suggests that the housecat was domesticated from the African wildcat, probably 9,000–10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent region of the Near East, coincident with the rise of agriculture and the need to protect harvests stored in granaries from rodents.[3]

Taxonomy and naming[edit]

In 1778, Johann von Schreber first described the European wildcat under the scientific name Felis (catus) silvestris.[5] In subsequent decades, several naturalists and explorers described wildcats from European, African and Asian countries. The taxonomist Pocock reviewed wildcat skins collected in the British Museum, and in 1951 designated three Felis bieti subspecies from Eastern Asia, seven Felis silvestris subspecies from Europe to Asia Minor, and 25 Felis lybica subspecies from Africa, and West to Central Asia.[6]

Local and indigenous names[edit]

Evolution[edit]

Origins[edit]

The wildcat's direct ancestor was Felis lunensis, or Martelli's wildcat, which lived in Europe as early as the late Pliocene. Fossil remains of the wildcat are common in cave deposits dating from the last ice age and the Holocene.[16] The European wildcat first appeared in its current form 2 million years ago, and reached the British Isles from mainland Europe 9,000 years ago, at the end of the last glacial maximum.[11] At sometime during the Late Pleistocene (possibly 50,000 years ago), the wildcat migrated from Europe into the Middle East, giving rise to the steppe wildcat phenotype. Within possibly 10,000 years, the steppe wildcat spread eastwards into Asia and southwards to Africa.[17]

Scottish Wildcat illustration from "British Mammals" by A. Thorburn, 1920

The wildcat's closest living relatives are the sand cat, the Chinese mountain cat (which may be a subspecies of wildcat), the jungle cat and the black-footed cat.[18] As a whole, the wildcat (along with the jungle and leopard cat) represents a much less specialised form than the sand cat and manul. However, wildcat subspecies of the lybica group do exhibit some further specialisation, namely in the structure of the auditory bullae, which bears similarity to those of the sand cat and manul.[19]

Subspecies[edit]

Skull of a forest wildcat
Skull of a bay wildcat

As of 2005,[1] 22 subspecies are recognised by Mammal Species of the World. They are divided into three categories:[20][21]

  • Forest wildcats (silvestris group).
  • Steppe wildcats (ornata-caudata group): Distinguished from the forest wildcats by their smaller size, longer, more sharply pointed tails, and comparatively lighter fur colour.[22] Includes the subspecies ornata, nesterovi and iraki.[23]
  • Bay or bush wildcats (ornata-lybica group): Distinguished from the steppe wildcats by their generally paler colouration, with well-developed spot patterns and bands. Includes the subspecies chutuchta, lybica, ocreata, rubida, cafra, griselda, and mellandi.[23] It is from this group that the domestic cat derives.[24][25]

The subspecies jordansi, reyi, cretensis, and the European and North African populations of lybica represent transitional forms between the forest and bay wildcat groups.[26]

However, based on recent phylogeographical analysis, the IUCN recognises only four subspecies (lybica, ornata, silvestris, and cafra), with the addition of the Chinese mountain cat, formerly considered a distinct species.[2][3]

Domestication[edit]

Skulls of a wildcat (top left), a housecat (top right), and a hybrid between the two (bottom centre)

The earliest evidence of wildcat domestication comes from a 9,500 year old Neolithic grave excavated in Shillourokambos, Cyprus, that contained the skeletons, laid close to one another, of both a human and a cat.[40][41][42] This discovery, combined with genetic studies, suggest that cats were probably domesticated in the Middle East, in the Fertile Crescent around the time of the development of agriculture and then they were brought to Cyprus and Egypt.[43]

Despite thousands of years of domestication, there is very little difference between the housecat and its wild ancestor, as its breeding has been more subject to natural selection imposed by its environment, rather than artificial selection by humans.[25] The wildcat subspecies that gave rise to the housecat is most likely the African wildcat, based on genetics,[3] morphology,[24][25] and behaviour. The African wildcat lacks the sharply defined dorsal stripe present in its European counterpart, a trait which corresponds with the coat patterns found in striped tabbies. Also, like the African wildcat, the housecat's tail is usually thin, rather than thick and bushy like the European wildcat's.[44] In contrast to European wildcats, which are notoriously difficult to tame,[24][45] hand-reared African wildcats behave almost exactly like domestic tabbies, but are more intolerant of other cats, and almost invariably drive away their siblings, mates, and grown kittens.[46] Further evidence of an African origin for the housecat is present in the African wildcat's growth; like housecat kittens, African wildcat kittens undergo rapid physical development during the first two weeks of life. In contrast, European wildcat kittens develop much more slowly.[47] The bacula of European domestic cats bear closer resemblance to those of local, rather than African wildcats, thus indicating that crossbreeding between housecats and wildcats of European origin has been extensive.[46]

Physical description[edit]

Scottish wildcat yawning

Build[edit]

Compared to other members of the Felinae, the wildcat is a small species, but is nonetheless larger than the housecat.[48] The wildcat is similar in appearance to a striped tabby cat, but has relatively longer legs, a more robust build, and a greater cranial volume.[14] The tail is long, and usually slightly exceeds one-half of the animal's body length. Its skull is more spherical in shape than that of the jungle and leopard cat. The ears are moderate in length, and broad at the base. The eyes are large, with vertical pupils, and yellowish-green irises.[48] Its dentition is relatively smaller and weaker than the jungle cat's.[49] The species size varies according to Bergmann's rule, with the largest specimens occurring in cool, northern areas of Europe (such as Scotland and Scandinavia) and of Middle Asia (such as Mongolia, Manchuria and Siberia).[50] Males measure 43 to 91 cm (17 to 36 in) in body length, 23 to 40 cm (9.1 to 15.7 in) in tail length, and normally weigh 5 to 8 kg (11 to 18 lb). Females are slightly smaller, measuring 40 to 77 cm (16 to 30 in) in body length and 18 to 35 cm (7.1 to 13.8 in) in tail length, and weighing 3 to 5 kg (6.6 to 11.0 lb).[49][51]

Skin of a European forest wildcat
Skin of an Indian steppe wildcat

Both sexes possess pre-anal glands, which consist of moderately sized sweat and sebaceous glands around the anal opening. Large-sized sebaceous and scent glands extend along the full length of the tail on the dorsal side. Male wildcats have pre-anal pockets located on the tail, which are activated upon reaching sexual maturity. These pockets play a significant role in reproduction and territorial marking. The species has two thoracic and two abdominal teats.[52] The wildcat has good night vision, having 20 to 100% higher retinal ganglion cell densities[vague] than the housecat. It may[vague] have colour vision as the densities of its cone receptors are more than 100% higher than in the housecat. Its sense of smell is acute, and it can detect meat at up to 200 metres.[18] The wildcat's whiskers are white; they can reach 5 to 8 cm in length on the lips, and number 7 to 16 on each side. The eyelashes range from 5 to 6 cm in length, and can number 6 to 8 per side. Whiskers are also present on the inner surface of the wrist,[dubious ] and can measure 3 to 4 cm.[53]

Fur[edit]

Forest wildcat[edit]

The forest wildcat's fur is fairly uniform in length throughout the body. The hair on the tail is very long and dense, thus making it look furry and thick. In winter, the guard hairs measure 7 cm, the tip hairs 5.5–6 cm, and the underfur 4.5–5.5 cm. Corresponding measurements in the summer are 5–6.7 cm, 4.5–6 cm, and 5.3 cm. In winter, the forest wildcat's main coat colour is fairly light grey, becoming richer along the back, and fading onto the flanks. A slight ochreous shade is visible on the undersides of the flanks. A black and narrow dorsal band starts on the shoulders, and runs along the back, usually terminating at the base of the tail. Indistinct black smudges are present around the dorsal band, which may form a transverse striping pattern on rare occasions. The undersurface of the body is very light grey, with a light ochreous tinge. One or more white spots may occur on rare occasions on the throat, between the forelegs, or in the inguinal region. The tail is the same colour as the back, with the addition of a pure black tip. 2–3 black, transverse rings occur above the tail tip. The dorsal surface of the neck and head are the same colour as that of the trunk, but is lighter grey around the eyes, lips, cheeks, and chin. The top of the head and the forehead bear four well-developed dark bands. These bands sometimes split into small spots which extend to the neck. Two short and narrow stripes are usually present in the shoulder region, in front of the dorsal band. A dark and narrow stripe is present on the outer corner of the eye, under the ear. This stripe may extend into the neck. Another such stripe occurs under the eye, which also extends into the neck. The wildcat's summer coat has a fairly light, pure background colour, with an admixture of ochre or brown. In some animals, the summer coat is ashen coloured. The patterns on the head and neck are as well-developed as those on the tail, though the patterns on the flanks are almost imperceptible.[53]

Steppe wildcat[edit]

The steppe wildcat's coat is lighter than the forest wildcat's, and never attains the level of density, length, or luxuriance as that of the forest wildcat, even in winter. The tail appears much thinner than that of the forest wildcat, as the hairs there are much shorter, and more close-fitting. The colours and patterns of the steppe wildcat vary greatly, though the general background colour of the skin on the body's upper surface is very lightly coloured. The hairs along the spine are usually darker, forming a dark grey, brownish, or ochreous band. Small and rounded spots cover the entirety of the species' upper body. These spots are solid and sharply defined, and do not occur in clusters or appear in rosette patterns. They usually do not form transverse rows or transverse stripes on the trunk, as is the case in the forest wildcat. Only on the thighs are distinct striping patterns visible. The underside is mainly white, with a light grey, creamy or pale yellow tinge. The spots on the chest and abdomen are much larger and more blurred than on the back. The lower neck, throat, neck, and the region between the forelegs are devoid of spots, or have bear them only distinctly. The tail is mostly the same colour as the back, with the addition of a dark and narrow stripe along the upper two-thirds of the tail. The tip of the tail is black, with 2–5 black transverse rings above it. The upper lips and eyelids are light, pale yellow-white. The facial region is of an intense grey colour, while the top of the head is covered with a dark grey coat. In some specimens, the forehead is covered in dense clusters of brown spots. A narrow, dark brown stripe extends from the corner of the eye to the base of the ear.[54]

Behaviour[edit]

Scottish wildcat with kitten, British Wildlife Centre, Surrey

Social and territorial behaviours[edit]

The wildcat is a largely solitary animal, except during the breeding period. The size of its home range varies according to terrain, the availability of food, habitat quality, and the age structure of the population. Male and female ranges overlap, though core areas within territories are avoided by other cats. Females tend to be more sedentary than males, as they require an exclusive hunting area when raising kittens.[55] Within its territory, the wildcat leaves scent marks in different sites, the quantity of which increases during estrus, when the cat's preanal glands enlarge and secrete strong smelling substances, including trimethylamine.[56] Territorial marking consists of urinating on trees, vegetation and rocks, and depositing faeces in conspicuous places. The wildcat may also scratch trees, leaving visual markers, and leaving its scent through glands in its paws.[55]

The wildcat does not dig its own burrows, instead sheltering in the hollows of old or fallen trees, rock fissures, and the abandoned nests or earths of other animals (heron nests, and abandoned fox or badger earths in Europe,[57] and abandoned fennec dens in Africa[58]). When threatened, a wildcat with a den will retreat into it, rather than climb trees. When taking residence in a tree hollow, the wildcat selects one low to the ground. Dens in rocks or burrows are lined with dry grasses and bird feathers. Dens in tree hollows usually contain enough sawdust to make lining unnecessary. During flea infestations, the wildcat leaves its den in favour of another. During winter, when snowfall prevents the wildcat from travelling long distances, it remains within its den more than usual.[57]

European wildcat killing a deer fawn, as illustrated in Lydekker's Wild Life of the World (1916)

Reproduction and development[edit]

The wildcat has two estrus periods, one in December–February and another in May–July.[59] Estrus lasts 5–9 days, with a gestation period lasting 60–68 days.[60] Ovulation is induced through copulation. Spermatogenesis occurs throughout the year. During the mating season, males fight viciously,[59] and may congregate around a single female. There are records of male and female wildcats becoming temporarily monogamous. Kittens usually appear in April–May, though some may be born from March–August. Litter size ranges from 1–7 kittens.[60]

Kittens are born blind and helpless, and are covered in a fuzzy coat.[59] At birth, the kittens weigh 65-163 grams, though kittens under 90 grams usually do not survive. They are born with pink paw pads, which blacken at the age of three months, and blue eyes, which turn amber after five months.[60] Their eyes open after 9–12 days, and their incisors erupt after 14–30 days. The kittens' milk teeth are replaced by their permanent dentition at the age of 160–240 days. The kittens start hunting with their mother at the age of 60 days, and will start moving independently after 140–150 days. Lactation lasts 3–4 months, though the kittens will eat meat as early as 1.5 months of age. Sexual maturity is attained at the age of 300 days.[59] Similarly to the housecat, the physical development of African wildcat kittens over the first two weeks of their lives is much faster than that of European wildcats.[47] The kittens are largely fully grown by 10 months, though skeletal growth continues for over 18–19 months. The family dissolves after roughly five months, and the kittens disperse to establish their own territories.[60] The species' maximum life span is 21 years, though it usually only lives up to 13–14 years.[59]

Hunting behaviour[edit]

Illustration of a Scottish Wildcat (or European Wildcat) from "The Cat" by Philip M. Rule, 1887

When hunting, the wildcat patrols forests and along forest boundaries and glades. In favourable conditions, it will readily feed in fields. The wildcat will pursue prey atop trees, even jumping from one branch to another. On the ground, it lies in wait for prey, then catches it by executing a few leaps, which can span three metres. Sight and hearing are the wildcat's primary senses when hunting, its sense of smell being comparatively weak. When hunting aquatic prey, such as ducks or nutrias, the wildcat waits on trees overhanging the water. It kills small prey by grabbing it in its claws, and piercing the neck or occiput with its fangs. When attacking large prey, the wildcat leaps upon the animal's back, and attempts to bite the neck or carotid. It does not persist in attacking if prey manages to escape it.[61] Wildcats hunting rabbits have been observed to wait above rabbit warrens for their prey to emerge.[60] Although primarily a solitary predator, the wildcat has been known to hunt in pairs or in family groups, with each cat devoted entirely to either listening, stalking, and pouncing. While wildcats in Europe will cache their food, such a behaviour has not been observed in their African counterparts.[62]

Ecology[edit]

Scottish wildcat with black grouse carcass, as illustrated by Archibald Thorburn (1902)

Diet[edit]

Indian wildcat hunting monitor lizard, as illustrated by Daniel Giraud Elliot (1883)

Throughout its range, small rodents (mice, voles, and rats) are the wildcat's primary prey, followed by birds (chickens, ducks, and passerines on rare occasions), dormice, hares, nutria, and insectivores.[63] Unlike the housecat, the wildcat can consume large fragments of bone without ill-effect.[64] Although it kills insectivores, such as moles and shrews, it rarely eats them[63] because of the pungent scent glands on their flanks.[65] When living close to human habitations, the wildcat can be a serious poultry predator.[63] In the wild, the wildcat consumes up to 600 grams of food daily.[66]

The diet of wildcats in Great Britain varies geographically; in eastern Scotland, lagomorphs make up 70% of their diet, while in the west, 47% consists of small rodents.[60] In Western Europe, the wildcat feeds on hamsters, brown rats, dormice, water voles, voles, and wood mice. From time to time, small carnivores (martens, polecats, stoats, and weasels) are preyed upon, as well as the fawns of red deer, roe deer, and chamois. In the Carpathians, the wildcat feeds primarily on yellow-necked mice, red-backed voles, and ground voles. European hares are also taken on occasion. In Transcarpathia, the wildcat's diet consists of mouse-like rodents, galliform birds, and squirrels. Wildcats in the Dnestr swamps feed on small voles, water voles, and birds, while those living in the Prut swamps primarily target water voles, brown rats, and muskrats. Birds taken by Prut wildcats include warblers, ferruginous ducks, coots, spotted crakes, and gadwalls. In Moldavia, the wildcat's winter diet consists primarily of rodents, while birds, fish, and crayfish are eaten in summer. Brown rats and water voles, as well as muskrats and waterfowl are the main sources of food for wildcats in the Kuban delta. Wildcats in the northern Caucasus feed on mouse-like rodents and edible dormice, as well as birds on rare occasions. On rare occasions, young chamois and roe deer, are also attacked. Wildcats on the Black Sea coast are thought to feed on small birds, shrews, and hares. On one occasion, the feathers of a white-tailed eagle and the skull of a kid were found at a den site.[63] In Transcaucasia, the wildcat's diet consists of gerbils, voles, birds, and reptiles in the summer, and birds, mouse-like rodents, and hares in winter. Turkmenian wildcats feed on great and red-tailed gerbils, Afghan voles, thin-toed ground squirrels, tolai hares, small birds (particularly larks), lizards, beetles, and grasshoppers. Near Repetek, the wildcat is responsible for destroying over 50% of nests made by desert finches, streaked scrub warblers, red-tailed warblers, and turtledoves. In the Qarshi steppes of Uzbekistan, the wildcat's prey, in descending order of preference, includes great and red-tailed gerbils, jerboas, other rodents and passerine birds, reptiles, and insects. Wilcats in eastern Kyzyl Kum have similar prey preferences, with the addition of tolai hares, midday gerbils, five-toed jerboas, and steppe agamas. In Kyrgyzstan, the wildcat's primary prey varies from tolai hares near Issyk Kul, pheasants in the Chu and Talas valleys, and mouse-like rodents and grey partridges in the foothills. In Kazakhstan's lower Ili, the wildcat mainly targets rodents, muskrats, and Tamarisk gerbils. Occasionally, remains of young roe deer and wild boar are present in its faeces. After rodents, birds follow in importanance, along with reptiles, fish, insects, eggs, grass stalks and nuts (which probably enter the cat's stomach through pheasant crops).[67] In west Africa, the wildcat feeds on rats, mice, gerbils, hares, small to medium-sized birds (up to francolins), and lizards. In southern Africa, where wildcats attain greater sizes than their western counterparts, antelope fawns and domestic stock, such as lambs and kids are occasionally targeted.[58]

Predators and competitors[edit]

Because of its habit of living in areas with rocks and tall trees for refuge, dense thickets and abandoned burrows, the wildcat has few natural predators. In Central Europe, many kittens are killed by pine martens, and there is at least one account of an adult wildcat being killed and eaten.[68] In the steppe regions of Europe and Asia, village dogs constitute a serious enemy of wildcats. In Tajikistan, wolves are its most serious enemy, having been observed to destroy cat burrows. Birds of prey, including eagle-owls, and saker falcons, have been known to kill wildcat kittens.[69] Seton Gordon recorded an instance whereby a wildcat fought a golden eagle, resulting in the deaths of both combatants.[70] In Africa, wildcats are occasionally eaten by pythons.[71] Competitors of the wildcat include the jungle cat, golden jackal, red fox, marten, and other predators. Although the wildcat and the jungle cat occupy the same ecological niche, the two rarely encounter one another, on account of different habitat preferences: jungle cats mainly reside in lowland areas, while wildcats prefer higher elevations in beech forests.[68]

Communication[edit]

The wildcat is a mostly silent animal.[55] The voice of steppe wildcats differs little from the housecat's, while that of forest wildcats is similar, but coarser.[72]

Name/TranscriptionSound descriptionPostureContext
BrrroooA rolling turtledove-like call.[73]Emitted as a greeting and as a means of self-identification.[73]
HissFelis silvestris grampia defensive.png
MauSimilar to a housecat's miaow, but with the preliminary ee omitted.[74]Emitted by kittens requesting food.[74]
Meeeoo! Meeeoo!A piercing buzzard-like call that can be heard 200 yards away.[75]Distress call emitted by kittens.[75]
Noine, noine, noineEmitted by adults feeding contentedly.[76]
PAAAH!Accompanied by bracing and stamping of forelimbs.[77]Emitted when angered.[77]
RumbleTranscribed as urrr urrr, and described by Mike Tomkies as sounding "like a dynamo throbbing deep in the bowels of the earth".[78]Emitted when approached by humans, but does not attack.[79]
SquawkA loud squawking noise, similar to that of ducks.[80]Emitted by kittens grabbed by the scruff of the neck.[80]
Wheeou wheeouA high pitched whistle, similar to a weak buzzard call. The sound is piercing, but not far-carrying.[45]Made with the mouth barely open.[45]Emitted by kittens summoning their mother.[45]

Diseases and parasites[edit]

The wildcat is highly parasitised by helminths. Some wildcats in Georgia may carry five helminth species: Hydatigera taeniaeformis, Diphyllobothrium mansoni, Toxocara mystax, Capillaria feliscati and Ancylostoma caninum. Wildcats in Azerbaijan carry Hydatigera krepkogorski and T. mystax. In Transcaucasia, the majority of wildcats are infested by the tick Ixodes ricinus. In some summers, wildcats are infested with fleas of the Ceratophyllus genus, which they likely contract from brown rats.[68]

Distribution[edit]

The wildcat's distribution is very broad, encompassing most of Africa, Europe, and southwest and central Asia into India, China, and Mongolia. Subspecies are distributed as follows:[2]

The European wildcat was thought extinct in the Netherlands.[2] In 2006, a wildcat was photographed by a camera trap in the province of Limburg. Since then there were frequent, but unconfirmed sightings in this province until December 2012 when a cat was photographed again. A male wildcat was photographed several times in April 2013 while it was scavenging the carcass of a dead deer, an unusual behavior for a wildcat.[81]

Relationships with humans[edit]

In culture[edit]

In mythology[edit]

In Celtic mythology, the wildcat was associated with rites of divination and Otherworldly encounters. Domestic cats are not prominent in Insular Celtic tradition (as housecats were not introduced to the British Isles until the Mediaeval period).[citation needed] Fables of the Cat Sìth, a fairy creature described as resembling a large white-chested black cat, are thought to have been inspired by the Kellas cat, itself thought to be a free ranging wildcat-houscat crossbreed.[82] Doctor William Salmon, writing in 1693, mentioned how portions of the wildcat were used for medicinal purposes; its flesh was used to treat gout, its fat used for dissolving tumours and easing pain, its blood used for curing "falling sickness", and its excrement used for treating baldness.[83]

European wildcat caught in jaw trap, as illustrated in Brehms Tierleben

In heraldry[edit]

The wildcat is considered an icon of the Scottish wilderness, and has been used in clan heraldry since the 13th century.[82] The Picts venerated wildcats, having probably named Caithness (Land of the Cats) after them. According to the foundation myth of the Catti tribe, their ancestors were attacked by wildcats upon landing in Scotland. Their ferocity impressed the Catti so much, that the wildcat became their symbol.[84] A thousand years later, the progenitors of Clan Sutherland, equally impressed, adopted the wildcat on their family crest.[12][84] The Chief of Clan Sutherland bears the title Morair Chat (Great Man of the Cats). The Clan Chattan Association (also known as the Clan of Cats) is made up of 12 different clans, the majority of which display the wildcat on their badges.[12][82]

In literature[edit]

Shakespeare referenced the wildcat three times:[83]

The patch is kind enough ; but a huge feeder
Snail-slow in profit, and he sleeps by day
More than the wild cat.
The Merchant of Venice Act 2 Scene 5 lines 47–49
Thou must be married to no man but me ;
For I am he, am born to tame you, Kate ;
And bring you from a wild cat to a Kate
Comfortable, as other household Kates.
The Taming of the Shrew Act 2 Scene 1 lines 265–268
Thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd.
Macbeth Act 4 Scene 1 line 1

Hunting[edit]

Although a furbearer, the wildcat's skin is of little commercial value,[72] due to the unattractive colour of its natural state, and the difficulties present in dyeing it.[85] In the former Soviet Union, the fur of a forest wildcat usually fetched 50 kopecks, while that of a steppe wildcat fetched 60 kopecks.[72] Wildcat skin is almost solely used for making cheap scarfs, muffs,[85] and women's coats. It is sometimes converted into imitation sealskin.[72] As a rule, wildcat fur is difficult to dye in dark brown or black, and has a tendency to turn green when the dye is not well settled into the hair. When dye is overly applied, wildcat fur is highly susceptible to singeing.[85]

In the former Soviet Union, wildcats were usually caught accidentally in traps set for martens. In modern times, they are caught in unbaited traps on pathways or at abandoned fox, badger, hare or pheasant trails. One method of catching wildcats consists of using a modified muskrat trap with a spring placed in a concealed pit. A scent trail of pheasant viscera leads the cat to the pit.[72] A wildcat caught in a trap growls and snorts.[86]

References[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

Notes[edit]

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  2. ^ a b c d e f Driscoll, C., Nowell, K. (2010). "Felis silvestris". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. 
  3. ^ a b c d Driscoll, C. A., Menotti-Raymond, M., Roca, A. L. Hupe, K., Johnson, W. E., Geffen, E., Harley, E. H., Delibes, M., Pontier, D., Kitchener, A. C., Yamaguchi, N., O’Brien, S. J., Macdonald, D. W. (2007). "The Near Eastern Origin of Cat Domestication". Science 317 (5837): 519–523. doi:10.1126/science.1139518. PMID 17600185. 
  4. ^ Hunter, Luke & Barrett, Priscilla (2011). A Field Guide to the Carnivores of the World. pp. 16. New Holland. ISBN 9781847733467
  5. ^ Schreber, J. C. D. (1778). Die Säugthiere in Abbildungen nach der Natur mit Beschreibungen (Dritter Theil). Expedition des Schreber'schen Säugthier- und des Esper'schen Schmetterlingswerkes, Erlangen. Pages 397−402 : Die wilde Kaze.
  6. ^ Pocock, R. I. (1951). Catalogue of the Genus Felis. Trustees of the British Museum, London. 
  7. ^ a b c d Sclater, William Lutley (1900), The Mammals of South Africa, pp. 42-44, R.H. Porter
  8. ^ a b Osborn & Helmy 1980, pp. 440–443
  9. ^ Lydekker, R.; Dollman, J.G. (1926). The game animals of Africa, 2nd ed. pp. 439 London, Rowland Ward.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Hamilton 1896, pp. 2
  11. ^ a b Kilshaw 2011, pp. 1
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  14. ^ a b c Harris & Yalden 2008, pp. 397–398
  15. ^ Kilshaw 2011, pp. 46
  16. ^ Kurtén 1968, pp. 77–79
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  18. ^ a b c Harris & Yalden 2008, pp. 400–401
  19. ^ Heptner & Sludskii 1992, pp. 455–456
  20. ^ Hemmer 1990, pp. 45
  21. ^ Heptner & Sludskii 1992, pp. 442–443 & 465
  22. ^ Heptner & Sludskii 1992, pp. 442–443
  23. ^ a b Heptner & Sludskii 1992, pp. 465
  24. ^ a b c Heptner & Sludskii 1992, pp. 452–455
  25. ^ a b c Clutton-Brock, Juliet (1987). A Natural History of Domesticated Mammals. pp. 106-112. Cambridge University Press.
  26. ^ Heptner & Sludskii 1992, pp. 423
  27. ^ Heptner & Sludskii 1992, pp. 418–420
  28. ^ Pocock 1951, pp. 103
  29. ^ Heptner & Sludskii 1992, pp. 420–421
  30. ^ Heptner & Sludskii 1992, pp. 461–462
  31. ^ a b Rosevear 1974, pp. 393–394
  32. ^ Pocock 1951, pp. 36
  33. ^ Pocock 1951, pp. 109
  34. ^ Rosevear 1974, pp. 392–393
  35. ^ Osborn & Helmy 1980, pp. 118
  36. ^ a b Pocock 1951, pp. 53
  37. ^ Pocock 1951, pp. 69–70
  38. ^ Osborn & Helmy 1980, pp. 119
  39. ^ Osborn & Helmy 1980, pp. 114
  40. ^ "Oldest Known Pet Cat? 9500-Year-Old Burial Found on Cyprus". National Geographic News. National Geographic Society. 8 April 2004. Retrieved 6 March 2007. 
  41. ^ Muir, Hazel (8 April 2004). "Ancient remains could be oldest pet cat". New Scientist. Retrieved 23 November 2007. 
  42. ^ Walton, Marsha (9 April 2004). "Ancient burial looks like human and pet cat". CNN. Retrieved 23 November 2007. 
  43. ^ Driscoll CA, Menotti-Raymond M, Roca AL (2007). "The Near Eastern origin of cat domestication". Science 317 (5837): 519–23. doi:10.1126/science.1139518. PMID 17600185. 
  44. ^ Hemmer 1990, pp. 46
  45. ^ a b c d Tomkies 1987
  46. ^ a b Kingdon 1988, pp. 313
  47. ^ a b Hemmer 1990, pp. 47
  48. ^ a b Heptner & Sludskii 1992, pp. 402–403
  49. ^ a b Heptner & Sludskii 1992, pp. 408–409
  50. ^ Heptner & Sludskii 1992, pp. 452
  51. ^ Burnie D and Wilson DE (Eds.), Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide to the World's Wildlife. DK Adult (2005), ISBN 0789477645
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  54. ^ Heptner & Sludskii 1992, pp. 442–450
  55. ^ a b c Harris & Yalden 2008, p. 403
  56. ^ Heptner & Sludskii 1992, pp. 432–433
  57. ^ a b Heptner & Sludskii 1992, pp. 433–434
  58. ^ a b Rosevear 1974, pp. 388
  59. ^ a b c d e Heptner & Sludskii 1992, pp. 434–437
  60. ^ a b c d e f Harris & Yalden 2008, p. 404
  61. ^ Heptner & Sludskii 1992, pp. 432
  62. ^ Kingdon 1988, pp. 314
  63. ^ a b c d Heptner & Sludskii 1992, pp. 429–431
  64. ^ Tomkies 1987, pp. 50
  65. ^ Tomkies 1987, pp. 25
  66. ^ Heptner & Sludskii 1992, pp. 480
  67. ^ Heptner & Sludskii 1992, pp. 476–481
  68. ^ a b c Heptner & Sludskii 1992, pp. 438
  69. ^ Heptner & Sludskii 1992, pp. 491–493
  70. ^ Watson, Jeff (2010). The Golden Eagle. pp. 306. A&C Black. ISBN 1408114208
  71. ^ Kingdon 1988, pp. 316
  72. ^ a b c d e Heptner & Sludskii 1992, pp. 440–441 & 496–498
  73. ^ a b Tomkies 1987, pp. 73 & 77
  74. ^ a b Tomkies 1987, pp. 16 & 25
  75. ^ a b Tomkies 1987, pp. 75
  76. ^ Tomkies 1987, pp. 48
  77. ^ a b Tomkies 1987, pp. 36
  78. ^ Tomkies 1987, pp. 17
  79. ^ Heptner & Sludskii 1992, pp. 434
  80. ^ a b Tomkies 1987, pp. 9
  81. ^ ARK Nature (2013). Wilde Kat op Weg naar Limburg; Wilde kat duikt op in Limburg - with picture of the cat scavenging the dead deer; Parool.nl (2013). Wilde Kat duikt weer op in Nederland Articles retrieved on 3 May 2013.
  82. ^ a b c Kilshaw 2011, pp. 2–3
  83. ^ a b Hamilton 1896, pp. 17–18
  84. ^ a b "The evolution and history of the Scottish wildcat and the felids". Scottish Wildcat Association. Retrieved 2012-02-28. 
  85. ^ a b c Bachrach, Max (1953). Fur: a practical treatise. pp. 188–189. New York : Prentice-Hall, 3rd edition
  86. ^ Heptner & Sludskii 1992, pp. 487
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