Distribution of five
The WILDCAT is a small cat species complex comprising Felis
silvestris and the
Felis lybica . The former is native to
Caucasus ; the latter to much of
Africa , Southwest and Central
India , and western
Because of the species' wide range the wildcat is listed as Least
Concern on the
IUCN Red List
IUCN Red List since 2002. However, crossbreeding of
wildcats and domestic cat (
Felis catus) occurs in particular in Europe
and is considered a potential threat for the preservation of the wild
The wildcat shows a high degree of geographic variation. Whereas the
Asiatic wildcat is spotted, the
African wildcat is faintly striped,
has short sandy-gray fur, banded legs, red-backed ears and a tapering
European wildcat is striped, has long fur and a bushy tail
with a rounded tip, and is larger than a domestic cat.
African wildcat is the ancestor of the domestic cat. Genetic,
morphological and archaeological evidence suggests that domestication
of Old-World wildcats began approximately 7500 years
BCE in the
Fertile Crescent region of the
Near East . The association of wildcats
with humans appears to have developed along with the growth of
agricultural villages during the
Neolithic Revolution , with wildcats
preying on rodents that infested the grain stores of early farmers .
Results of a phylogeographic analysis suggest to include the Chinese
mountain cat as a
Felis silvestris subspecies.
In 2005, 22 wildcat subspecies were recognised as valid taxa .
* 1 Taxonomy
* 1.1 Evolution
* 1.1.1 Origins
* 2 Characteristics
* 2.1 Body size
* 2.2 Fur
* 2.2.1 Forest wildcat
* 2.2.2 Steppe wildcat
* 3 Behaviour
* 3.1 Social and territorial behaviours
* 3.2 Hunting behaviour
* 3.3 Reproduction and development
* 4 Ecology
* 4.1 Diet
* 4.2 Predators and competitors
* 5 Communication
* 6 Diseases and parasites
* 7 Distribution
* 8 Relationships with humans
* 8.1 In culture
* 8.1.1 In mythology
* 8.1.2 In heraldry
* 8.1.3 In literature
* 8.2 Hunting
* 9 References
* 9.1 Further reading
* 10 External links
In 1778, Johann von Schreber described the
European wildcat using the
Felis (catus) silvestris. In 1780, Georg Forster
described a cat from the
Barbary Coast using the name
In subsequent decades, several naturalists and explorers described 40
wildcats from European, African and Asian countries. The taxonomist
Reginald Innes Pocock
Reginald Innes Pocock reviewed the collection of wildcat skins in the
British Museum , and in 1951 designated seven
Asia Minor , and 25
Felis lybica subspecies
Africa , and West to
Central Asia .
As of 2005 , 22 subspecies were recognised by
Mammal Species of the
World . They were divided into three groups:
* 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; includes the subspecies
ornata, nesterovi and iraki.
* BAY or BUSH WILDCATS (ornata-lybica group): distinguished from the
steppe wildcats by their generally paler colouration, well-developed
spot patterns and bands; includes the subspecies chutuchta, lybica,
ocreata, rubida, cafra, griselda, and mellandi. The domestic cat is
thought to have derived from this group.
The following tables are based on the classification of the species
Mammal Species of the World . They also reflect the
classification used in the revision of the
Cat Classification Task
FOREST WILDCAT SUBSPECIES
F. SILVESTRIS SILVESTRIS Schreber, 1777, syn. F. s. ferus Erxleben,
1777; obscura Desmarest, 1820; hybrida J. B. Fischer, 1829; ferox
Martorbelli, 1896; morea Trouessart, 1904; grampia Miller, 1907;
tartessia Miller, 1907; molisana Altobello, 1921; reyi Lavauden, 1929;
jordansi Schwarz, 1930; euxina Pocock, 1943; cretensis Haltenorth,
A large subspecies, measuring 40–91 cm in body length, 28–35 cm
in tail length, and weighing 3.75–11.5 kg. Its fur is dark, with a
gray tone. The pattern on the head, the dorsal band and the transverse
stripes and spots on the trunk are distinct and usually vivid.
Most of continental
Crete , Balearic
F. S. CAUCASICA Satunin, 1905; trapezia Blackler, 1916
Smaller than silvestris, measuring 70–75 cm in body length, 26–28
cm in shoulder height, and weighing usually 5.20–6 kg. Its fur is
generally lighter than that of silvestris, and is grayer in shade. The
patterns on the head and the dorsal band are well developed, though
the transverse bands and spots on the trunk are mostly faint or
absent. The tail has a black tip, and only three distinct, black
STEPPE WILDCAT SUBSPECIES
F. lybica lybica Forster, 1780; syn. F. l. ocreata Gmelin, 1791;
nubiensis Kerr, 1792; guttata Hermann, 1804; maniculata Cretschmar,
1826; mellandi Schwann, 1904; rubida Schwann, 1904; ugandae Schwann,
1904; nandae Heller, 1913; taitae Heller, 1913; nesterovi Birula,
1916; iraki Cheesman, 1921; hausa Thomas and Hinton, 1921; griselda
Thomas, 1926; brockmani Pocock, 1944; foxi Pocock, 1944; pyrrhus
Pocock, 1944; gordoni Harrison, 1968
This subspecies has palish, buffish or light-grayish fur, and a tinge
of red on the dorsal band.
Arabian Peninsula ,
Iraq , southwestern
French Sudan and
Nigeria in West
Sudan and Sahel
woodlands, northeastern part of the
Congo basin ,
Angola , southern
part of the
Congo basin and northern
F. lybica cafra Desmarest, 1822; syn. F. l. xanthella Thomas, 1926;
vernayi Roberts, 1932
This subspecies has a pale fur with a faint pattern.
F. lybica ornata Gray, 1830; syn. syriaca Tristam, 1867; caudata
Gray, 1874; maniculata Yerbury and Thomas, 1895; griseoflava Zukowsky,
1915; kozlovi Satunin, 1905; matschiei Zukowsky, 1914; longipilis
Zukowsky, 1915; schnitnikovi Birula, 1915; macrothrix Zukowsky, 1915;
murgabensis Zukowsky, 1915; issikulensis Ognev, 1930; tristrami
This subspecies has light, ochreous-gray coloured fur with dark spots
on the back.
Afghanistan , and
Dzhungaria , western
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 . At some point 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.
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 . 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.
Skulls of a wildcat (top left), a housecat (top right), and a
hybrid between the two (bottom centre)
The earliest evidence of wildcat taming comes from 9,500-year-old
Neolithic graves excavated in
Cyprus , that
contained the skeletons of a human and a cat, buried close to one
another. As no records of native cats in
Cyprus exist, this discovery
Neolithic farmers brought cats to
Cyprus from the
Middle East , most likely to control rodents. Wildcats were
probably domesticated in the
Fertile Crescent around the time of the
introduction of agriculture .
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. The wildcat subspecies
that gave rise to the housecat is most likely the
African wildcat ,
based on genetics , morphology , and behaviour. The African wildcat
lacks the sharply defined dorsal stripe present in the European
wildcat, 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. In contrast to European wildcats, which are notoriously
difficult to tame, 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. 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. 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.
Compared to other members of the
Felinae , the wildcat is a small
species, but is nonetheless larger than the housecat . 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. 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 . Its dentition is relatively smaller and
weaker than the jungle cat's. The species size varies according to
Bergmann\'s rule , with the largest specimens occurring in cool,
northern areas of
Europe (such as
Scandinavia ) and of
Middle Asia (such as
Siberia ). 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). 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 . The wildcat has good night
vision , having 20 to 100% higher retinal ganglion cell densities than
the housecat. It may 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. 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 , and can measure 3 to 4 cm.
Skin of a European forest wildcat Skin of an Indian
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 gray,
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 gray, 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 gray 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.
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 gray, 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 gray, 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 gray colour, while
the top of the head is covered with a dark gray 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.
Scottish wildcat with kitten,
British Wildlife Centre , Surrey
SOCIAL AND TERRITORIAL BEHAVIOURS
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. 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 . 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
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, and abandoned fennec dens in
Africa ). 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.
European wildcat killing a deer fawn, as illustrated in Lydekker
's Wild Life of the World (1916)
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.
Wildcats hunting rabbits have been observed to wait above rabbit
warrens for their prey to emerge. Although primarily a solitary
predator, the wildcat has been known to hunt in pairs or in family
groups, with each cat devoted entirely to listening, stalking, or
pouncing. While wildcats in
Europe will cache their food, such a
behaviour has not been observed in their African counterparts.
REPRODUCTION AND DEVELOPMENT
The wildcat has two estrus periods, one in December–February and
another in May–July.
Estrus lasts 5–9 days, with a gestation
period lasting 60–68 days.
Ovulation is induced through copulation
Spermatogenesis occurs throughout the year. During the mating season
, males fight viciously, 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.
Kittens are born blind and helpless, and are covered in a fuzzy coat.
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. 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.
3–4 months, though the kittens will eat meat as early as 1.5 months
Sexual maturity is attained at the age of 300 days. 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. 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. The species' maximum life span is 21
years, though it usually only lives up to 13–14 years.
Scottish wildcat with black grouse carcass, as illustrated by
Archibald Thorburn (1902)
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 (especially ducks and
other waterfowl , galliformes , pigeons and passerines ), dormice ,
hares , nutria , and insectivores . Unlike the housecat, the wildcat
can consume large fragments of bone without ill-effect. Although it
kills insectivores, such as moles and shrews , it rarely eats them
because of the pungent scent glands on their flanks. When living
close to human habitations, the wildcat can be a serious poultry
predator. In the wild, the wildcat consumes up to 600 grams of food
The diet of wildcats in
Great Britain varies geographically; in
Scotland , lagomorphs make up 70% of their diet, while in the
west, 47% consists of small rodents. 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
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. 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 gray partridges in the foothills.
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 ). 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.
PREDATORS AND COMPETITORS
Because of its habit of living in areas with rocks and tall trees for
refuge, dense thickets and abandoned burrows, wildcats have 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. In the steppe regions of
Europe and Asia, village
dogs constitute serious enemies of wildcats, along with the much
Eurasian Lynx , one of the rare habitual predators of healthy
adults. In Tajikistan, wolves are their most serious enemies, having
been observed to destroy cat burrows.
Birds of prey
Birds of prey , including
eagle-owls and saker falcons , have been known to kill wildcat
Seton Gordon recorded an instance where a wildcat fought a
golden eagle , resulting in the deaths of both combatants. In Africa,
wildcats are occasionally eaten by pythons . 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
The wildcat is a mostly silent animal. The voice of steppe wildcats
differs little from the housecat's, while that of forest wildcats is
similar, but coarser.
A rolling turtledove -like call.
Emitted as a greeting and as a means of self-identification.
Similar to a housecat's miaow, but with the preliminary ee omitted.
Emitted by kittens requesting food.
A piercing buzzard -like call that can be heard 200 yards away.
Distress call emitted by kittens.
Noine, noine, noine
Emitted by adults feeding contentedly.
Accompanied by bracing and stamping of forelimbs.
Emitted when angered.
Transcribed as urrr urrr, and described by
Mike Tomkies as sounding
"like a dynamo throbbing deep in the bowels of the earth".
Emitted when approached by humans, but does not attack.
A loud squawking noise, similar to that of ducks .
Emitted by kittens grabbed by the scruff of the neck.
A high pitched whistle, similar to a weak buzzard call. The sound
is piercing, but not far-carrying.
Made with the mouth barely open.
Emitted by kittens summoning their mother.
DISEASES AND PARASITES
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 .
The wildcat's distribution is very broad, encompassing most of Africa
Europe , and southwest and central Asia into
China , and
Subspecies are distributed as follows:
African wildcat (F. s. lybica) occurs across northern
Arabian Peninsula 's periphery to the
Caspian Sea ,
encompassing a wide range of habitats, with the exception of closed
tropical forests. It occurs throughout the savannahs of West
Mauritania on the Atlantic seaboard eastwards to the Horn of
Eritrea , and
Djibouti ) and Sudan. In
north Africa, it occurs discontinuously from
Egypt . Small numbers occur in true deserts such
Sahara , particularly in hilly and mountainous areas, such as
* The Southern
African wildcat (F. s. cafra) is distributed in all
east and southern African countries. The border between the two
subspecies is estimated to occur in the area of
Asiatic wildcat (F. s. ornata) ranges from the east of the
Caspian Sea into western India, north to
Kazakhstan and into western
China and southern Mongolia.
Chinese mountain cat (F. s. bieti) is indigenous to western
China, and is particularly abundant in the
Qinghai and possibly
European wildcat (F. s. silvestris) was once very widely
Europe and absent only in
Between the late 1700s and mid-1900s, it was extirpated locally so
that its European range became fragmented. In the
Pyrenees , it occurs
from sea level to 2,250 m (7,380 ft). It is possible that in some
Scotland and Stromberg ,
Germany , pure wildcats have
crossbred extensively with domestic cats. The only islands in the
Mediterranean with native populations of wildcats are
Corsica and possibly
Crete , where wildcats likely
descended from feral populations introduced in
Neolithic times. It is
possibly extinct in the
Czech Republic , and considered regionally
Austria , though vagrants from
Italy are spreading into
European wildcat was thought extinct in the
Netherlands . 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
RELATIONSHIPS WITH HUMANS
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). Fables of
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
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 .
European wildcat caught
in jaw trap, as illustrated in
The wildcat is considered an icon of the Scottish wilderness, and has
been used in clan heraldry since the 13th century. 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. A thousand years later, the progenitors of
Clan Sutherland ,
equally impressed, adopted the wildcat on their family crest. The
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.
Shakespeare referenced the wildcat three times: 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
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
Although a furbearer, the wildcat's skin is of little commercial
value, due to the unattractive colour of its natural state, and the
difficulties present in dyeing it. In the former Soviet Union , the
fur of a forest wildcat usually fetched 50 kopecks , while that of a
steppe wildcat fetched 60 kopecks.
Wildcat skin is almost solely used
for making cheap scarfs , muffs , and women's coats. It is sometimes
converted into imitation sealskin . 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 .
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. A wildcat caught in a trap
growls and snorts.
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* IUCN/SSC Cat