The wildcat (Felis silvestris) is a carnivorous mammal belonging to felines, and it has several variants among which are the Asian, African and European, which we are going to focus on.
Characteristics and identification of the wildcat
This wild cat is similar to the domestic cat and, although it is larger, it reminds of large cat breeds for its robustness, capable of weighing seven kilos. In addition, the head in relation to the body is larger in the wildcat than in the domestic one, with slightly smaller ears.
They have a yellowish-brown color on the back of the ears and snout, while the hairs on the eyes and the vibrissa are larger and wider than the domestic ones, white and slightly droopy. The eyes are not as variable colors as the domestic cat and often have light green and amber tones; His nose is pink.
They present several quite remarkable drawings, usually in the form of stripes: the wild cat has two stripes on the cheeks that are born in the eyes, several stripes that come out of the neck, dark striped on legs and trunk, and several rings on the tail that ends in black Normally, they also have a dorsal line that runs along their spine, and sometimes a white spot on the chest.
The wildcat can hybridize with the domestic cat, so its hybrids can lead to confusion and endanger the purity of the species. That is why domestic cats without neutering pose a drag on their recovery.
This nocturnal predator can be seen in grassland areas at sunset and sunrise. They are solitary animals, which in the case of males cover several kilometers moving day after day, while females are territorial and remain in the same place, something reminiscent of the behavior of some large cats.
Their food is mainly based on small rodents and birds, although they are capable of hunting rabbits, and sometimes they can feed on amphibians or some invertebrates. There are even records of how the wildcat can hunt roe deer, something that sets it apart from its domestic relative.
Despite this great difference, the truth is that the wildcat hunts very similarly to the domestic cat, and it is even difficult to differentiate the remains of its prey from those of this animal, because it also leaves the bones of medium-sized animals, on the contrary than other carnivores like the red fox.
As for the reproduction, the wild cat mates at the beginning of spring and the young are born at the end of this or already in summer. It will be the female who takes care of the litter, usually four small cats that will live with their mother for about five months.
Wildcat habitat and conservation
The European wildcat inhabits the forests of much of Europe: its distribution highlights the forests of much of Spain, but also of France, Germany, Scotland, Turkey or Italy. However, the wildcat does not appear in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Iceland or the Scandinavian Peninsula.
Before they were much more abundant, but it seems that the use of poisons and pesticides, in addition to the human control of voles and other rodents, has made the wildcat a scarce animal. As we mentioned, hybridization with feral domestic cats is compromising the genetics of the species, and that is that the wildcat is a great pest controller, as is the owl.