Wildlife Discovery: The wildcat

The wildcat (Felis silvestris) is a small cat (Felinae) native to Europe, the western part of Asia, and Africa.It is a hunter of small mammals, birds, and other creatures of a similar or smaller size.There are several subspecies distributed in different regions of the world.

The wildcat (Felis silvestris) is a small cat (Felinae) native to Europe, the western part of Asia, and Africa. It is a hunter of small mammals, birds, and other creatures of a similar or smaller size.

There are several subspecies distributed in different regions of the world.

Sometimes included is the ubiquitous domestic cat (as F. s. catus), which has been introduced to every habitable continent and most of the world’s larger islands, and has become feral in many of those environments.

In its native environment, the wildcat is adaptable to a variety of habitat types: savannah, open forest, and steppe.

The wildcat physically resembles a domesticated cat in most respects. Although domesticated breeds show a great variety of shapes and colours, wild species are pale yellow to medium-brown with black stripes or spots.

The underparts are light grey, and sometimes marked with black spots. Melanistic (all-black) individuals have been reported, but are probably the result of hybridisation with domestic cats.

Most wildcats weigh between 3 and 6 kg (6.6 and 13 lb). The African and Asian subspecies tend to be a more slender than the European wildcat, with shorter hair and a lighter brown colour.

Wildcats also have the same range of vocalisations as domestic cats, including purring, meowing, hissing, and growling. Except during the mating season, they tend to be quiet animals, vocalising only when close to each other.

The wildcat is extremely wary of humans, and avoids approaching human settlements. It lives in solitude and holds a territory of anything from 1.5 to 12 square kilometres (0.58 to 4.6 sq mi), depending on the local environment.

Males tend to hold larger territories than females, and their ranges overlap those of from three to six neighboring females. Wildcats of both sexes mark their ranges by depositing faeces in prominent locations and by leaving scent marks through urine spraying, cheek rubbing, and scratching the ground.

The wildcat is an obligate carnivore; insects and plants are minor parts of its diet. Regardless of subspecies, most of its prey consists of small mammals, mainly rodents and rabbits, with lizards being the third most common prey in Portugal, and birds the least common.

Wildcats are, however, opportunistic predators, and have also been observed to eat amphibians, fish, weasels, scorpions, and even young roe deer or antelopes.

Ends

ADVERTISEMENT