European Wildcat

European WildcatConservation Status: Least Concern

Scientific Name:  Felis silvestris silvestris

The European wildcat is a small wildcat that can be found throughout Europe. It is one 5 general groups of wildcats.

The cat’s total population has been estimated at 500,000. The largest populations can be found in Spain and Portugal. In some countries the cat is extinct or living in fragmented groups.

Despite its relative high numbers and listing on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as LEAST CONCERN, the cat is still considered rare and elusive.

About the European Wildcat

European wildcats are a subspecies of wildcat that evolved around 650,000 years ago. They are also an ancestor of today’s domesticated house cat. They are often compared to a striped tabby cat, with a larger head, longer legs and sturdier build.

Physical Characteristics

European wildcats are about 1/3 larger than domestic cats, with longer fur and a bushy-looking, round-tip tail with dark bands. They have thick, striped fur and white whiskers. Male cats weigh 11 lbs. to 18 lbs. The females are smaller and weigh an average 7.5 lbs. European wildcats are around 22-28 inches in length and 12 inches tall. They have good night vision and an excellent sense of smell.

Territory

European wildcats are typically found in forests across Europe, as well as Turkey and the Caucasus Mountains that stretch between the Caspian Sea and Black sea. The cat has been considered extinct in Scandinavia, England, Wales and the Netherlands, but some believe it may now be expanding its range and returning to the Netherlands from nearby countries. It may also be extinct in the Czech Republic.

In 2014, researchers found an unknown population of European wildcats living in a forested area around Mount Etna, an active volcano located in Sicily.

Hunting & Prey

The European wildcat is generally considered a nocturnal animal. Sometimes the cat will be active during the day in places where there is minimal human activity. They have also been seen scavenging for food on the outskirts of cities and towns. Mostly the European wildcat will hunt around twilight. They will wait on the ground for its prey and then leap up to 3 or 4 feet to catch it. The cat feeds on rabbits, mice, voles, rats, squirrels, weasels, waterfowl and even small deer. Some cats will also prey on domestic cats and small dogs and poultry.

Reproduction & Lifespan

European wildcats will usually create dens in hallowed out trees, or use the abandoned nests and dens of other animals such as herons, foxes and badgers.

The cat is sexually active from December to February and from May to June. It is not uncommon to find males fighting over a female during the mating season. The female will have 1 to 7 kittens from April to May. The kittens will begin hunting with their mother approximately two months after birth. At 5 months old, they will become more independent.

European wildcats are mostly fully grown by the time they reach 10 months of age, which is also around the time they become sexually active.

European wildcats can live up to 21 years, but most will have a shorter lifespan, usually within the 13 to 14 year range.

Except during periods of breeding, European wildcats are usually solitary animals.

Conservation

The European wildcat is legally protected. However, it can be mistaken for feral cats and shot. One of the biggest threats to European wildcats is interbreed with feral cats.

Groups Involved in European Wildcat Conservation

European wildcat conservation; groups involved in the protection of European wildcats.

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