European Wildcat (Felis sylvestris)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family:    Felidae
Size:    Height: 20 to 28 inches (51 to 71 cm)
Weight: 8 to 25 pounds (3.6 to 11.3 kg)
Diet: Birds, rabbits, rodents, hares and garbage scraps
Distribution: Europe
Young:  1 to 8 kittens, once per year
Animal Predators:  Eurasian lynx
IUCN Status: No special status/Vulnerable (see Conservation) 
Terms: Young: Kitten
Lifespan: 12 years in the wild



·       Wildcats living near human settlements sometimes mate with domestic cats, creating hybrids.

·       The European wildcat became extinct in Austria and the Netherlands in the early 20th century.

·       The African wildcat and the Indian desert cat are closely related to the European wildcat.

·       The estimated world population of the European wildcat is 500,000.

·       European wildcats do not roar like large wildcats.

·       They purr exactly like housecats, when contented or happy.



Although  European wildcats resemble domestic tabby cats with their grey-brown coat and stripes, they are slightly larger and more powerfully built, with a thicker, shorter tail and a heavier, thicker skull. European wildcats first appeared 650,000 years ago, sometime between the First and Second Ice Ages and their relation to the domestic tabby is a topic of debate, with some scientists believing they are the ancestor for this breed, and others claiming there is no relation. 



Although once found throughout Europe, European wildcats are currently found mainly in the U.K., Spain, France, Germany and Poland. European wildcats prefer heavily forested areas, though they may be found in a variety of habitats, including swampland, moorland and city outskirts. As with most mammals, the male’s territory is larger than that of a female (by as much as 250 acres) and covers the range of several females, but does not intersect with the territories of other males. 


Feeding Habits

Fierce hunters, wildcats prey mainly on rodents, hares, rabbits, rodents and birds. If living in city outskirts, they may scavenge in garbage bins.



Mating season occurs from February to March, with the female giving birth to a litter of up to eight (but usually only two to four) kittens in April or May. While the males do not play a role in the upbringing of the kittens, mother cats are extremely protective and ferocious when it comes to defending their offspring. The youngsters are born with their eyes closed and do not leave the den for the first month. Their eyes open at 10 to 13 days and they begin to be weaned at seven weeks. They start learning to hunt at three months and are capable hunters by five months. At 10 months, some youngsters begin to leave their mother’s side, to establish their own territories.



These cats are unafraid of humans, and tend to be vicious when approached.  European wildcats prefer not to mix with other cats except to mate, or occasionally to hunt in groups, where food is plentiful. Although mainly nocturnal, they may be active by day in the absence of human disturbance. 



The wildcat population throughout its current range is generally stable, although a decline has been reported in Scotland. The Scottish wildcat (Felis silvestris ssp. grampia), a subspecies of the European wildcat, is classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN, while the remaining subspecies have no special status. Recently, wildcats’ contributions to the ecosystem have been recognized, mainly due to their predation on mice and rats, keeping the population of these disease-ridden vermin under control. 



European Wildcat Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US