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The Scottish Wildcat -- Britain's Most Endangered Mammal

Updated on September 10, 2014

The Scottish Wild Cat -- Not Your Average Tabby

The Scottish wildcat (felis silvestris) was once a symbol of the Highlands and wild places of Scotland. Sadly, this beautiful animal is now critically endangered.

The last of the Scottish wildcats today remain in northern Scotland, where numbers may have dropped to as few as 400 animals.

Learn about this fascinating cat, a true symbol of Scotland that deserves and desperately needs our protection.

For Those of You Wondering... Is This a Joke?

No, no joke. The Scottish Wildcat exists and has different ancestry from domestic cats in the UK, something which is reflected in its Latin name felis silvestris. Don't be deceived by the fact that it's not much bigger than an ordinary pet cat, or doesn't look all that different at first glance from some feral cats.

Unfortunately, after so many centuries of survival, this native British animal might not be around for much longer now that its numbers are at such a low.

Born Wild...


Wild cat? Isn't it just a regular tabby?

Compare with the domestic cat


What's wild about the Scottish wildcat?

The Scottish wildcat is quite a different beast from your tabby cat, or even from feral cats, though some feral cats in rural parts of Scotland may have a Scottish wildcat for a parent.

Scottish wildcats are a native British species. On the other hand, the domesticated cat (felis catus) was introduced to the UK by the Romans.

The Scottish wildcat is a larger, stockier animal than an ordinary cat. It has a striped coat in the familiar tabby markings and has green eyes. Apart from the muzzle, chin and neck area, here won't be any white fur on a full-breed wildcat, and its coat will look less sleek than that of your pet. The face of a Scottish wildcat is broad and it can look rather angry. It also has a much broader tail than a domesticated cat.

The wildcat hunts at night and is rarely seen by people. While you can tame a feral cat with time and patience, it is said that you will never tame a Scottish wildcat!

What Happens When You Catch a Wildcat?

You can see a wildcat caught in a feral cat trap (used to catch feral cats so they can be neutered) below. The cat was fine and was released back into the wild, but as you can see its reaction is very much that of a wild animal.

Why is the Scottish wild cat endangered?


There have been many factors contributing to the threat to the Scottish wildcat. Historically, these have included: the fur trade, destruction of habitat, and being killed for their threat to farm animals.

Although there is greater respect for the preservation of this rare animal today, their ultimate downfall may come from an unexpected source: the humble pussycat.

The breeding of Scottish wildcats with unneutered domestic cats has led to a drop in the numbers of true Scottish wildcats being born. At the same time, these wild animals are being exposed to domestic cat diseases.

Help the Scottish Wildcat

If you live in northern Scotland, please have your cat neutered and ensure it has up to date vaccinations against viruses.

Where can I see a Scottish Wildcat?


Even if you live in Scotland, it's unlikely that you will see a Scottish Wildcat in the wild unless you live in a very remote area and have keen eyes.

Sadly, I have only ever seen these beautiful cats in caged enclosures. Although they live well in captivity and it is currently possibly the only way to ensure their survival, there is something sad about seeing such a wild and free-spirited creature in a cage, no matter how large.

This is not to say that the efforts of conversation workers and wildlife trusts are not valued. Without them, the fate of the Scottish Wildcat would be even more of a concern. If the only way children and adults can see a Scottish Wildcat is in an animal park, perhaps some good may still come of it if it makes them care about this precious species on the brink of extinction.

However, how much better if Scottish wildcats can be protected and helped to thrive in the wild. This is the aim of the Cairngorms Wildcat Project.

You can read more about this wonderful and very important project on the Highland Tiger website. This is a beautiful and interesting site full of images and information on the Scottish Wildcat - and was the inspiration for this Squidoo lens.

One of the things that Highland Tiger say you can do to help is to spread the word. I hope I have done that here.

Highland Tiger also offer a free DVD and free postcards with some stunning Scottish wildcat images (they welcome donations to cover their costs) so that you can help them get the word out about the Scottish Wildcat's plight.

Scottish Wildcat Up Close


A Captive Wildcat with Her Kittens

Please help to save me


Highland Tiger is a beautifully created website dedicated to the conservation of the Scottish Wildcat. Please pay it a visit to learn more and to support their cause.

I am not affiliated with Highland Tiger in any way but urge you to visit their site if you wish to learn more about helping to save the Scottish Wildcat.

If we wait to act... the sad reality is that it could soon be too late.

You can donate directly to the cause of the Scottish Wildcat via Highland Tiger.

© 2009 Indigo Janson

I'd love to hear your thoughts about the Scottish Wildcat.

Submit a Comment

  • Wednesday-Elf profile image

    Wednesday-Elf 3 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

    Coming back to read this wonderful article again. I've always loved your story about the Scottish Wildcat. Happy to see you here on HubPages.

  • favored profile image

    Fay Favored 4 years ago from USA

    We saw one of these at the Scotland zoo, but thought it was a joke because it looked like a regular cat. This isn't something we normally see in the USA, so information like this is helpful.

  • Titia profile image

    Titia Geertman 4 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

    Never heard of them before and I think they're beautiful creatures that demand to be preserved. They look so much like my old late tomcat Bram, but he was far from wild. LOL I wrote a lens about him as he adopted us in stead of we adopted him. He was a stray who decided to come and live with us one day long ago.

  • Snakesmum profile image

    Jean DAndrea 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

    How tragic is the wildcat becomes extinct. Enjoyed your lens.

  • indigoj profile image

    Indigo Janson 5 years ago from UK

    @Wednesday-Elf: Yes, updated a little while ago including a photo of my own. Thanks for sharing this page!

  • Wednesday-Elf profile image

    Wednesday-Elf 5 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

    You know I've been a long-time fan of this wonderful page about the Scottish Wildcat. Stopping by again today to tell you I shared the link with my sis-in-law who has 4 cats (one a tabby cat named Jack!) as I knew she'd enjoy reading this page as much as I always do. (I think I noticed a couple new pictures here?).

  • attraction 42 profile image

    attraction 42 5 years ago

    I like cats. They are very special to me.

  • indigoj profile image

    Indigo Janson 5 years ago from UK

    @MarcellaCarlton: Thanks Marcella. I agree, they have true Scottish spirit!

  • profile image

    MarcellaCarlton 5 years ago

    Love them! They carry the independent and brave spirit of the Scottish people inside of them. Their don't mess with me attitude is great. I wish the rest of domestic cats had the same attitude and would stop messing in my garden space. Good job on this lens.

  • VladimirCat profile image

    Vladimir 5 years ago from Australia

    I returned to look at the magnificent Scottish Wildcat again. High Paw to you

  • Wednesday-Elf profile image

    Wednesday-Elf 5 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

    High Five! Returning to visit one of my all-time favorite pages on Squidoo. Your story on behalf of the salvation of the Scottish Wildcat was wonderfully done and has an important message. Kudos to you for this special charity lens! You deserve a 'High Five' today!

  • siobhanryan profile image

    siobhanryan 5 years ago

    I never knew of their existence until now. Beautiful animal, great lens

  • tridensright profile image

    tridensright 5 years ago

    Mean looking cat!

  • flicker lm profile image

    flicker lm 6 years ago

    What a beautiful animal! Thanks for all the photos and information.

  • David Dove profile image

    David Dove 6 years ago

    Beautiful creatures, thank you for show casing them for all

  • MamaBelle profile image

    Francis Luxford 6 years ago from United Kingdom

    Such a beautiful animal. I had no idea the Scottish Wildcat even existed.

  • profile image

    anonymous 6 years ago

    The Scottish wildcat is new to me and I felt bad thinking it looked kind of mad in the pictures and was glad you mentioned that it can have an angry appearance. It definitely has a different look than a Tabby. Then I was wondering if it might be ferrel and you cleared that up too. Congratulations on a well deserved purple star here!

  • CathyLou LM profile image

    CathyLou LM 6 years ago

    What a beautiful cat. It really does look like a domestic tabby. Thanks for lensrolling my Clouded Leopard, I've lensrolled this one right back!

  • profile image

    anonymous 7 years ago

    ~ Cupid Kisses by a Squidoo Angel ~

  • profile image

    anonymous 7 years ago

    Wow, only 400! I wasn't aware of the Scottish is a beautiful cat!

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    kimmanleyort 7 years ago

    So many endangered species. Thank you for educating us about the Scottish wildcat. The pictures are wonderful.

  • mbgphoto profile image

    Mary Beth Granger 7 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

    Very interesting...blessed.

  • Wednesday-Elf profile image

    Wednesday-Elf 7 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

    This excellent story about the endangered species, the Scottish Wildcat has been selected for review by Squidoo Lens Review. Stop by MiMi's blog at SLR and pick up a badge, if you like. We hope that this review will make people more aware of the plight of the Scottish Wildcat.

  • profile image

    anonymous 7 years ago

    Awww...such a beautiful animal. I did not even know there was such as thing as the Scottish Wildcat. Thank you for this insightful (and much needed) intervention on their behalf.

  • DecoratingEvents profile image

    DecoratingEvents 7 years ago

    A beautiful creature and a wonderful lens. Thanks for getting the story of the Scottish Wildcat out there! *Blessed

  • indigoj profile image

    Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

    @Sensitive Fern: Thanks for supporting the Scottish Wildcat with your visit.

  • Sensitive Fern profile image

    Sensitive Fern 7 years ago

    Fascinating! I had no idea there was such a thing. I'd like to see the whole documentary.

  • indigoj profile image

    Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

    @VladimirCat: Dear Vladi, always a delight to see you. I must admit, I do agree with you... *sigh*

  • VladimirCat profile image

    Vladimir 7 years ago from Australia

    Felis silvestris is a fine specimen of cat. A grand fellow and another cat, sadly, on the brink of extinction. When will people learn to neuter their house pets? What's wrong with humans? Sometimes I think the worst thing that ever happened to this planet was the rise of the aggressive ape

  • indigoj profile image

    Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

    @Wednesday-Elf: Any blessing would have been special from you, dear Elf, but I am so glad it went to the Scottish Wildcat. It needs all the help it can get and I love knowing that this lens has in some small way aided the efforts to spread the word about it.

    A Scottish Wildcat is 'chunkier' than a regular cat, and the face is broader. It is wild in spirit too and cannot be tamed. It saddens me to see them in cages, even when it is necessary for their survival. They deserve to be free and independent.

  • Wednesday-Elf profile image

    Wednesday-Elf 7 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

    Being Scottish myself, with ancestors coming from Scotland, I found myself drawn to the title of this story. I've actually never heard of the "Scottish Wildcat", and my first reaction upon seeing the opening picture was "But, that's just a tabby cat!". Now that you pointed out the differences, i can see the bigger tail and the 'almost angry' look about the face. I think I expected it to look like our Mountain Lions/Cougars, which are much bigger 'cats'.

    It's a shame the Scottish Wildcat is near extinction. Our world cannot afford to lose, forever, any more wildlife species. Wonderfully done review of this rare cat. Thanks for bringing to our attention the plight of this beautiful animal. ~~Blessed by a SquidAngel~~

  • indigoj profile image

    Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

    @Virginia Allain: Wow! That is so kind, thank you! Regardless of the outcome, I really appreciate the thought. These lovely creatures need all the help they can get.

  • Virginia Allain profile image

    Virginia Allain 7 years ago from Central Florida

    I like this lens so much that I'm going to submit it for purple star and LOTD. Good luck!

    You've done a wonderful job informing us about this special animal.

  • indigoj profile image

    Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

    @delia-delia: Thank you, Delia. I too hope this wildcat can be saved, Scotland would lose a natural treasure if the Scottish Wildcat was one day no more I very much appreciate the lensroll.

  • delia-delia profile image

    Delia 7 years ago

    What an interesting story and cat breed! (I never heard of it before) I do hope the society preserves the wild bloodlines of this cat...will lensroll it to my feral cat named Kitty lens

  • indigoj profile image

    Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

    @Sylvestermouse: Thank you very much for your support, my friend.

  • Sylvestermouse profile image

    Cynthia Sylvestermouse 7 years ago from United States

    What a beautiful creature! I agree with you, it would be a lot better if we could find a way to protect them in the wild. How sad that they are so critically endangered. Lensrolled to all of my animal lenses.

  • indigoj profile image

    Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

    @GonnaFly: I'm always amazed about the new creatures I hear about on Squidoo -- seems many of our countries have animals and birds that are not widely known elsewhere. Thanks for stopping to find out about the Scottish Wildcat.

  • GonnaFly profile image

    Jeanette 7 years ago from Australia

    How fascinating. I'd never heard of this cat.

  • indigoj profile image

    Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

    @Andy-Po: I hope so too, Andy.

  • indigoj profile image

    Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

    @Andy-Po: Thank you, much appreciated.

  • Andy-Po profile image

    Nobody 7 years ago from UK

    I lensrolled this lens to my Africat Charity lens (wild cat conservation in Africa)

  • Andy-Po profile image

    Nobody 7 years ago from UK

    Wonderful. I have seen many big cats in the wild, around the world, but I fear I may never see a pure Scottish wildcat in actually in the wild; We have so few large(ish) predators left in the British Isles and I hope something can be done to improve the plight of the wildcat.

  • indigoj profile image

    Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

    @VladimirCat: Thanks for paying your Scottish relative a visit, dear Vladi. So sad to think there are only about 400 left when you tell me they were once so many.

  • VladimirCat profile image

    Vladimir 7 years ago from Australia

    My heart beats for the Scottish Wildcat! I believe felis silvestris once roamed Northern Europe and lived alongside such big animals as the Mammoth. What survivors they are! And how dreadful many humans are now killing these ancient wild creatures.

  • indigoj profile image

    Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

    @julieannbrady: I'd be missing it if it were my cat. Hope both those stray cats find kind homes. Always a pleasure to have you stop by, Julie!

  • profile image

    julieannbrady 7 years ago

    OMG! That intro picture is adorable! And, the picture you have with "Compare with the domestic cat" ... I just posted a picture of a cat like that ... at our front gate with a note "Don't you miss me? I want to come home." We got a phone call the same day, but another neighbor with a stray cat he wanted to give us. Ah, let's hear it for the Scottish Wildcat! Meow.

  • WildFacesGallery profile image

    Mona 8 years ago from Iowa

    Never heard of the Scottish Wildcat so this was a real find. I have worked with some North American wildcats (Cougar and bobcat) so I understand that even if an animal is born and raised in captivity, it is always wild. Let's hope there will be room left on the planet so some of them may get to stay that way. Great lens.

  • profile image

    inkserotica 8 years ago

    Such a beautiful creature 5*

  • Kate Phizackerl1 profile image

    Kate Phizackerl1 8 years ago

    I've never seen one but I love this lens. Blessed.

  • mysticmama lm profile image

    Bambi Watson 8 years ago

    Very cool!

    I have a Maine Coon who thinks he's a wild cat lol!

  • Mihaela Vrban profile image

    Mihaela Vrban 8 years ago from Croatia

    Very well built and informative lens. Great work!

  • paperfacets profile image

    Sherry Venegas 8 years ago from La Verne, CA

    It is very interesting to hear about these cats. Enjoyed this lens.

  • HorseAndPony LM profile image

    HorseAndPony LM 8 years ago

    What a great lens. This is a beautiful cat. It is very sad how many animals are having problems. It is hard to keep up with all of them. I hope all goes well for this Scottish Wildcat.

  • profile image

    ulla_hennig 8 years ago

    Those photos are amazing, and your lens is very informative!

  • moskit profile image

    moskit 8 years ago

    What a beautiful cat!

    A facinating and informative lens. I don't think people realise that if something isn't done to help, many big cats could end up being an endangered species

  • Addy Bell profile image

    Addy Bell 8 years ago

    Hi, I'm Addy's cat CC. I just wrote a lens about tabby cats, where I'll soon be featuring this. I'm very dismayed to hear about the plight of my wild Scottish cousins!

  • GramaBarb profile image

    GramaBarb 8 years ago from Vancouver

    Thanks for introducing us to the Scotish Wildcat! 5*

  • jptanabe profile image

    Jennifer P Tanabe 8 years ago from Red Hook, NY

    Oh yes, love the Scottish Wildcat. My "Mister" cat always reminds me of them. I think the Highland Wildlife Park has Scottish Wildcats, and they're not kept in a cage there so they're a lot happier!

  • naturegirl7s profile image

    Yvonne L. B. 8 years ago from Covington, LA

    I was totally unaware of the Scottish Wildcat. The broad face reminds me a little of our Bobcat. Wonderful and informative lens.

  • spunkyduckling profile image

    spunkyduckling 8 years ago

    Nice informed lens. Thank you for sharing. 5* I favorite