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The Scottish Wildcat -- Britain's Most Endangered Mammal

Updated on September 10, 2014
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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...

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

Compare with the domestic cat

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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?

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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?

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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

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A Captive Wildcat with Her Kittens

Please help to save me

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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.

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  • Wednesday-Elf profile image

    Wednesday-Elf 2 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 3 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
    Author

    Indigo Janson 4 years ago from UK

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

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