Although it might look like a house cat ready to curl up on your lap, the European wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris) is a wild, nondomesticated species. It lives in a variety of habitats across Europe, at elevations ranging from sea level to a documented 2,250 meters (7,382 feet) in the Pyrenees, a mountain range that separates Spain from France.
The European wildcat has many close genetic relatives fanned out across Europe, Asia, and Africa including the Asiatic wildcat and African wildcat. It is also closely related to the domestic cat. Scientists have done much work in the last few decades to better understand the geographic range of the different subspecies of wildcat—an important step in understanding populations of different animals and assessing the health of distinct populations.
They are distinctly larger than domestic house cats in size and weight, with longer fur and a bushy tail. Scientists have had difficulty estimating their true population size in Europe because of crossbreeding between wildcats and domestic cats.
The European wildcat will prey on rodents, rabbits, and other small prey including birds, although they have been observed to scavenge through human refuse near urban areas. Car strikes have been a significant cause of fatality. A population of the cats is present on the British Isles in Scotland, although it has been suggested that this population should be considered yet another distinct subspecies because it has been isolated there for so long.
What solution has been suggested by conservationists who would like to reduce the rates of hybridization between the European wildcat and the domestic cat?
How are domestic cats related to the European wildcats?
How does the cultivation of land affect European wildcats?
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry domesticate Verb
to tame or adapt for human use.
having to do with genes, inherited characteristics or heredity.
geographic range Noun
distance at which a specific light (such as that from a lighthouse) is visible to the naked eye.
environment where an organism lives throughout the year or for shorter periods of time.
Encyclopedic Entry: habitat isolate Verb
to set one thing or organism apart from others.
mountain range between Spain and France that stretch from the Bay of Biscay to the Gulf of Lion.
to feed on dead or decaying material.
(subsp.) group of organisms within a single species, often distinguished by geographic isolation.