The Scottish wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris) is a European wildcat population in Scotland. It was once widely distributed across Great Britain, but the population has declined drastically since the turn of the 20th century. It is now limited to northern and eastern Scotland.
Nocturnality is an animal behavior characterized by being active during the night and sleeping during the day. The common adjective is "nocturnal",...
A carnivore meaning 'meat eater' is an organism that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting mainly or exclusively of a...
Among animals, viviparity is the development of the embryo inside the body of the parent. The term 'viviparity' and its adjective form 'viviparous'...
Terrestrial animals are animals that live predominantly or entirely on land (e.g., cats, ants, snails), as compared with aquatic animals, which liv...
Altricial animals are those species whose newly hatched or born young are relatively immobile. They lack hair or down, are not able to obtain food ...
A territory is a sociographical area that which an animal consistently defends against the conspecific competition (or, occasionally, against anima...
Ambush predators are carnivorous animals that capture or trap prey by stealth, luring, or by (typically instinctive) strategies utilizing an elemen...
Polygyny is a mating system in which one male lives and mates with multiple females but each female only mates with a single male.
NoNot a migrant
Animals that do not make seasonal movements and stay in their native home ranges all year round are called not migrants or residents.
The Scottish wildcat's fur is distinctly striped with a solid tabby patterning. Its ringed tail is bushy with a black tip. It differs from the domestic cat by stripes on the cheeks and hind legs, the absence of spots, white markings, and colored backs of the ears. The Scottish wildcat is heavier than a domestic cat and has longer limb bones and a more robust skull. It is also larger in body size.
Presently, Scottish wildcats are found in the Cairngorms, the Black Isle, Aberdeenshire, the Angus Glens, and Ardnamurchan. They live in wooded habitats, rough grassland, shrubland, and near forest edges, but avoid heather moorland and gorse scrub. They prefer areas away from agriculturally used land and avoid snow deeper than 10 cm (3.9 in).
Scottish wildcats are usually active by night and decrease their activity at low moonlight and in windy weather. When hunting they may travel long distances each night in search of prey. Sight and hearing are the wildcat's primary senses when hunting. It lies in wait for prey, then catches it by executing a few leaps, which can span three meters. It kills prey by grabbing it in its claws and piercing the neck or occiput with its fangs. Wildcats are solitary animals and prefer to spend time on their own. Home ranges of male wildcats overlap with the home ranges of one or more females, whereas female ranges rarely overlap. Adult cats maintain larger territories than juveniles. They mark and defend their home ranges using scent marking through their scat.
Scottish wildcats are carnivores and mainly prey on European rabbits and field voles. They also hunt Wood mice, Field and Bank voles, and birds. Any uneaten remnants of a kill they burry in a cache to save for later.
Wildcats are polygynous meaning that males mate with multiple females during the breeding season. In their natural habitat, Scottish wildcats mate between January and March. Litter size varies from 1 to 8 kittens. Females rarely give birth in winter. Kittens are born in a den, which is hidden within a cairn, among brush piles, and under tree roots. They open their eyes at 10-13 days old; their eyes are initially blue and change to green around 7 weeks of age. Kittens begin learning how to hunt at 10-12 weeks and are fully weaned by 14 weeks of age. They leave their mothers around 6 months of age. Male Scottish wildcats reach reproductive maturity at around 10 months of age and females at an age of less than 12 months.
The main threats to the Scottish wildcat population include habitat loss, interbreeding with domestic cats, and being hunted as vermin. An extended controversy in Aberdeenshire pits Swedish energy firm Vattenfall Wind Power against the Scottish wildcat. Clashindarroch Forest, outside the town of Huntly, is considered by the Scottish government to be a "wildcat wonderland." The group Wildcat Haven state that the energy giant's efforts to raze the primeval forest for their wind farm would wipe out the cats there. As of 2021, an online petition circulated by the activists had garnered more than 800,000 signatures in support of protecting the forest. Hybridization with domestic cats is regarded as a threat to the population. It is likely that all Scottish wildcats today have at least some domestic cat ancestry. Domestic cats also transmit diseases to Scottish wildcats.
According to IUCN Red List, the total population size of the Scottish wildcat in 2018 was only 40 individuals. In Scotland, this subspecies is considered Critically Endangered (CR) and the population is undergoing extinction.
Wildcats play an important role in their native ecosystem as they control populations of rodents and other small mammals they prey on.