European Wildcat (Felis silvestris)
Felis silvestris grampia at the British Wildlife Centre
By Peter Trimming [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Recently the Wildcat (Felis silvestris) has been reclassified into two species - the forest wildcats of Europe (Felis silvestris), known as the European Wildcat, and the bush and steppe wildcats of Africa and Asia (Felis lybica), known as the African Wildcat and Asian Wildcat. As the Wildcat species/subspecies are genetically very similar to domestic cats, they can easily interbreed and unfortunately hybridization is becoming a serious threat to purebred Wildcat populations.

Felis Lineage

1. Jungle Cat (Felis chaus)

2. Chinese Mountain Cat (Felis bieti)

3. European Wildcat (Felis silvestris)

4. African & Asiatic Wildcat (Felis lybica)

5. Sand Cat (Felis margarita)

6. Black-footed Cat (Felis nigripes)

Key Facts about European Wildcats

~ Forest habitat ~

~ Breeds with domestic cats ~

~ Only wild cat in Britain ~

European Wildcat (Felis silvestris) Classification

The taxonomy or scientific classification of the European Wildcat species (Felis silvestris) is as follows:

Kingdom: Animalia (animals)

Phylum: Chordata (vertebrates)

Class: Mammalia (mammals)

Order: Carnivora (carnivores)

Suborder: Feliformia (cat-like)

Family: Felidae (cats)

Subfamily: Felinae (small cats)

Genus: Felis

Species: Felis silvestris (European Wildcat)

European wildcat (Felis silvestris)

Scottish wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris)

European Wildcat (Felis silvestris) Subspecies

Many subspecies of the European Wildcat have been recognized in the past, however the current Felidae taxonomy revision proposes two subspecies:

1. Felis silvestris silvestris - Europe, including Scotland, Sicily and Crete

2. Felis silvestris caucasica - Caucasus, Turkey

European Wildcat Conservation

The global conservation status for the Wildcat is Least Concern (LC) due to the wide range and estimated numbers. This includes all the Wildcats - African, Asiatic and European.

The following organizations are involved with European Wildcat conservation and research:

Scotland, UK - Save the Scottish Wildcat

Switzerland - European Wildcat survey

Scottish / European wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris)

European Wildcat Research

Some academic literature on the European Wildcat since 2010 by year:

  • Yamaguchi N., Kitchener A., Driscoll C. & Nussberger B. 2015.

Felis silvestris. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015. e.T60354712A50652361. Downloaded on 29 December 2016.

  • Nussberger B., Wandeler P., Weber D. & Keller L. F. 2014.

Monitoring introgression in European wildcats in the Swiss Jura. Conservation Genetics 15, 1219-1230. 62. Nussberger B., Wandeler P., Weber D. & Keller L. F. 2013. Development of SNP markers identifying European wildcats, domestic cats, and their admixed progeny. Molecular Ecology Resources 13, 447-460.

  • Anile S., Ragni B., Randi E., Mattucci F. & Rovero F. 2014.

Wildcat population density on the Etna volcano, Italy: a comparison of density estimation methods. Journal of Zoology 283, 252-261

  • Anile S., Amico C. & Ragni B. 2012.

Population density estimation of the European wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris) in Sicily using camera trapping. Wild. Biol. Pract. 8(1), 1-12

  • Randi E., Pierpaoli M., Beaumont M., Ragni B. & Sforzi A. 2011.

Genetic identification of wild and domestic cats (Felis silvestris) and their hybrids using Bayesian clustering methods. Molecular Biology and Evolution 18, 1679-1693.

  • Driscoll C., Yamaguchi N., O’Brien S. J. & Macdonald D. W. 2011.

A suite of genetic markers useful in assessing wildcat (Felis silvestris ssp.) – domestic cat (Felis silvestris catus) admixture. Journal of Heredity 102, 87-90.

  • Weber D., Roth T. & Huwyler S. 2010.

Die aktuelle Verbreitung der Wildkatze (Felis silvestris silvestris Schreber, 1777) in der Schweiz Hintermann, pp. 25.

  • Slotta-Bachmayr L. & Friembichler S. 2010.

Aktionsplan Schutz der Wildkatze in Österreich Wien, Austria: BMLFUW/ Abt, II/4, Stubenbastei 5, 1010 Wien, 54 pp.

  • Jerosch S., Götz M., Klar N. & Roth M. 2010.

Characteristics of diurnal resting sites of the endangered European wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris): Implications for its conservation. Journal for Nature Conservation 18(1), 45-54.

  • Eichholzer A. 2010.

Testing the applicability of pictures taken by camera-traps for monitoring the European wildcat Felis silvestris silvestris in the Jura Mountains of Switzerland. University of Zürich, Switzerland. pp. 37.

  • Eckert I., Suchentrunk F., Markov G. & Hartl G. B. 2010.

Genetic diversity and intergrity of German wildcat (Felis silvestris) populations as revealed by microsatellites, allozymes, and mitochondrial DNA sequences. Mammalian Biology 75,160-74.

  • Driscoll C. & Nowell K. 2010.

Felis silvestris. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2.

  • Davis A. R. & Gray D. 2010.

The distribution of Scottish wildcats (Felis silvestris) in Scotland (2006-208). Scottish Natural Heritage Commissioned Report, 52pp.

  • Anile S., Bizzarri L. & Ragni B. 2010.

Estimation of European wildcat population size in Sicily (Italy) using camera trapping and capture-recapture analyses. Italian Journal of Zoology 77, 241-246.

More European Wildcat References provided by the IUCN Cat Specialist Group.

European Wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris)

European Wildcat Facts and Information

The following websites have well researched and authoritative information on Wildcats. Most group all three of the Wildcats together - African, Asiatic and European so the taxonomy may differ to that used here.

  • Wildcat Fact Sheet - ISEC
  • European Wildcat Fact Sheet - ISEC
  • Wildcat Conservation Status and Distribution Map - IUCN Red List