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.
Key Facts about European Wildcats
~ Forest habitat ~
~ Breeds with domestic cats ~
~ Only wild cat in Britain ~
European Wildcat (Felis silvestris) Classification
European Wildcats belong to the genus Felis and the full taxonomy or scientific classification of the European Wildcat species is:
Kingdom: Animalia (animals)
Phylum: Chordata (vertebrates)
Class: Mammalia (mammals)
Order: Carnivora (carnivores)
Suborder: Feliformia (cat-like)
Family: Felidae (cats)
Subfamily: Felinae (small cats)
Species: Felis silvestris (European Wildcat)
The scientific name for the European Wildcat is Felis silvestris which is also known as the binomial name, species name, latin name, biological name or zoological name. Some use the term 'botanical name' however that term is only applicable to the plant kingdom (botany) and not the animal kingdom (zoology).
European Wildcat (Felis silvestris) Subspecies
Many subspecies of the European Wildcat have been recognized in the past, however the last Felidae taxonomy revision in 2017 proposed two subspecies:
1. Felis silvestris silvestris - Europe, including Scotland, Sicily and Crete
2. Felis silvestris caucasica - Caucasus, Turkey
European Wildcat (Felis silvestris) Research
Here is a list of papers published on European Wildcats. Click on the title bar to view the abstract and the link to the article.
Camera trapping is a widely used method to study the abundance and population density of elusive terrestrial animals. To make full use of this method, it is necessary to obtain high photographic capture rates of the target species. We examine what characteristics of camera trapping sites are associated with high photographic capture rates of European Wildcat Felis silvestris silvestris.
We measured Wildcat capture rates across 25 camera trapping sites located in a 20km² study area within an unprotected low mountain range forest in central Germany. We measured the distance of each trapping site to the forest boundary, to the next watercourse, and to the next human settlement, and broadly defined the type of forest structure the site was located in. None of these site characteristics, however, predicted wildcat photographic capture success.
We also examined the degree of human disturbance at the site, measured as the photographic capture rate of humans (including vehicles). Wildcats were detected at similar rates on dirt or gravel roads (heavily used by humans) as on soft-surfaced paths or logging trails (less frequently used by humans), and the degree of human disturbance across sites did not affect wildcat capture success. We, therefore, suggest that trail features such as course, curvature and width, or vegetation density along the trail are more important determinants of Wildcat capture success than habitat characteristics.
We conclude that for European Wildcats, as for many larger felids, forest roads provide suitable camera trapping sites and that Wildcats are fairly tolerant towards human traffic on these roads.
Wening, H.; Werner, L.; Waltert, M.; Port, M.
Using camera traps to study the elusive European Wildcat Felis Silvestris Silvestris Schreber, 1777 (Carnivora: Felidae) in central Germany: what makes a good trapping site?
2019 Journal of Threatened Taxa (11): 13421-13431
In spring 2018, the Scottish Wildcat Conservation Action Plan Steering Group approached the IUCN SSC Cat Specialist Group with regard to an evaluation of the situation of the wildcat in Scotland and the implementation of conservation activities so far. We present here a summary of this, which was mainly based on the scientific literature and available reports.
Breitenmoser, U.; Lanz, T.; Breitenmoser-Wuersten, C.
Conservation of the wildcat in Scotland: an evaluation
2019 Cat News (69): 42-43
The European wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris) is a threatened and elusive species that was previously considered to be forest-bound in central Europe. For the first time, we caught and radio-collared wildcats outside heavily forested habitats to investigate their habitat utilization pattern.
We used a generalized linear modelling framework to test our hypotheses that sex and season influence habitat selection in addition to habitat variables. Our results reveal a gender difference in habitat selection: Females were more restricted to areal shelter habitats and avoided the areas near roads more than did males. Males used more linear shelter habitats such as watercourses or hedges and avoided the proximity to settlements more than did females. The probability of wildcat occurrence far from shelter habitats was higher in summer than in winter, probably due to high coverage and shelter provided by crops. The same pattern applied to the proximity to roads.
We concluded that shelter habitats are one of the key factors for the occurrence of wildcats in agriculturally dominated landscapes. We recommend a management strategy that enhances structural heterogeneity in the agricultural landscape by conserving small-scale structures such as copses, hedges and wide field margins. Other species, such as the gray-partridge (Perdix perdix) and the common quail (Coturnix corturnix), can also benefit from these habitat recommendations. Additionally, this management strategy simultaneously creates habitat connectivity.
Jerosch, S.; Kramer-Schadt, S.; Götz, M.; Roth, M.
The importance of small-scale structures in an agriculturally dominated landscape for the European wildcat (Felis silvestirs silvestris) in central Europe and implications for its conservation
2018 Journal for Nature Conservation (41): 88-96
View more articles on Felis silvestris in the IUCN Cat Specialist Group database (scroll down once the library page is loaded to see the list).
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. As at November 2019 the status of the individual Wildcat species is yet to be determined and is extremely difficult to estimate due to interbreeding with domestic and feral cats.
The following organizations are involved with European Wildcat conservation and research:
Save the Scottish Wildcat - Scotland, UK
European Wildcat survey - Switzerland
Please support these organizations with their important work if you can. No matter the size of your contribution, every bit helps!
European Wildcat Facts and Information
The following organizations 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 Status and Distribution Map - IUCN Red List
- European Wildcat Detailed Information - IUCN Cat Specialist Group
- European Wildcat Academic Literature pdf - IUCN Cat Specialist Group