European Wildcat - Felis Lineage
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

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)

Genus: Felis

Species: Felis silvestris (European Wildcat)


F.s. silvestris

F.s. caucasica

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).

Scottish wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris)

European wildcat (Felis silvestris)

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 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!

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.

European Wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris)

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.