It is estimated that less than 100 Scottish Wildcats remain in the wild today, making them one of the most endangered mammals in the world. Back when the Scottish Wildcat population was larger, they could be found across Britain – however, they are now only found in the Scottish Highlands.
The Scottish wildcat (Felis silvestris grampia) may look similar to a domestic cat, but it is a totally different animal, enabling it to survive in the bleak Scottish wilderness.
It has a wide, flat head, ears that point more sideways, a bushy blunt-ended tail encircled with dark rings, and a distinctive striped coat. But the biggest difference is in its behaviour. This is not a cat that purrs. It will never approach a human, let alone rub up against your legs. If cornered, it will hiss, spit, snarl and attack!
It can be found in upland forest, moorland, scrub and hill ground where they lie up during the day. The wildcat hunts small mammals such as rabbits and rodents and will also eat birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects. They may also scavenge fresh carrion. Solitary and territorial, the wildcat is active mainly around dawn and dusk.
Throughout 2019, our rehabilitation facility welcomed three potential Scottish Wildcats. One of them, lovingly named Hope by our Community, failed the pelage scoring and the DNA test, sadly confirming that she’s not a pure Scottish Wildcat.
This means that she is not pure enough to be accepted for the Scottish Wildcat Action’s captive breeding program, or to be released in the wild without being neutered. Given the complexity of the neutering operation and how accustomed to human presence the cat was, we have decided to keep her! She was moved to a refurbished and large enclosure, where she is now a happy and relaxed cat.
In the Summer of 2020, after a brief and unfortunate escape from the enclosure, Hope has given birth to three new kittens. Since it is still too early to make any decisions on whether the kittens are ferals or Scottish Wildcats, we don’t have any further release or neutering plans thus far.
In 2018, scientists from the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland reported that the Scottish Wildcat was “functionally extinct” in the wild. It seems like the only chance left for this species is the captive breeding program run by Scottish Wildcat Action, which we wholeheartedly support.
To give this wonderful species the best possible future, we mainly support Scottish Wildcat Action; however, we still care for the protection of hybrid Scottish wildcats and are committed to care for our resident cat. Therefore, our main efforts to support this species include:
Prior to the now near-universal agreement that the Scottish wildcat can no longer be saved in the wild, Highland Titles have built and operated one of the finest wildcat rehabilitation facilities in Europe.
This facility welcomed three kittens whilst it was in operation. One male passed the purity test, and was therefore released. The other male was given a low pelage score, and was therefore neutered and released locally – this means the cat has left the enclosure, but there is still access to food and shelter if he wishes to return, or if his hunting skills are making it difficult for him to find enough food.
The third cat, is our very own Hope – who embodies all of our previous conservation efforts and our hope for the future of this species.
Our Blog features a variety of articles that mention our Scottish wildcat conservation work. Explore relevant cat-related content and read the latest Scottish wildcat news from the Reserve!
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