Five Scottish Wildcat facts
1 Cat cousins
Scottish wildcats walked across from the Continent at the end of the last Ice Age, before the English Channel refilled from the melting icecaps. They are closely related to the European wildcat and have always been a wild animal. Domestic cats were probably brought to Britain with the Romans as pets. They are related to the Near Eastern wildcat, a cousin of the European wildcat.
2 Cunning creatures
Scottish wildcats have a bigger brain than domestic cats and are cunning hunters. They also have more powerful jaws than our pet cats. This helps them to crunch bones and eat live prey, such as rabbits and voles.
3 The ultimate fur coat
The thick coat of a Scottish wildcat is like no other and this protects it from the harsh Scottish winters. They also have a number of sensory hairs and long whiskers that allow them to detect minute movements.
4 On the edge
Scottish wildcats tend to make their dens in forest and scrub areas, but they may also hunt in open grassland if there is prey there, such as forest clear-fell areas. You are therefore more likely to see a Scottish wildcat in these edge habitats next to forests.
Scottish wildcats only have one set of kittens per year whereas domestic cats can have three or four, if the food supply is available. Scottish wildcats are under threat because, despite being cousins, the two types of cat can interbreed. Many of the kittens born in the wild are hybridised (they have mixed domestic cat and wildcat DNA or are the offspring of hybrid parents). This means Scottish wildcats are being genetically diluted.
With the Government specialists pronouncing the wildcat as ‘functionally extinct’ in the wild, Highland Titles have supported Scottish Wildcat Action, Scottish Natural Heritage, The RZSS and The Highland Wildlife Park for a number of years. We share their belief that the species can now only be saved by a captive breeding program and we look forward to the completion of the exciting new Breeding Centre in The Cairngorms.