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European Wildcat image
European Wildcat

European Wildcat

(Mammal)

European Wildcat Baby
European Wildcat Baby

European Wildcat Habits

The European wildcat is very adaptable and can survive in a variety of habitats. In Scotland wildcats inhabit moors and woodland but prefer hilly areas for hunting.
Rocky outcrops in forests throughout Europe provide refuge for most wildcats. In southern Europe the wildcat lives among scrub brush; in central Europe it lives in coniferous forests of spruce, fir, and cedar.

European Wildcat Communication

The wildcat is a mostly silent animal. The voice of wildcats differs little from the housecat's. They use meows and purrs in much the same way, however physical meetings are rare between wildcats and they therefore tend to communicate with each other through scent.
Territorial boundaries are marked with faeces or spray; these markers are left uncovered in open areas like mounds or pathways where the scent will carry as far as possible, advertising the presence of a boundary to other cats; bodily waste within the territory is usually covered. Wildcats also leave scent by rubbing glands in their cheeks and tail against objects, or by clawing trees to release scent from glands in their feet; behaviour most domestic cat owners will recognise. Besides marking boundaries the scents also relay other information about sex, age and health; female scents will also let male cats know if they're ready to mate. Vocal communication is extremely rare, saved for displays of aggression or, whilst in heat, females wail loudly to attract male attention and are quite possibly the root of many Highland tales about screaming banshees. A silent demeanour is essential for hunting and avoiding larger predators so even wildcat kittens will play in complete silence.

European Wildcat Breeding

Female wildcats are ready to mate in late February or early March. Groups of males howl, screech, and wail throughout the night to attract females.
Once a male has established his dominance over the group, the female rolls on the ground to signal that she is ready to mate with him. Like other cats, the male wildcat bites the female's neck during mating.
Approximately six and a half weeks later the female gives birth in a nest situated among rocks or in a hollow tree.
The mother defends her litter ferociously during the first few weeks of their life. The kittens open their eyes after 10 days and are quite fierce themselves, spitting, biting, and scratching at intruders. The mother suckles the kittens for a month, after which they start leaving the den to play nearby. The male does not help rear the kittens.
At the age of three months the young begin to accompany their mother on hunting trips. By 10 months of age the kittens are almost fully grown, but they do not breed until the next year.

European Wildcat Food & Feeding

Wild cats feed mainly on mice and other small rodents. They also eat larger mammals and prefer to live in arease where ground-nesting birds, rabbits, and hares are common. The European wildcats are not as successful at catching larger prey, but they may kill deer fawns that are too slow to escape.
Wildcats lead solitary lives and hunt alone in areas where food is scarce. Their territories usually contain approximately 250 acres that they mark with feces and urine and by shredding the bark on trees. Wildcats fiercely defend their territories against intruders but do not hesitate to leave when it is time to mate. Where prey is plentiful, wildcats sometimes hunt in groups

European Wildcat Key Facts

        Size 
              Height: Length: 18-18 inches
              Weight: 8-22 pounds. Female is lighter
       Breeding
             Sexual maturity: 1 year
             Mating: Late February to early March
             Gestation: 63-69 days
             Number of young: 1-8 kittens, but usually 4
       Lifestyle 
            Habit: Usually solitary. Nocturnal
            Diet: Small rodents such as mice, also hares, rabbits, birds, and insects
            Lifespan: About 12 years

 

DID YOU KNOW?

  • The Egyptians domesticated the African wildcat to protect their grain stores.
  • Small cats like the wildcat are unable to roar because of a bone in their larynxes.
  • The wildcat left northern Europe during the Middle Ages due to the cooling climate.
  • Wildcats have extremely sensitive hearing able to detect the slightest movement of their prey.
  • Wildcats are extremely agile, climbing trees with very little effort.

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