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The European wildcat inhabits temperate broadleaf and mixed forests in Europe , Turkey and the Caucasus. Between the late 17th and mid 20th centuries, its European range became fragmented due to large-scale hunting and regional extirpation. It is possibly extinct in the Czech Republic , and considered regionally extinct in Austria , though vagrants from Italy are spreading into Austria. It has never inhabited Fennoscandia or Estonia. Both wildcat species are largely nocturnal and solitary , except during the breeding period and when females have young.
The size of home ranges of females and males varies according to terrain, the availability of food, habitat quality, and the age structure of the population. Male and female home ranges overlap, though core areas within territories are avoided by other cats. Females tend to be more sedentary than males, as they require an exclusive hunting area when raising kittens. Wildcats usually spend the day in a hollow tree, a rock crevice or in dense thickets.
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When threatened, it retreats into a burrow, rather than climb trees. When taking residence in a tree hollow, it selects one low to the ground. Dens in rocks or burrows are lined with dry grasses and bird feathers.
Dens in tree hollows usually contain enough sawdust to make lining unnecessary. If the den becomes infested with fleas , the wildcat shifts to another den. During winter, when snowfall prevents the European wildcat from traveling long distances, it remains within its den until travel conditions improve. Territorial marking consists of spraying urine on trees, vegetation and rocks, depositing faeces in conspicuous places, and leaving scent marks through glands in its paws.
It also leaves visual marks by scratching trees. Sight and hearing are the wildcat's primary senses when hunting. It lies in wait for prey, then catches it by executing a few leaps, which can span three metres. When hunting near water courses, it waits on trees overhanging the water. It kills small prey by grabbing it in its claws, and piercing the neck or occiput with its fangs.
When attacking large prey, it leaps upon the animal's back, and attempts to bite the neck or carotid. It does not persist in attacking if prey manages to escape. The European wildcat primarily preys on small mammals such as rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus and rodents. The African wildcat preys foremost on murids , to a lesser extent also on birds, small reptiles and invertebrates. The wildcat has two estrus periods, one in December—February and another in May—July. Spermatogenesis occurs throughout the year.
U.S. Faces Growing Feral Cat Problem
During the mating season , males fight viciously,  and may congregate around a single female. There are records of male and female wildcats becoming temporarily monogamous. Kittens are usually born between April and May, and up to August. Litter size ranges from 1—7 kittens.
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Kittens are born with closed eyes and are covered in a fuzzy coat. They are born with pink paw pads, which blacken at the age of three months, and blue eyes, which turn amber after five months. The kittens' milk teeth are replaced by their permanent dentition at the age of — days. The kittens start hunting with their mother at the age of 60 days, and start moving independently after — days. Lactation lasts 3—4 months, though the kittens eat meat as early as 1. Sexual maturity is attained at the age of days. The family dissolves after roughly five months, and the kittens disperse to establish their own territories.
Generation length of the wildcat is about eight years. Because of its habit of living in areas with rocks and tall trees for refuge, dense thickets and abandoned burrows, wildcats have few natural predators. In Central Europe, many kittens are killed by European pine marten Martes martes , and there is at least one account of an adult wildcat being killed and eaten. Competitors include the golden jackal C. In Tajikistan, the grey wolf Canis lupus is the most serious competitor, having been observed to destroy cat burrows.
Birds of prey , including Eurasian eagle-owl Bubo bubo and saker falcon Falco cherrug , have been recorded to kill wildcat kittens. Wildcat populations are foremost threatened by hybridization with the domestic cat. Mortality due to traffic accidents is a threat especially in Europe. In the former Soviet Union , wildcats were caught accidentally in traps set for European pine marten.
In modern times, they are caught in unbaited traps on pathways or at abandoned trails of red fox, European badger, European hare or pheasant. One method of catching wildcats consists of using a modified muskrat trap with a spring placed in a concealed pit. A scent trail of pheasant viscera leads the cat to the pit. Wildcat skins were of little commercial value and sometimes converted into imitation sealskin ; the fur usually fetched between 50 and 60 kopecks.
An African wildcat skeleton excavated in a 9,year-old Neolithic grave in Cyprus is the earliest known indication for a close relationship between a human and a possibly tamed cat. As no cat species is native to Cyprus, this discovery indicates that Neolithic farmers may have brought cats to Cyprus from the Near East.
The first individuals were probably domesticated in the Fertile Crescent around the time of the introduction of agriculture. The Picts venerated wildcats, having probably named Caithness Land of the Cats after them.
According to the foundation myth of the Catti tribe, their ancestors were attacked by wildcats upon landing in Scotland. Their ferocity impressed the Catti so much, that the wildcat became their symbol. The progenitors of Clan Sutherland use the wildcat as symbol on their family crest. The Clan Chattan Association also known as the Clan of Cats comprises 12 clans, the majority of which display the wildcat on their badges.
Shakespeare referenced the wildcat three times: .
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Not to be confused with Feral cat. This article is about the Old World wildcat. For other uses, see Wildcat disambiguation.
Rare wildcat kittens born at Highlands field centre
Small wild cat. Conservation status.
Paintings of wildcats. European wildcat killing a deer fawn, by Lydekker 's Wild Life of the World Scottish wildcat with black grouse carcass, by Archibald Thorburn Asian wildcat hunting monitor lizard, by Daniel Giraud Elliot Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. Journal of Molecular Evolution. Bibcode : JMolE.. Acta Zoologica Fennica.
Bibcode : Sci Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Der Karakal". With additions, translated from French ]. Berlin: J. Catalogue of the Genus Felis. London: Trustees of the British Museum. In Wilson, D. M eds. Johns Hopkins University Press.