The Scottish wildcat, also known as the Highland tiger, is an elusive creature best spotted between dawn and dusk. And while you could be forgiven for thinking wildcats look just like large domestic cats, it’s not only their size that stands them apart.
Their name is a big clue, as they are far from tame. Wildcats need to be hardy in order to survive and they have more powerful jaws than our pet cats. This enables them to hunt successfully, and they prey on everything from rabbits to rodents. With similar markings to a tabby cat, they are longer limbed, heavier set and have a black-ringed bushy long tail. they also have brown mottled striped fur which is thicker than a domestic cat’s coat, which affords protection in cold weather.
The Highland Tiger Is An Elusive Creature
Of course, hybridisation with feral and domestic cats can make it difficult to tell which ones are pure wildcats. In fact, no-one really knows the true numbers of these elusive creatures. Now only found in the Scottish Highlands, they are perilously close to becoming extinct.
We explore these creatures in more depth in Special 235, when writer Bill Gibb finds out about a pioneering breeding and release programme “Saving Wildcats”. It’s located at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s Highland Wildlife Park, near Kingussie. And this is actively helping the conservation of these beautiful creatures.
Kittens from this season will be among the first to be released back into the wild next year. And this gives real hope for boosting numbers and hopefully helping this protected species to thrive again. Read Bill’s fantastic feature in “The People’s Friend Special 235”, (on sale Nov 30).
For any quizzers out there, do you know where Sylvester the cat gets his name from? Well, apparently the cartoon moggy’s moniker is from Felis silvestris – Latin for the European wildcat, which is where the Scottish wildcat evolves from.
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Find out more about Saving Wildcats.
Find out how to welcome winter wildlife into your garden here.