An Illusive Feline.
It is very likely that many of the recorded sightings of wildcats may well be that of a hybridized individual who may or may not be a pure Wild Cat. As with their larger and similarly illusive cousins, the leopard, they are a solitary member of the wildlife population only coming together to mate. As a result sightings are very rare.
The greatest threat to the African wildcat is hybridization with domestic and feral cat populations. According to the IUCN Red List they are currently classified as ‘Least Concern’ with populations decreasing. The truth is that true numbers of wildcats is unknown. This being due to the interbreeding between feline species and diluting of the gene pool.
Consistent research being conducted on densities and distributions is an important part of conservation of species. One of the greatest complexities when it comes to wildcat research is the requirement, and in duality inability to identify pure breed from hybridized individuals without question form a sighting alone. Blood tests would be required to achieve this, and that is beyond the scope of what is readily possible, especially for a species that is classified as ‘least concern’. However we have seen these kind of patterns before and left unchecked we will find ourselves with a situation where the species is of great concern and it may be too late.
The survival of many of our iconic wildlife species is in question, and there are many people out there trying from different approaches to conserve them. Species such as the Black and White Rhino, African Elephant, African Lion and many more without our intervention and attempts to remove threats and built constructs to conserve, may not be around for our children to experience, not in the wild at least. Not to mention the devastating affect this will have on natural environments as every species has an important role and part to play. It is essential we do what we can and that is why do what we do. Helping mitigate the further decline and dilution of the gene pool of pure Wild Cats through trapping, neutering and returning feral cats.
Natural ecosystems are reliant on symbiotic relationships, these relationships are brought about through natural evolution and developments between flora and fauna species. African wildcats play an essential role in the balance of the ecosystems and habitats that they inhabit.
Did You Know.
The domestication of wildcats was initially done by the Ancient Egyptians thousands of years ago. Since then, as with other species such as dogs, we have domesticated them and by definition created a new subset of the species. One that is unable to survive in the wild as well as their ancestors and their counterparts still roaming the wilds today.
Gestation is 56-63 days. Females produce a litter of 1-5 kittens. The average number is 3. Newborns weigh approximately 2.75-4.5 ounces. Their eyes open by the 10th day and they begin to walk by 16th-20th day. Hunting starts at 12 weeks and they are independent by 5 months. They reach sexual maturity around 11 months. In captivity, they can live up to 15 years.
Social System and Communication
Solitary. Much like domestic cats, males compete for the females who are in season.
Hunting and Diet
Mainly nocturnal and terrestrial. Their main diet consists of rodents, hares, birds, reptiles, amphibians, young antelope, insects and arachnids.
Their main threat is cross-breeding with domestic cats. Because of the wide spread problem of feral, pure African wildcats are rare.