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Wild Cat - The domestic cat ancestors

 

The wild cat has not been studied in the wild very much and has maintAfrican Wild Catained staple populations throughout its territories. It's home ranges from 3 different continents, with many sub-species. As a species, the wildcat is divided into many regional subspecies and their number and classification varies depending on which school of thought is followed. Domestication of the African wildcat by the ancient Egyptians is thought to have taken place around 4,000 - 8,000 years ago. African villagers still adopt wildcat kittens as pets, and keep them around the house to control rodent populations. The African sub-species are thought to be the ancestors of the domestic cat.

 

They can be split into three main groups, with various sub-species within each group.

 

  • African Subspecies:

* Felis silvestris lybica - North Africa

* Felis silvestris brockmani - East Africa

* Felis silvestris cafra - Southern Africa

* Felis silvestris foxi - West Africa

* Felis silvestris griselda - Central Africa

* Felis silvestris jordansi - Majorcan wild cat

* Felis silvestris ocreata - East Central Africa

* Felis silvestris pyrrhus - West Central Africa

* Felis silvestris sarda - Sardinia and Sicily wild cats

European Subspecies:

* Felis silvestris silvestris - Europe

* Felis silvestris caucasia - Caucasian Mountains and Turkey

* Felis silvestris grampia - Northern Scotland

  • Asian Subspecies:

* Felis silvestris caudata - Caspian Sea area

* Felis silvestris ornata - India to Iran

* Felis silvestris shawiana - China and Mongolia

 

Wildcats are a more robust, ‘wild’ versions of the domestic cat Felis catus, and have similar behaviors and food habits. Never the less, they are a pure wild cat and not a feral domestic cat. Wildcats show a wide variety of ground colors, depending on habitat. Colors European Wild Catcan vary from a darker grayish brown and grayish yellow in forested habitat, to a pale sandy brown or grayish color in semi desert and steppe country. They are mainly nocturnal and terrestrial, although they are also accomplished climbers. They usually stalk their prey, attempting to approach within a few bounds before pouncing. Their diet consists of a variety of rodents such as mice, rats, voles, and gerbils, as well as rabbits, birds, reptiles, frogs, fish, insects and domestic poultry.

 

African wild cats occur throughout Africa in a wide variety of habitats. They are absent only from tropical rainforest. In desert regions they are restricted to mountainous areas and waterways. They occur up to >3000 m in montane areas.

 

Asiatic wild cats are found primarily in scrub desert, but can be found in a wide variety of habitats. They are absent from alpine and steppe grasslands and the northern limit of their distribution may be determined by snow depth. They can be found up to 3000 m in mountains and are usually found in areas near water sources.

 

Europ1968 picture of a Gordon's Wild Catean wild cats are found primarily in deciduous forests. They are also known from coniferous forests, but these may be marginal habitats. They are restricted in their northern distribution by snow depth and are typically found in areas of low human populations. European wild cats cannot persist in areas where snow depth in the winter is more than 20 cm deep for more than 100 days. They are known from human dominated landscapes where grazing is the dominant form of agriculture and, therefore, land use is not intensive. They are also known from scrublands, riparian habitats, and coastal areas.

 

Hybridization with domestic (feral) cats has been the main threat to all wildcats in the dilution of the gene pool. The female Asiatic wildcat mates quite often with the domestic male, and hybrid offspring are frequently found near villages where wild females live. This constant interaction over the centuries has probably obscured the true relationships between the various wildcat subspecies forever. It has been reported that the most common race of the domestic cat occurring in rural areas in India is colored dark grey, with black stripes and spots, similar in appearance to wildcats but less pale.

 

Other threats include persecution by farmers for their poultry raiding habits, habitat and population fragmentation, death by automobile and vulnerability to diseases transmitted by feral cats. The African group is not protected over most of its range, whereas the European group is fully protected over most of its range. The Asian group is fully protected in the east of its range, but hunted commercially or not protected over the rest. In the past, this group had been hunted extensively for the fur trade, but international trade in their pelts has decreased drastically.