Today is Scottish Wildcat Day. Scottish Wildcats are the only truly wild feline living in the UK and they are under threat of extinction, with latest figures suggesting that only 100-300 remain. Wildcats look similar to large tabby cats but have a much thicker tail with thick black stripes and a blunt black tip.
Why is the Scottish Wildcat so endangered?
There are three main threats to the Scottish Wildcat:
Hybridisation – wildcats are able to interbreed with domestic cats. Due to the high population of domestic cats and the low population of wildcats, hybridisation between the species becomes more common. Over time, the level of wildcat genes decreases. Neutering of domestic cats, both pets and feral cats, is vital to reduce the risk of this happening
Disease – wildcats are also vulnerable to the same diseases as our domestic cats, such as feline leukaemia (FeLV), feline AIDS (FIV), cat flu and feline panleucopaenia. Disease leads to a shorter life expectancy. Vaccinating domestic cats will help to reduce the disease level in the environment and neutering will reduce the spread of FIV.
Accidental persecution – feral cats can be legally shot by landowners to protect game birds. Sometimes it is hard to distinguish between a feral and wildcat so some wildcats may be shot accidentally.
How can my cat help Scottish Wildcats?
Scottish Wildcat Action have set up a campaign to help to reduce the disease and hybridisation risk for Scottish Wildcats (and it will also help protect your own cat too!). There is a three-pronged action:
Vaccinate – vaccinate all cats who you have responsibility for (i.e. pet and farm cats) against feline parvovirus/panleukopaenia, cat flu and feline leukaemia virus (FeLV). Annual booster vaccinations are needed for some of these.
Neuter – neutering all cats from 4 months of age will prevent unwanted pregnancies, reduce disease risk and reduce straying, as well as preventing domestic cats from hybridising with Wildcats.
Microchip – in areas where trap-neuter-release (TNR) programmes are taking place, microchipping will ensure that if your cat is caught, it is obvious that they are owned. Microchipping is also really important for helping you to be reunited with your cat if they ever go missing.
- Report any sightings of Scottish Wildcats
- Raise awareness among friends, neighbours, community groups, schools and workplaces
- Volunteer and/or donate to charities working to directly help Scottish Wildcats and those running Trap/Neuter/Release programmes for feral cat communities such as: