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The European wildcat: three ways you can help conservation efforts

The European wildcat: three ways you can help conservation efforts

The European wildcat is one of the native wildcat species in Europe but it will go extinct if we don’t act. With one the main threats being close to our hearts and homes, the domestic cat, what can we do to help?


Increase awareness about the wildcat

  Because knowledge is power. A lot of people don’t know about the existence of wild cats and mistake them for feral cats. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Wild cats look similar to the domestic tabby, apart from their size, but their temperaments and characteristics are completely different, and no one has ever managed to domesticate them.The European wildcat is one out of three wild species still roaming the European continent. They inhabit forests from the Iberian peninsula, Italy, Central and Eastern Europe to the Caucasus. The species has a long history of roaming the European mainland but they were severely persecuted from the 18 th to the 20 th century causing their numbers to shrink so significantly that they were close to extinction and completely disappeared in some countries. 

Support wildcat conservation efforts

Numerous efforts have been instigated in the past decades to save the European wildcat from actual extinction. In the EU, the wildcat is classified as a protected species, meaning that member states across the EU have to put efforts in place to make sure they don’t go extinct. One of the ways to ensure this is by reintroducing them in countries where they are disappearing/have disappeared entirely. Germany bred hundreds of wildcats in captivity during a 20-year reintroduction effort and has managed to achieve a population of 700 wildcats in German forests. England and Wales have embarked on a similar strategy and conservationists are currently training with Marianne Hartmann, big cat expert and wildcat breeder, who helped the strategy in Bavaria along. Read up on conservation activities in the UK and the EU to find out what you can do.

Help tackle the real challenges that wildcats face

 But reintroduction efforts alone will not save the species, no matter how many animals are reintroduced into the wild. Their biggest threat is human activity. Cities and farmland encroach on their natural environment leading to fragmentation, choosing well-hedged farmland as their home leads to traffic accidents with lethal consequences, and living in close proximity with humans and their domestic cats leads to hybridisation. Wild cats will readily mate with domestic cats and produce offspring, leading to unwanted litters, a possible surge in feral cats roaming the country, and ultimately a dilution of the wild cat gene pool. The European wildcat is one of the last wild cat species left in Europe and it would be a shame to let it go extinct. They look similar to the domestic tabby but stockier with distinctive black marks and a bushy tail, but their attitude is completely different, they are shy and will mostly hide away from humans. The easiest way to contribute to conservation efforts of the European wild cat is by spaying and neutering your domestic cat, making sure they don’t breed with a wildcat. 

What you can do to help

Support national or international initiatives that are actively working on the preservation of the European wildcat or initiatives that support spaying and neutering feral cats.If you think there is a chance that wildcats are present in your local area, bearing in mind that you might not see them, ensure your domestic cat is spayed and neutered to prevent them from breeding with wild cats.Want to more about wildcats? Keep on reading! Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more stories on conservation of wild animals and keeping your companion animals safe and healthy.