Wild Cat

(Felis silvestris)




Facts about this animal

Many subspecies of the wild cat have been desribed. These can be grouped as follows:


  • European wild cats - silvestris group
  • Asian wild cats - ornata group
  • African wild cats - libyca group


The house cat is the domestic form of the Egyptian cat, which belongs to the group, although house cats certainly have also blood from the respective local subspecies.


European wild cats are somewhat larger and have a somewhat shorter tail than a house cat. Head-body-length ranges from 55-80 cm, the well-furred and bluntly ending tail from 25-40 cm. Males may have a body-weight of 5 kgs, females of 3.5 to 4 kgs. The head is somewhat broader than in a domestioc cat with a pink nose-pad. There are two distinct parallel black streaks on each cheeck and the forehead is striped. The coat is thick with abundant wolly underfur, striped, yellowish grey on the upper parts, throat whitish and underparts cream.


The stripe pattern in kittens is more distinct than in adults and the tail is tapered at the tip. At 3 months, the time of weaning, they weigh 1.3 to 1.7 kgs.

Did you know?
that thre is evidence of the domestication of the African wild cat (Felis silvestris libyca) as early as 7500 BC, and that the Ancient Egyptians worshipped cats as gods? Domestication of the cat may have begun as early as 8000 BC.


Name (Scientific) Felis silvestris
Name (English) Wild Cat
Name (French) Chat sauvage
Name (German) Wildkatze
Name (Spanish) Gato montés, Gato silvestre
Local names Afrikaans: Vaalboskat
Albanian: Macja e eger
Estonian: Metskass
Hungarian: Vadmacska
Italian: Gatto selvatico
kiSwahili: Kimburu, Paka por
Lithuanian: Vilpisys
Polish: zbik
Portuguese: Gato-bravo, Gato-cabeçanas
Turkish: Yaban kedisi
CITES Status Appendix II
CMS Status Not listed



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Range Europe, southwestern Asia and the savannah regions of Africa
Habitat Woodland, steppes, grassland, semi-desert
Wild population 400 million (1986) (Red List IUCN 2011)
Zoo population 189 reported to ISIS

In the Zoo

Wild Cat


How this animal should be transported

Transport crates should be sufficiently large to meet legal requirements and sufficiently strong to prevent escape or damage to the crate and animal. Basic design should allow free flow of air through multiple sides of the container. Preferably, a double door design at least on one end of the crate should be used. The "inner" door should have bars or wire mesh to contain the animal, and the "outer" door should consist of a thin panel of expanded metal or plywood that provides safety for the handlers and isolation for the animal. The doors should travel vertically to facilitate animal transfer and contain a secure locking system. The crate should drain well, and absorbent bedding should be used to prevent the animal from being exposed to or lying in urine or excreta.


The shipment should be organised in a way to minimise stress. The animal should have access to its transport crate for 2 weeks before shipment, preferably being fed within it. If an extended trip is anticipated, water and food as may be required should be provided while the animal is in transit.


For air transport, Container Note 82 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


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Why do zoos keep this animal

The wild cat is the ancestor of our domstic cats, and keeping them is therefore of major interest. European zoos also provided animals for reintroduction programmes operated by conservation NGOs. For the subspecies Felis silvestris gordoni from Oman an International Studbook was established in 1996. Currently 56 Oman wild cats are registered with this studbook.