The Andean mountain cat is a small wildcat. Fewer than 2500 individuals are thought to exist. While it is about the size of a domestic cat, it appears larger because of its long tail and thick fur. Body length ranges from 57 to 64 centimetres, tail length is 41 to 48 cm and shoulder height is about 36 cm. It is one of the least-known and rarest of all felines; almost all that is known about it comes from a few observations in the wild and from
skins. There are none in captivity. It is believed to live only in the Andes mountains and lower slope in Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. In 2002 the status of the Andean cat was moved from Vulnerable to Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
A young Scottish Wildcat at the British Wildlife Centre. It’s still quite slender at this age so hasn’t developed the muscular frame that Scottish Wildcats are known for. Looks like a domestic tabby here…
It’s thought that there are only 35 of these wildcats left in the wild…a scary thought…
No feral or farmcat, the Wildcat is a true wild species of cat; it was here long before we were and long before the domestic cat had first been bred by ancient farmers. Unique to Britain, and now only found in Scotland, the Scottish Wildcat is currently classified as an isolated island population of the European wildcat, Felis silvestris silvestris (Felidae), though there is still considerable debate over whether it should be classed as a distinct sub-species (Felis silvestris grampia) on the basis of its darker coloration and bolder stripes on
the legs and flanks.
Infamously the only wild animal to be untamable, even when captive reared, and one of the most elusive creatures in the world, Scottish wildcats may look a little like your pet tabby but these are incredibly tough super-predators capable of surviving Scotland’s harshest winters, battling eagles and drawing the admiration of men.
Tragically, although the subspecies is globally listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, the Scottish wildcat’s population is Critically Endangered, and the latest surveys suggest less than 100 individuals survive in the wild. Numbers originally decreased due to deforestation and human persecution, but today the primary threat is cross-mating with feral domestic cats, a process called hybridization. This gradually waters down the true wildcat genes, leaving behind “hybrids” which look a little like wildcats, but behave very differently.