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Comparing the European wildcat and the domestic cat

Berteselli GV, Regaiolli B, Normando S, et al. European wildcat and domestic cat: Do they really differ? J Vet Behav. Nov-Dec 2017; Vol 22, p35-40.

The wildcat (Felis silvestris) is considered a “strictly protected” species. Nevertheless, it is classed as threatened in many European countries. Improving our knowledge on the behavior of the European wildcat might be valuable for the conservation of this species in the wild as well as for its husbandry in captive environment.

The aim of this study was to enhance biological and behavioral knowledge of the European wildcat by comparing its behavior with that of the domestic cat. Individual and social behaviors of a group of European wildcats in captivity were observed and compared with behaviors of a domestic cats’ group to underline similarities and differences.

Six European wildcats housed at Parco Natura Viva and 5 domestic cats (Felis silvestris catus) were the subjects of this study. Two 10-minute daily sessions per subject were run. For each subject, a total of 120 minutes of observational data were collected. Individual and social behaviors of the 2 groups were recorded. A continuous focal animal sampling method was used to assess the amount of time spent in all behaviors.

Results of this study underline that both captive wildcats and domestic cats showed species-specific behaviors. However, captive wildcats performed more “not observed,” “vigilance,” and “scent marking” than domestic cats, whereas domestic cats performed more “individual sleeping” than captive wildcats.

In conclusion, findings of this study seem to suggest that behavioral differences between European wildcat and domestic cat are less common than are their similarities. However, further research on the behavior of wildcats is needed to improve the ex situ and in situ conservation of this species.

See also:
Oliveira R, Randi E, Mattucci F, et al. Toward a genome-wide approach for detecting hybrids: informative SNPs to detect introgression between domestic cats and European wildcats (Felis silvestris). Heredity (Edinb).2015 Sep;115(3):195-205.