We love cats to the extent that we try to give them the best, from the best cat food, playpen, wall mounted cat bed and even a good potty area. But do you know that there are wild cats roaming around in Europe and in fact, they are growing quite a lot in number?
Wild Cats vs Domestic Cats Wild Cats vs Domestic Cats
Wild cats are typically larger than domestic cats. They also have a more powerful body and a thicker coat of fur. Domestic cats are smaller in size, with a thinner coat of fur, and usually have one to four kittens at a time. Domestic cats are most often seen as pets for their companionship, while wild cats are primarily hunted for their meat or their skins. The distinction between wild and domesticated animals is not always clear-cut, however. There may be some hybrid animals that fall into both categories, such as the Jungle Cat which is the result of breeding domestic cats with wildcats.
Wild Cats Background
The recent search by BUND Naturschutz (BN) for one of the rarest Bavarian forest dwellers was successful! In the most recent wildcat monitoring in 2019/2020, numerous stocks were confirmed and there were some new finds. Between 2013 and 2015, around 500 volunteers had already proven that the wild cat had returned to the large forest areas of northern Bavaria and is now slowly spreading to southern Bavaria.
Wild cats roamed the forests of Europe long before the Romans brought the first domestic cats over the Alps from Africa. Although they bear a great resemblance to their domesticated relatives (see wildcat profile ), they are a separate species. Prehistoric bone finds show that our Stone Age ancestors already knew wildcats: Felis silvestris, as it is scientifically named, was found more than 300,000 years ago occasionally captured by hunter-gatherers.
The distribution area of the wild cat extended into almost all suitable habitats of the entire European continent until the 20th century. However, merciless persecution and the loss of large old forest areas affected the stocks so severely that the wildcat was extinct in large parts of Germany by the middle of the 20th century. In Bavaria it was considered extinct after 1940.
In 1984, about 40 years later, the BUND Naturschutz started a renaturalization campaign on the initiative of its then state chairman Hubert Weinzierl. More than 600 wild cats had to be released into the wild before it was certain by 2009 that the species in the Spessart would reproduce independently again. Today we observe the spread of the animals into the Rhön and the association with their relatives from Thuringia and Hesse.
Overall, the reintroduction of the wild cat is one of the BUND Naturschutz’s greatest success stories: In 2002 there were only two reliable records in Bavaria, by 2014 there were already 546. Today, experts assume there are around 500 wild cats in Bavaria.
The results of the large-scale wildcat gene inventory of 2014 were sensational. The BUND Naturschutz (BN) and the Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz (BUND) had used decoy sticks to determine where the wildcat had now gained a foothold in Bavaria.
Read also: How the Federal Environment Agency Fools the Media into a Trend Against Pesticides
Wild Cats In Europe
Outside of Germany, wild cats can also be found in Spain, Portugal, Scotland, Italy, on the Balkans, in eastern France right down to Belgium. Presumably due to the large-scale isolation of the areas, there is no longer any significant exchange between these deposits.
There are currently more wild cats in Eastern Europe than in Western and Central Europe. However, due to (sometimes illegal) hunting and a lack of protection management, their numbers are declining faster than in other areas.