Meet Scotland’s Cutest Predator

Maddie MacKenna

Hello my beautiful readers,

Scotland is rife with fauna of all kinds. Deer, boar, birds and fish are some of the most ordinary kinds of animals you can find both in the Highlands and the Lowlands. 

But, personally, I have a favorite. I know I might be biased because I do love kittens, but this species is best left alone and away from human contact. But they are adorable!

Meet the Scottish Wildcat: one of the most endangered species in Britain. The wild Scottish cat has been for nearly 9000 years a wild animal and is never really going to entirely trust humans.

Scottish wildcat (Felis silvestris grampia). Credit: Alamy. Image source.

Facts about them

Britain used to be home to many great animals: lynx, wolves, bears…wildcats. The saddest part? Only wildcats still remain, and these are critically endangered

This…kitty looks (to you and me) like any other domestic cat you might keep as a pet. It used to be distributed all over Britain equally, but due to loss of habitat and hybridization with the domestic cat, its population has declined drastically. It is now found mostly to North and East Scotland, and the woodlands of Scottish Highlands. 

Wildcats differ from domestic kitties by their larger, heavier skull and longer limb-bones. Its fur is distinctly solid-striped with a tabby patterning. It has a bushy, ringed tail that is black at the tip, blunt, and without stripes. And they only breed once a year!

They hunt mostly at night, and usually don’t form ‘colonies’. They hunt alone, mostly small rodents and rabbits, and while male territories might overlap with other males’ or females’, female territories are strictly off the limits of other females. Those mamas have to protect their young!

Scottish Wildcat shows its fangs, 2013. Image source.

Saving the Highlands Tiger

To preserve the species, many organizations have neutered and vaccinated domestic cats that roam the same Highland grounds as the wildcat. As mentioned before, the biggest problem for this species is hybridization with their domestic cousin, as well as the spread of various diseases. 

However, this effort is not without its problems. Many of the now-neutered cats were already hybrids, which make them harder to catch: they are wary of humans and have heightened skills as predators. 

Better use of the land is also a major issue that would help these wild felines. As a vast majority of Scottish lands are used as farms, another part is deforested and another populated with sheep and deer, the wildcat has little natural ground to make its den. Also, humans are playing a vital role in its extinction, as many farmers and hunters kill these predators to protect their animals, mainly rabbits and specific species of birds. 

Often referred to as Highland tigers, due to its untamable nature, this wildcat is in grave danger. I sure hope that its population can finally bounce back!

Look at this beautiful video:

Do you find them as adorable as I do?

Let me know in the comments!

Until next time…

Written by Maddie MacKenna

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