Wildcats are striking, handsome and powerful, the very essence of a wild predator. Sadly, Scottish wildcats are one of the country’s most endangered mammals, having been pushed to the edge of extinction. Urgent action is needed to save this native species before it is lost forever.
Scottish wildcats look similar to large tabby cats but have a number of key differences, including a thick tail with a blunt, black tip and black rings along its length. They also have a wide black stripe running along their back, and stripes along their flanks and forehead. Scottish wildcats are also more heavily set than domestic cats, with some large males weighing up to 8kg.
Though once present across most of Britain, our last remaining native cat species now survives only in parts of the Scottish Highlands, where its main threat comes from feral cats. It is thought that there are more than 800,000 feral cats in the UK, though some estimates are as high as 1.5 million.
The main problem is hybridisation (interbreeding) of Scottish wildcats with feral cats because it dilutes the gene pool and increases the risk of disease. To help combat this issue, an extensive programme of humanely trapping feral cats, neutering and vaccinating them, before releasing them back into the wild began in spring 2016.
RSPB Scotland is a partner of Scottish Wildcat Action - the first national conservation plan with a vision to restore viable populations of Scottish wildcats north of the Highland line.