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European Wildcat (Felis silvestris)

Diputación de Málaga
Gato Montés baja ARL

European Wildcat (Felis silvestris)

Reproduction Zeal Topping Hibernation
Animal Life > Mammals


It is a carnivore of medium to large size (head-body length 50 to 89 cm), very similar to a large domestic tabby cat. It has a robust body, with a wide  and long blunt tail (28 to 35 cm), finishing in a rounded and black tassel. It has short legs and  fingers with retractable nails. It has a big head with pointy mobile ears. Its snout has a flesh-coloured nose and dense and long moustache. It has a greyish brown coat with black stripes. It has a black ringed tail. The beard is black. It has great vision, hearing and sense of smell. They are very agile. Males are bigger than females.

Where does it live?

This species is linked to scrub areas and prefers mosaic environments where open areas alternate (hunting grounds, meadows, crops, scattered bushes) with forest patches or dense scrub and rocks (where it takes refuge). It is absent in urban environments, steppes and very open, semi-desert or humanized media.

How does it live?

It is a dusk and nocturnal animal. It is a great hunter of rodents and small mammals in general. It is also able to catch bigger prey like birds and rabbits. In fact, in the southern peninsula rabbits are more frequent, while in the north rodents are its main diet. It also eats fruits in autumn. They are very solitary and shy animals, a bit more diurnal in winter. Females are more sedentary whereas males travel a lot. Their territories range from 6 (♀) to 50 (♂) km 2. It uses tree holes or cracks in rocks to spend the hottest hours and rest.

How does it reproduce?

They are polygamous animal, but females play the lead role. A female can mate with several males (polygyny). The rutting period (only one per year) occurs at the end of winter. It consists of males racing for females and many fights between males. Births are concentrated in spring. The litter consists of 1 to 8 offspring. Cats are sexually active 10 months after their birth. They can live about 6 to 12 years.

Where can we see it in Málaga?

It is an uncommon species in Málaga. There are populations in most of mountain ranges and natural spaces over the province, except in coastal zones, and they are always in not very humanized areas. It is present, for example, in Sierra de las Nieves, the Ronda mountain ranges, Sierra de la Camorra, Antequera and El Chorro mountain ranges, the Cortes mounts, Sierra Tejeda and the northern Málaga Sierra. This species is hard to observe. In the Great Path, we can find on stages 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 17 and 19 to 29.

Curious facts

Among the wild cats there is what is known as "the male cats brotherhood". When two males meet for the first time, they tend to fight, but in later encounters, once they already know each other and have established a hierarchy, they empathise and cooperate to hunt and exploit the resources of a joint territory. To enter the brotherhood, young cats must challenge the elderly, which involves hard fighting and not always ending well with injuries. If they persevere and are finally accepted, although always keeping distance and submission to the dominant male, they enjoy great advantages.

Similar species

It is an unmistakable species. We can differentiate wild cats from domestic ones as they are larger and more robust. In addition, domestic cats tend to have a thin tail ending in a tip whereas wild cats have a rounded or wide ended tail.

More information