The Prowling Predators: Intriguing Facts About Wildcat Behaviour

Tigers, lions, jaguars, cheetahs and other felines are beautiful, intelligent and fascinating to study. Many big cats feature in movies, story books, plays and movies, with The Tiger Who Came To Tea being a great example of theatre for preschoolers. But what do you know about wildcats? Unlike domestic cats, these creatures are ferrel with extreme survival instincts. So let’s find out more about the behaviour of these prowling predators.


What are Wildcats?

There are over 40 species of wildcat in the world. The family Felidae is made up of two subfamilies: Pantherinae which is constituted by the seven big cats and Felinae which represents the 33 small cats. Small wild cats include the African golden cat, Andean mountain cat, Bornean bay cat, Canada lynx, caracal, Eurasian lynx, fishing cat, flat-headed cat and more. The wildcat was also once common over most of the British Isles, but it’s now only found in Scotland and is under threat, with an estimated 400 remaining.


Here’s a rundown of some common wildcat traits.


Wildcats are Solitary Hunters

Wildcats are extremely territorial and enjoy living and hunting alone. They’re solitary creatures, with males marking territories of around 250 acres with urine, faeces and scratch marks on trees. Small glands on the bottom of their feet also release a unique scent, warning other wild cats not to trespass on their turf. In human terms, cats live a postcode war and are not at all amused when another creature crosses their boundary - especially if they have a mate. That said, wildcats will leave their territory to find a mate in early spring. They may also group up with other cats to defend their territory and to hunt prey.


They are Creatures of Habit

Wildcats hunt at dawn and dusk when it’s cooler, searching for prey to add to their carnivorous diet. Wildcats ambush their prey, stalking and attacking a wide range of creatures including small rodents such as mice and rats, moles, shrews, rabbits and birds. They also hunt other small animals including lizards, snakes and large insects.


When hunting is over, wildcats preserve their energy by resting throughout the day. If it’s sunny or warm, wildcats will bask on tree branches. This is particularly true for African wildcats who live in very hot climates. Wildcats like to be up high to protect themselves from larger predators and to keep an eye on their surroundings. They also make cosy dens which help them to feel safe, particularly under tree stumps, in old badger setts or among rock piles.


The Gestation Period of Wildcats is just 65 Days

Wildcats mate in spring, with male cats howling and screeching all through the night to find a female mate. Once pregnant, it takes just 65 days for wildcat offspring to be born and the average mother gives birth to four kittens in one litter. The kittens suckle for around 30 days and then leave the den at around four to five weeks. They learn essential hunting skills from around nine weeks by wrestling with each other and watching their mum in action from a safe distance. Male cats take no part in rearing their young.


If you love theatre, family shows such as The Tiger Who Came to Tea are ideal. Theatre shows for under 5s don’t get much better, with sing-along songs, magical and clumsy chaos all packed in. So if you’re a big cat fan and fancy a day to remember, book your tickets today.