African and Asiatic wildcat
African and Asiatic wildcat
It is the ancestor of the domestic cat, which differs so little from tamed cats that they give birth to fertile hybrid kittens. There are two subspecies, one lives in Africa and the other in Asia.
They are the size of the domestic cat. The colours vary from yellow-grey to dark grey. Cats living in areas with dense vegetation are usually darker, and those inhabiting semi-deserts – brighter. They have marks in the form of dots and stripes.
They have a bit longer paws than home cats, but they have the same slanted pupils and they can see well at night.
What’s interesting, Asiatic and African wildcats – depending on the worm population – are able to give birth to larger litters when their main victims increase in numbers. They also feed on arachnids and lizards. Occasionally, they catch birds. They track prey and attack, having the advantage in surprise. They do not waste the opportunity when they find a dead animal or small animals locked in the pen.
They are active day and night. They climb well, but they do not use this technique for hunting. They are loners, defending their territory, marked with an individual smell. Females do not differ from males in this respect.
They are able to adapt to different conditions, although they prefer warmth. They can live in deserts, semi-deserts, in forests and in the mountains. They do not appear only in tropical forests, probably because of too much competition. They do not venture deep into the deserts and do not like snow. They are able to co-exist with people and often settle close to human residences.
They use dens created by other animals and caves as a resting place. They do not need permanent access to water. They can survive a long time,
taking all appropriate liquids exclusively from their victims.
The breeding season of African and Asiatic wildcats varies depending on the areas they occupy. Mothers teach two-month youngsters ways of hunting, by bringing them wounded victims. After about a year from birth, those cats are fertile. Males fight for the right to mate with a female because she chooses only one partner for a given heat period.
The main threat to African and Asiatic wildcats is mixing with domestic cats. It causes the degradation of wild genes of this species. Feral and outgoing domestic cats are also competitors in the fight for food, and the diseases they carry also attack wildcats.
Threat also comes from people as they kill these cats in a fit of revenge for hunting farm animals. Dogs and larger predators are also dangerous for them.
Wildcats have less and less wild habitats on which they can thrive. As worms and rodents are pests for people, they decided to take care of that problem themselves. By poisoning and exterminating the victims of the wildcat, they infect its health and limit the population.
The number of genetically pure African and Asiatic wildcats in the world is constantly decreasing.
Author: Małgorzata Banaszkiewicz
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