Wildcat, any of the many kinds of small, undomesticated cats. Wildcats are native to nearly all parts of the world, but the name is usually applied to the European wildcat and to the North American bobcat. The European wildcat is yellowish-gray to dark gray with dark stripes on the head, body, and legs. The tail has several dark bands and is black at the tip. The European wildcat weighs 7 to 18 pounds (3 to 8 kg) and reaches a length of 44 inches (112 cm), including a 14-inch (36-cm) tail. It sleeps in hollow trees during the day and emerges at night to feed on birds and rodents. The European wildcat once ranged from Europe to central Asia. It has disappeared from densely settled areas but is still found in northern Scotland and in wooded, mountainous regions of the European continent.
Lynxes (LIHNGKS uhz) are large wildcats. They live in parts of Europe, Asia, and North America. Many kinds of lynxes live in cold, snowy climates. But cold and snow don’t seem to bother them. During winter, these lynxes have thick fur coats. They also have large paws that are covered by thick fur. Their paws act like snowshoes and help them chase their main prey—rabbits and hares—over snow-covered ground.
A lynx has a very distinct look. Its ears are pointed. They are dark brown or black in color. At the end of each ear is a tuft of black hair. A lynx has a short, stubby tail and long fur. At the end of winter, the animal sheds its winter fur. This helps a lynx stay cool when the weather isn’t so cold.
The fishing cat is a small wildcat that lives near water and is a good fisher. Unlike most pet cats, this wildcat doesn’t let a little water bother it. In fact, the fishing cat is an excellent swimmer and diver. But what makes a fishing cat a really good fisher is its patience.
A fishing cat will wait long and quietly near the edge of a stream for fish to swim by. When a fish finally passes, the wild cat lashes out with a paw and bats the fish ashore. Then it quickly bites the fish with its sharp teeth.
Fishing cats live in tropical forests and swamps of southeastern Asia. One of these stocky wild cats weighs up to 33 pounds (15 kilograms).
None are, really. But the serval is a wildcat that looks as if it is made from the leftover parts of other animals. This wildcat has a long, thin body and a small head—like a cheetah. A serval also has long, deerlike legs. To top it off, a serval has long, rounded ears—like those of a wolf.
Servals live in the grasslands and woodlands of Africa. Their prey include mice, hares, rats, and lizards. Even the smallest sounds made by their prey can be picked up by their huge ears. When servals hear prey scuffling around, they use their long legs to leap high up into the air. Then they pounce on their prey. When the servals land, they pin their prey down with their paws.
All over the world, wild cats are losing their habitats as people cut down forests and clear grasslands for farms and cities. The cats lose their territories, so they can no longer find food or shelter. And although laws protect many wild cats, many hunters still poach, or hunt these animals illegally.
Today, people are making efforts to protect wild cats. Some governments protect natural lands so these animals will continue to have habitats. Also, some zoos now breed endangered wild cats. Releasing these cats back into their natural habitats may help them flourish in the wild once more.
The European wildcat is Felis sylvestris of the family Felidae.