Small Wild European Cats
One of my most favorite story characters is the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland. He is so cute and logical; you can not help adoring him. He is a fantastic hero, but domestic cats have many relatives in the wild world. I would like to consider small, European, wild cats.
The closest relative to the domestic cat is the European Wild Cat, or Felis sylvestris in Latin. It is supposed to be the ancestor for the domestic cats.
Its appearance is similar to the alley cats; it is greenish grey with the black stripes all over the body and tail. The tail is bushy and rounded; the tip of it is black. In comparison with the domestic cat, a wild one is bigger and has shorter legs. It can become up to 30 inches long, with another 15 inches for the tail. Its height is about 14 – 16 inches. Its distinguishing feature is four lengthwise stripes on its head.
As for its habitat, a wild cat prefers the deciduous woodland and mountain areas, but also lives in grasslands and near water. It is spread all through
The species lives alone on the territories of 100 acres each, but in spring, cats can cooperate to protect their territories.
As to the behavior, the Wild Cat is mostly a night hunter. The main hunting hours are dusk (1 – 1.5 hours before sunset) and dawn (one hour after sunrise).
Usually they hunt everything that is smaller than them, like small rodents, lizards, birds, and sometimes they attack small deer. They usually stalk the prey until the prey gets close and then rush to kill it.
The breeding period begins in late January and ends at the beginning of April. At this time, the cats are extremely noisy. The gestation period lasts 65 days and the female gives birth to one to eight blind, furry kittens. The kittens become mature after ten months. All this time they stay with the mother.
Another relative that lives in
Lynxes are extremely shy and secretive animals that are hard to observe. The distinguishing features of a lynx are a powerful body, short tail, long, sturdy, densely furred legs; the fur appears even on the sole. These help the lynx to deal with the deep snow. Other features like whiskers and black tufts on the ends of their ears distinguish them.
Let us consider the Eurasian Lynx first. Its coats color changes gradually as its range moves from the north to the south. A coat can be grayish with yellow tint in
Long ago lynxes were widely spread through
One of the reasons for their extinction was lack of territory due to the farming growth. The average territory for the male lynx is 264±23km2 and for female is 168±64km2. They prefer mountain forests and woodlands, but also can be found in woodless areas. Males and females use their territory differently. Males try to use all of territory equally, while females have a special core part that is used more intensively.
On these territories they hunt for small ungulates like roe dears chamois. Also they hunt birds, rabbits, hares, and sometimes fish. They tend to switch to bigger food like deer in Winter, while catching rabbits and birds in summer. Mostly they are active at dusk and dawn. The hunting technique they use is laying in ambush and then leaping swiftly on their prey.
The mating period begins in January and lasts until March. Then after two months 1 – 4 blind kittens are born in the den made in the hollow of a tree, among rocks, or in scrub brush. They stay with the mother until the next spring.
The smaller kind of lynx is called Iberian Lynx. As noted above it is similar to the Eurasian but has some peculiarities.
The first peculiarity is it is smaller. The maximum weight is forty pounds and average length forty inches.
The second peculiarity is that it lives only on the
The third and the main one is their diet. The main prey is the rabbit and hare, followed by small mammals and birds. Such strict specialization brought that population to the extinction point (only 1000 cat left).
These three things cause the difference in hunting techniques.These three types of cats (Wild Cat, Lynx Lynx, Lynx Pardinus) play the main roles in the ecosystem of Europe. Other types of cats have very small populations.