What’s new pussy cat?

September 29, 2011 § 2 Comments


Scottish wildcat at the Highland Wildlife Park

Romance is blossoming at the Highland Wildlife Park between two of the rarest animals in the UK—a pair of Scottish wildcats.

Two-year-old bachelor Fluffy and more experienced five-year-old female Betty have been getting to know each other after keepers introduced them four weeks ago.  

Animal Collection Manager Douglas Richardson said: “The early signs are fairly promising, with Fluffy trying to initiate play but at the same time he is very respectful of the older female. We are very hopeful that they will breed in the future. Fluffy had a difficult start in life. He was abandoned as a five or six week old kitten and was partially hand-reared back to strength, but he is a bit on the small side.

“Cross breeding between wildcats and domesticated cats means it’s often difficult to tell how ‘pure’ a wildcat is but given the results from the current genetic test, both Fluffy and Betty seem to be good examples.  It’s thought there are only about 400 wildcats remaining in the wild so any kittens would be a huge boost to the conservation of this critically endangered native species.”

Fluffy and Betty aren’t the only wildcat couple at the Highland Wildlife Park.  Established pair Hamish and Suzie had two kittens on March 23rd 2011.Keepers have just named the latest additions to the wildcat family, taking inspiration from Lochs in the local area—the female kitten is named Alvie after Loch Avlie and the male kitten is named Garton after Loch Garton.

Scottish wildcat taking a nap

While at first glance a Scottish wildcat might not look very different from a domestic cat its broader head, blunt, blunt, dark-tipped, ringed tail and striped coat make it distinct.

Woodlands in the Highlands are some of the last remaining strongholds of these rare native animals which are under threat from habitat loss and disease, but interbreeding with domestic cats is the greatest threat they face.

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, which operates Edinburgh Zoo and the Highland Wildlife Park, is a partner of the Cairngorms Wildcat Projectwhich aims to gather more data on and protect the remaining wildcat population. Our genetics research unit is also working with other partners to develop a definitive genetic test.

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