Spatial colonization by feral domestic cats Felis catus of former wildcat Felis silvestris silvestris home ranges

Pedro Sarmento*, Maria Joana Pereira Da Cruz, Catarina Eira, Carlos Fonseca

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Presently, wildcat Felis silvestris silvestris Schreber, 1777 populations are fragmented and rapidly declining in most of Europe. Although habitat destruction possibly constitutes the most serious threat to wildcat survival, hybridisation with feral domestic cats is also a critical problem. However, the mechanisms that allow domestic cats to colonise former wild cat home ranges are yet unclear. The present paper describes the decrease of typical phenotypic wildcats and the increase of phenotypic domestic cats in a remote wild area of Portugal (Serra da Malcata). A field survey using box-traps and radio-tracking between 1998 and 2001 revealed that wildcats were widespread in the study area and no domestic cats were present. A second survey using camera traps between 2005 and 2007 revealed only one wildcat whereas four typical domestic phenotype individuals were photographed. The present study clearly emphasizes the need for urgent measures aimed at preserving wildcat populations. These measures should include a national census of the species and an extensive monitoring of genetic integrity of wildcat populations, followed by the elaboration of a wildcat conservation action plan.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-38
Number of pages8
JournalActa theriologica
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2009


  • Camera-trapping
  • Competition
  • Conservation action plan
  • Regression

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