The European wildcat may be mistaken frequently for the common house cat or a domesticated cat gone feral, but it is a separate species, and a wild one at that. Fortunately, because of legal protection and conservation measures, they have grown slightly in numbers to an estimated 450-900 in a region of Switzerland. Hunting in previous centuries drove their populations dangerously low. The species is believed to be extinct in the Netherlands, and possibly also in the Czech Republic. They remain remote from humans, and need dense forests to thrive. Since they are so difficult to spot, researchers soak logs with valerian (the cats like to rub against it) to collect the fur they leave which is gathered and examined with DNA analysis.
The small wild cats live in the media shadow of lions, and tigers, but they too are suffering from declining populations. One researcher explained, “I had been doing my PhD on the Guigna, which is small forest cat in the south of Chile that had never been studied before. All we had to go on was one picture of one living individual. The total extent of our knowledge of this cat was that picture and some stomach content of museum specimens, the last of which had been collected in 1919. Given these circumstances, people were very discouraging and funding was almost non-existent, but nevertheless I took a crack at it. ” (Source: Mongabay.com)
Little or no information exists for some of the small ones, such as the Javan fishing cat. Conservation of these cats is just as important, though they clearly receive less attention.
Image Credit: Michael Gäbler