The most serious threat to the Scottish wildcat now comes from feral domestic cats, because:

  • inter-breeding (hybridisation) is reducing the number of pure-bred wildcats - this makes defining a true wildcat extremely difficult
  • diseases such as feline leukaemia virus are spreading and have already been detected in wildcats in Scotland

It is currently legal to control feral cats, and confusion between feral cats, wildcats and hybrids is having a major impact.

Habitat alteration and hunting pressure were probably responsible for the original decline of the species in Britain, and this is still true today.

Wildcats were treated as vermin by gamekeepers, and the extent of current accidental killing is unclear.

Road traffic deaths are also a common cause of mortality in the Scottish wildcat.

Since 1988 the wildcat has been a protected species, listed on schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It is therefore illegal to kill a wildcat except under license.

The wildcat is also a European Protected Species under the Habitats and Species Directive.

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