Scottish Wildcat

Wildcats are truly wild cats and are perhaps the most difficult animals to see in the wild in Scotland. They are experts at keeping out of the way of humans.

This predominantly grey coloured cat has a distinctive bushy tail with seven black bands around it. On average, the wildcat is bigger than a domestic cat, and despite many photographs suggesting otherwise, their ears are similar in both size and structure to a domestic cat’s.

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Discover more about the Scottish Wildcat

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When to see

Wildcats are very shy and are mostly active during the night. However in early summer when a female is rearing young, she may be seen hunting in daylight, in both early morning and in the evening due to the longer day length in northern latitudes. At this time prey species may include rabbits, in particular the younger more inexperienced ones which are easier to catch. They also hunt birds, mice and voles.

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Where to see

Remnant populations of wildcats exist in Aberdeenshire, Moray and the Highland region. They are found in forested areas, in juniper scrub and on heather moorland where there are suitable rock outcrops to shelter in. In areas with trees a wildcat, when disturbed, will often climb into a Scots pine tree or juniper bush to avoid contact and it will then remain very still, relying on its barred coat colour to remain camouflaged.

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Did you know?

This species is threatened by the number of feral domestic cats that now live in the wild and with whom they compete for food. There are probably no more than 2,000 wildcats surviving. Although this animal is protected in law, it is still killed by some land managers in Scotland because it is a predator. There has been no successful prosecution because it is impossible to distinguish a true wildcat from some feral cats at a distance.

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Related species

Pine Marten

Binoculars Icon Blue
When to see

Wildcats are very shy and are mostly active during the night. However in early summer when a female is rearing young, she may be seen hunting in daylight, in both early morning and in the evening due to the longer day length in northern latitudes. At this time prey species may include rabbits, in particular the younger more inexperienced ones which are easier to catch. They also hunt birds, mice and voles.

Map Icon Blue
Where to see

Remnant populations of wildcats exist in Aberdeenshire, Moray and the Highland region. They are found in forested areas, in juniper scrub and on heather moorland where there are suitable rock outcrops to shelter in. In areas with trees a wildcat, when disturbed, will often climb into a Scots pine tree or juniper bush to avoid contact and it will then remain very still, relying on its barred coat colour to remain camouflaged.

Book Icon Blue
Did you know?

This species is threatened by the number of feral domestic cats that now live in the wild and with whom they compete for food. There are probably no more than 2,000 wildcats surviving. Although this animal is protected in law, it is still killed by some land managers in Scotland because it is a predator. There has been no successful prosecution because it is impossible to distinguish a true wildcat from some feral cats at a distance.

Dolphin Icon Blue
Related species

Pine Marten

Binoculars Icon Blue
When to see

Wildcats are very shy and are mostly active during the night. However in early summer when a female is rearing young, she may be seen hunting in daylight, in both early morning and in the evening due to the longer day length in northern latitudes. At this time prey species may include rabbits, in particular the younger more inexperienced ones which are easier to catch. They also hunt birds, mice and voles.

Map Icon Blue
Where to see

Remnant populations of wildcats exist in Aberdeenshire, Moray and the Highland region. They are found in forested areas, in juniper scrub and on heather moorland where there are suitable rock outcrops to shelter in. In areas with trees a wildcat, when disturbed, will often climb into a Scots pine tree or juniper bush to avoid contact and it will then remain very still, relying on its barred coat colour to remain camouflaged.

Book Icon Blue
Did you know?

This species is threatened by the number of feral domestic cats that now live in the wild and with whom they compete for food. There are probably no more than 2,000 wildcats surviving. Although this animal is protected in law, it is still killed by some land managers in Scotland because it is a predator. There has been no successful prosecution because it is impossible to distinguish a true wildcat from some feral cats at a distance.

Dolphin Icon Blue
Related species

Pine Marten