All Scottish wildcats and kittens should be DNA tested for purebred status

NEWS AND OPINION: There is a nice story about Scottish wildcats today reported by the Daily Record. It concerns three Scottish wildcat kittens at the Five Sisters Zoo in West Calder, near Livingston. On their first medical they discovered that they have two boys and one girl. They look very much like Scottish wildcats with their tabby coats and slightly fierce appearance which is exactly the way you want it. The photograph on this page is from the Daily Record. There next job is to name them and they are looking for suggestions on their Facebook page.

Scottish wildcat kitten at his first medical
Scottish wildcat kitten at his first medical. Photo: Five Sisters Zoo, via the Daily Record.

The report states that there are an estimated 35 Scottish wildcat in the wild in Scotland and that they are 50 times rarer than a giant panda. They may actually be rarer than that. In fact, they may no longer exist in purebred form. There's been so much interbreeding between domestic and feral cats and Scottish wildcats that it is plausible to argue that there are no purebred Scottish wildcats left in captivity or in the wild.

I don't know if any wildcats in zoos are purebred, such as these three darling kittens. I think that zoos should confirm to the public that they are genuine Scottish wildcats with no dilution of their DNA through crossbreeding with non-purebred Scottish wildcats.

Where a wild cat becomes extinct or is becoming extinct through interbreeding with other species of cat, it is beholden upon zookeepers who are in the business of conservation, they state, to make sure that they are caring for the genuine item and not a hybrid. For all I know these beautiful kittens may be hybrids and if they are you can't call them Scottish wildcats. One issue is that the appearance of a Scottish wildcat hybrid is very similar to the genuine article.

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I don't want to be too negative because it's a nice story but I've seen quite a lot of estimates as to the number of Scottish wildcats left in the wild over the years and they are just that: estimates. This leads me to believe that there may be none left which is a stark realisation.

Although people refer to this species of wild cat as a "Scottish wildcat" it is possibly or probably fairer to call this cat a European wildcat. I don't know whether it is true that there is a subspecies of wildcat called the Scottish wildcat. 

Also, please note that I use the word "wildcat" and the phrase "wild cat" for a specific reason. The phrase "wild cat" refers to any individual cat of any wild cat species whereas the word "wildcat" in my opinion refers to the species which is the 'wildcat'. It is complicated but I'm being particular about this.

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