With only an estimated 35 of these gorgeous cats left in the entire world, spotting 2 Scottish Wildcats kittens is just about one of the rarest occurrences that can happen!
In the Scottish Highlands, a man saw 2 sets of shiny tiny eyes peering out at him from the nearby forest. Many residents in the area are well aware of the local native feline and of a rescue organization attempting to save the cat from becoming extinct.
Scottish Wildcat Haven have spread word of their goal since 2008.
They ask the public to send photographs of any possible sightings of the rare and elusive cats, meaning any ferals/strays that resemble a Tabby cat.
They are also reminded NOT to interfere with the aggressive cats for everyone’s safety. Chief scientific adviser for the organization, Dr. Paul O’Donoghue, will then review the evidence to see if the feline is one of the pure blood wildcats or a domestic cat in need of assistance.
The main issue threatening this species is that with so few of these cats left, locating another pure blood to mate with is an almost impossible task. This leaves only the local feral population of domestic cats, which then dilutes the gene pool. Wildcat Haven has been working on TNR to spay & neuter the feral domestics in the area to avoid this, still allowing the feral cats to have a high quality of life.
So when Dr. O’Donoghue saw the purrticular photograph in this case, he almost “fell off his chair”!
The two young kittens had all the signs of the extraordinary wildcat; tabby-like stripes, light brown fur around their mouths and a distinctive fluffy tail. “Their tails are thick and ringed with perfect bands of black and brown ending in a blunt black tip, the dorsal stripe should end at the base of the spine and not continue onto the tail,” reads the description on the Scottish Wildcat Haven’s website.
Many times the mother cats will leave their young to go hunt, so before any action was taken to capture the kittens, the team needed to monitor them closely. Wildcat Haven detailed their attempts to ensure their Facebook followers they did everything they could to locate a mother.
“The area was heavily searched, all places the kittens had been seen by members of the public had motion sensor cameras placed on them to identify a searching mother. An experienced wildlife filmmaker made a full search of the area over several days, including speaking to local people for additional sightings info. Leaving them alone any longer would have risked them getting run over, attacked by a dog, taken by well meaning members of the public or dying from dehydration. They were very weak when the rescue was carried out. A couple of weeks and there is still no sign of a mother. The last thing we want to do is take kittens from a mother in the wild.”
“A likely den site was found and part of her territorial boundary, but there was no sign of her at all, and she would certainly have been looking for the kittens if she had been able to.”
“It seems like they were still staying at the den whilst she hunted, one day she didn’t come back and over the next couple of nights they moved slowly out looking for her using a dry drainage ditch for cover, probably driven by hunger; they were very weak when rescued.“
These Scottish wildcat kittens are very much part of #GenerationWildcat & their off-spring may make their way back into the wild. The crucial work being done by @rzss provides a vital safety net for the species which is critically endangered in the wild pic.twitter.com/eigTRFKQnA
— Scottish Wildcat Action (@SaveOurWildcats) July 25, 2018
After a good meal and restful night’s sleep, the brother and sister siblings began to show their natural “cattitudes”.
The Scottish Wildcat is full of hiss and spit so to speak, aggressively displaying their wild sides. Luckily they showed no signs of trauma or injuries and were able to move to the next phase of their rescue.
This meant being released into the wild. However this time the 2 kittens will have a large fenced-in acre of forested area. Partnering up with Highland Titles, a conservation group preserving the natural landscapes, hundreds of square miles within the Highlands have been cleared of all non-altered feral cats to help the threatened breed remain.
Here, veterinarians will still be nearby to monitor their growth and ensure their survival. This will allow them to grow up in a safe environment, still within the wilderness, until they are able to be released back into the wild. They will also be fitted with GPS trackers when fully released.
Unfortunately, there is no confirmed genetic testing for Scottish wildcats to date that can prove 100% pure bloodlines. The markings in their coat tend to be the most definitive guide but because they are so young, these can still change.
If they are later found to be a high percentage of hybrid, they will be neutered before being released. So far everyone involved agrees their personalities during medical exams and fur patterns are showing all the traits of pure blood Scottish Wildcats though.
Fortunately for these felines, there is another group working hard on their behalf to keep the species alive. Alladale Wilderness conservation team announced an exciting update on their Facebook page just this week as well! =)