Saturday, 17 August 2013

Feral Cat

A feral cat lies dead on a road in Namadgi National Park
While driving through Namadgi National Park yesterday I came across a dead cat lying in the road. It was still in good condition, although had been killed probably during the previous night. On closer inspection I was struck at how these feral pests have reverted towards their original type pelage of brown stripes on a grey base.

Considering how there has long-been a fashion for boldly marked cats within the pet market, such as black and white, or long or short-coated, and these are the source of many feral cats, such colourations are seldom seen in the wild. Not by me anyway. The last cat I saw in the wild was also in Namadgi and it was of similar colour and size. One driving force is likely selective predation by, for example eagles. I have not seen feral cats killed by eagles in Australia, but in Scotland where I have done much more study of eagle prey, I have found the remains of pie-bald cats, but none of type-coloured animals. Any boldly marked cats are more likely to be seen and killed first. Evolution in action, a second time around.

The markings are feint, but true of type.
This animal is close to the true European subspecies of the wildcat Felis silvestris silvestris, with the generally striped body and ringed tail, although the disruption of the stripes into spots are indicative of domestic cat Felis catus. As the tail is quite thickly haired, it does not fit the form of any warmer climate sub-species such as African (Felis silvestris libyca) from which the domestic cat is considered to have originated, or Asian Felis silvestris ornata, which have slender tails. Nor is the tail really thick and club-shaped with thick continuous dark rings as in the Scottish Wildcat. So, I would conclude that this cat's ancestry originates from a mixed European domestic stock.

The thick, ringed tail is indicative of a European wildcat type

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