Although physically very close to the domestic cat that we know well, the deer cat or wild cat, is a species in its own right, with its own characteristics. It is very difficult to cross and observe this species, because its place of residence and its discretion make it easy to go unnoticed.
What is a sylvan cat?
The sylvan cat (Felis silvestris silvestris), came from the domestication of the African wild cat or gloved wild cat (Felix sylvestris lybica). The latter was introduced to Europe from Egypt by the Greeks and Romans in the first century BC. Over time, it colonized European forests, (the term silvestris meaning forest), and became that wild feline, which we know so little about. He is often confused with the domestic stray cat, which is only a domestic cat. (Felis silvestris catus) returned to the wild or haret cat. Note that the deer cat and the lynx are the only two species of wild felines in Europe.
Physical characteristics of the deer cat
The Sylvan cat has a gray or light fawn coat, slightly tabby, and a thicker tail than domestic cats, on which we can observe rings (from two to five rings). It also has a black stripe, starting from the shoulders and going to the base of the tail.
Deer cats are heavier and larger than domestic cats: they measure 78cm to 1m in length for males, and 73 to 89cm for females (tail included). They weigh 2 to 8kg for males, and 3 to 5.5kg for females. Sylvan cats have an average lifespan of 10 to 12 years.
The behavior of the deer cat
As the deer cat is very shy and avoids humans at all costs, very little is known about their behavior. Like domestic cats, although they are mainly nocturnal animals, they can still be active at any time of the day. Each individual has a territory of approximately 3km², which he marks by scratching trees. It rarely leaves its territory, and it can run up to a peak of 19.7 km / h.
Where can we find the sylvan cat?
The deer cat is a very difficult species to find. If for a time it covered almost the whole of Europe, deforestation due to man and climatic disturbances have strongly impacted the places where this species lives, which is now widely dispersed.
It is found today in the Scottish forests, some Spanish forests, in Italy, in the forests ranging from the south-east of Belgium, to the west of Germany, as well as in the forests covering all the south-east of Europe, and finally, in some French forests where we can find them in the north of the Ardennes, the south-west of Limousin and the east of Savoy as well as in all the Pyrenean departments.
Can we cross the sylvan cat?
The deer cat, although it is very tempting to go and observe it in its natural environment, is, as said above, a very discreet animal that avoids humans. So there is hardly a chance that you will ever meet a wild cat. If, however, you really want to try the adventure, you can go to one of the forests mentioned above, with enough to spend the night: you will have to stay awake, not to make a campfire to warm you up, to bring yourself glasses or night-vision binoculars, try to spot traces of scratches on tree trunks and settle down at night in a discreet and hidden place, with of course camouflage clothing. From there, all you have to do is wait, making as little noise as possible, looking around …
The deer cat is an amazing feline that fascinates with its discretion, just like the lynx. Almost never seeing it almost makes it almost a legendary animal, and as a human we only have to hope that this species, despite its small numbers, geographical dispersion and the ravages of the man in forest areas, can survive for a long time.