Saturday, May 22, 2021

Do wild cats breed with domestic cats?

The question is asking whether any one of the 36 or 37 wild cat species is able to mate with a domestic cat to create a wild cat hybrid? And the answer is yes but it depends upon the wild cat species. Not all can mate with domestic cats. 

The best known small wild cat species that can successfully mate with the domestic cat are: the serval producing the Savannah cat, the leopard cat producing the Bengal cat, the jungle cat producing the Chausie and Geoffroy’s cat producing the Safari cat. As it happens, I have a fairly comprehensive list on another page which you can read by clicking on this link. You can read about these cat breeds by clicking here.

Loki an abandoned high filial Savannah cat. At BCR now. Safe but anxious
Loki an abandoned high filial Savannah cat. At BCR (Big Cat Rescue) now. Safe but anxious. Photo in public domain.

The size of the wildcat is a factor on whether it can successfully mate with the much smaller domestic cat. For example, the serval is a medium-to-large wild cat. The male serval does mate with the domestic cat in breeding catteries to create the F1 Savannah but these wild cat hybrids are very expensive at around $20,000, which tells us that the mating of these two cat species is problematic. We don't know how many failures there are and how cruel the process is. It is unnatural for sure. The physical issues would seem to be a barrier to me. 

Perhaps the best known and most popular wild cat hybrid is the Bengal which is a mainstream cat breed these days. But you'll be adopting an F5 normally; a cat with little wild cat DNA in her. They are very similar to regular domestic cats. F1 Bengal cats are as are all the first filial wild cat hybrids.

There was some resistance to accepting them in the fancy as there were fears that they'd be too wild and aggressive. That fear has subsided and the wild cat hybrid is now fully accepted and the high filials are considered exotic animals to treasure. They are status symbols for the rich.

There is actually a problem with the Scottish wildcat mating with outside domestic cats and feral cats producing hybrids which the world does not want because they are non-purebred Scottish wildcats and the look like the genuine article. 

In Africa the African wildcats often mate with domestic cats living in settlements. These are all hybrids and so you end up with the purity of the African wildcat being diluted and not knowing for sure which individual cats are purebred or not. In other words, the conservation of the African wildcat on the continent of Africa is being undermined by this hybridisation which takes place informally.

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