The Wild Cat

This animal is one of the most wide-spread species of the Cat tribe,

being found not only in America, but throughout nearly the whole

of Europe as well as in Northern Asia. In many parts of the United

States, where the wild cat was wont to flourish, it has become

exterminated, owing to civilization and the destruction of forest


Many naturalists are of the opinion that the wild cat is the original
progenitor of our domestic cat, but there is much difference of opinion

in regard to the subject. Although they bear great resemblance to

each other, there are several points of distinction between the

two; one of the most decided differences being in the comparative

length of the tails. The tail of the wild cat is little more than

half the length of that of the domestic cat, and much more bushy.

The color of the wild animal is much more uniform than in the great

raft of domestic mongrel specimens which make night hideous with

their discordant yowls, although we sometimes see a high bred individual

which, if his tail was cut off at half its length, might easily

pass as an example of the wild variety.

The ground tint of the fur in the wild cat is yellowish grey,

diversified with dark streaks over the body and limbs, much after

the appearance of the so-called tiger cat. A row of dark streaks

and spots extends along the spine, and the tail is thick, short

and bushy, tipped with black and encircled with a number of rings

of a dark hue. In some individuals the markings are less distinct,

and they are sometimes altogether wanting, but in the typical wild

cat they are quite prominent. The fur is rather long and thick,

particularly so during the winter season, and always in the colder

northern regions.

The amount of havoc which these creatures often occasion is surprising,

and their nocturnal inroads, in poultry yards and

sheep folds, render them most hated pests to farmers in the countries

where these animals abound. They seem to have a special appetite

for the heads of fowls, and will often decapitate a half dozen

in a single night, leaving the bodies in otherwise good condition

to tell the story of their midnight murders. The home of the wild

cat is made in some cleft of rock, or in the hollow of some aged

tree, from which the creature issues in the dark hours and starts

upon its marauding excursions. Its family numbers from three to

six, and the female parent is smaller than the male, the total

length of the latter being three feet.

Inhabiting the most lonely and inaccessible ranges of rock and

mountain, the wild cat is seldom seen during the daytime. At night,

like its domestic relative, he prowls far and wide, walking with

the same stealthy step and hunting his game in the same tiger-like

manner. He is by no means a difficult animal to trap, being easily

deceived and taking a bait without any hesitation. The wild cat

haunts the shores of lakes and rivers, and it is here that the

traps may be set for them. Having caught and killed one of the

colony, the rest of them can be easily taken if the body of the

dead victim be left near their hunting ground and surrounded with

the traps carefully set and concealed beneath leaves moss or the like.

Every wild cat that is in the neighborhood will be certain to visit

the body, and if the traps are rightly arranged many will be caught.

The trap No. 3, page 141 is generally used. We would caution the young

trapper in his approach to an entrapped wild cat, as the strength and

ferocity of this animal under such circumstances, or when otherwise

hard pressed, is perfectly amazing. When caught in a trap they

spring with terrible fury at any one who approaches them, not waiting

to be assailed, and when cornered or hemmed in by a hunter they

will often turn upon their pursuer, and springing at his face will

attack him with most consummate fury, often inflicting serious

and sometimes fatal wounds. When hunted and attacked by dogs, the

wild cat is a most desperate and untiring fighter, and extremely

difficult to kill, for which reason it has been truthfully said

that if a tame cat has nine lives, a wild cat must have a dozen.

The twitch-up, erected on a large scale, is utilized to a considerable

extent in England in the capture of these animals; and these, together

with steel traps and dead-falls, are about the only machines used

for their capture. We would suggest the garrote, bow and gun trap

also as being very effective. The bait may consist of the head

of a fowl or a piece of rabbit or fowl flesh: or, indeed, flesh

of almost any kind will answer, particularly of the bird kind.

In skinning the wild cat the same directions given under the head

of the Fox may be followed, or the pelt may be ripped up the belly

and spread on a hoop stretcher, page 275.