wildcat, common name of Old World cats ( Felis silvestris ) of Europe, Asia, and Africa. The wildcat resembles a large domestic tabby cat with a heavy tail; its fur is brownish to gray, with a pattern of light stripes. It can and does interbreed with domestic cats. There are more than 20 recognized subspecies. The Near Eastern, or African, wildcat ( F. silvestris lybica ) was apparently domesticated some 10,000 years ago, possibly when the cats began to prey on mice and rats attracted to ancient granaries, and is ancestral to the modern domestic cat. The name wildcat is also applied regionally to a variety of small cats. In North America it is a common name for the bobcat (see lynx).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.