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 lands.
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 [Page 167] 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.