wildcat, common name of Old World cats ( Felis sylvestris ) 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. The five subspecies are the European, Near Eastern, Southern African, Central Asian, and Chinese desert cats. The Near Eastern wildcat ( F. sylvestris 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).
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