Yes, domestic cats can and do mate (breed) with wildcats. There is a slight complication in answering the question to do with definitions. The word ‘wildcat’ means the species of wild cat called ‘wildcats’! They are one species of small wild cat divided into four subspecies. They are the ancestor of the domestic cat and therefore their DNA and size is perfectly matched for mating and procreating. The same cannot be said about tigers mating with domestic cats which is physical impossibility. Click for a look at all the species of wild cat in a picture.
The largest wild cat species to mate with domestic cats in captivity at breeding catteries is the serval, a substantial wild cat the size of a large dog. The offspring are the well-known F1 Savannah cats. These are desirable exotic pets that sometimes escape their home confinement and cause mayhem in neighbourhoods. They are pricey (around $20,000) because it is hard to arrange the mating as you might imagine.
The largest domestic cat to the shoulder as per the Guinness World Records has always been an F1 or F2 Savannah cat, unsurprisingly because the parent is the long-limbed serval, a tall medium-sized cat
But this article should be about the European, Scottish, Asiatic and African wildcat species.
These subspecies of wildcat do a lot of mating with indoor/outdoor cats. How much?
Percentage of wildcat hybrids
Well, some believe that the Scottish wildcat (for me this is a European wildcat) is extinct in the wild because of so much hybridization with domestic cats. The Scottish wildcats that you might be extremely lucky to see would probably be a hybrid and not purebred which means that it would not be a Scottish wildcat.
There are a couple of studies online about this very topic. One study published in 2009 (“Regionally high rates of hybridization and introgression in German wildcat populations (Felis silvestris, Carnivora, Felidae”) revealed that 2.7% of domestic cats in Germany are actually European wildcat hybrids! And the owners don’t know except that their cat was a little frisky or wild! Note: First filial wildcat hybrids look very similar to tabby domestic cats.
But the degree of breeding between European wildcats and domestic cats in Germany can be substantial as the researchers found that overall, in adding together wildcats living in the east and west of the country, 18.4% were hybrids.
In the west of the country, they discovered that 42.9% of the European wildcats were ‘of hybrid origin’ – meaning not purebred and hybrids. In the east the percentage of hybrids was 4.2%.
The reason for the proliferation of hybridization between these subspecies of cat is because they are, as mentioned, perfectly matched in DNA, behaviour and size. They bump into each other and mate if the domestic cat is outside in the country and unsterilised.
Another later study found lower figures. This is titled: “Low rates of hybridization between European wildcats and domestic cats in a human‐dominated landscape” and it was published in 2018.
They found that out of 1,071 wildcats genotyped a mere 3.5% were either F1 (first filial) or F2 (second filial) European wildcat hybrids.
It is not clear to me why the percentages are much lower as I can’t see the entire reports.
There are numerous ‘breeds’ of wild cat hybrid, some are rarer than others. The most common is the Bengal (Asiatic leopard cat x domestic cat). The Savannah I have mentioned. The Chausie is a Jungle cat x domestic cat cross.
You can see a full list of wild cat hybrids by clicking on the top link below. There are links to two more pages on wild cat hybrids below that one and if you want to read more, please use the custom search facility on this site. There are hundreds of pages on these hybrids.