Deliberate wild cat, felis silvestris, hybridisation was restricted to the Asian Leopard cat but a far wider variety of wild species are now being used. Is this a good thing for various species of wild cat?
Breeders argue that developing hybrids of this type (i.e. wild+domestic) is good for wild cats as it highlights the existence of wild cats (by owning a hybrid of one) and therefore their plight. Their plight being their gradual decline in the wild due to mankind’s activities. It also allows people with a desire to “own” a wild animal such as a big cat or wild cat to own an animal that they might like to think is very close to such an animal. Thereby saving the wild animal from being owned by an individual who may be unsuitable.
It is also argued that the captive wildcats from which the hybrids are developed are bred for this purpose. Their is an innate desire in humans to own or control nature, which extends into all sorts of areas such as the landscape, as well as in respect of wild animals (control through “ownership”). We have to recognize urge and work with it. Their are now hybrids of the following wild cat species: Felis chaus, Felis geoffroyi and Felis serval.
Arguing against the benefits of hybridization are a number of issues. Hybridization of this kind encourages the importation of wildcats on the black market in an unregulated way. This further depletes the population of felis silvestris and expands the number of poor breeders to profit from the market in this hybrid and this is a growing market, particularly in America, it seems. This breeding program dilutes the wildcat gene and this is only for the pleasure (a frivolous purpose) of mankind and no other purpose. It is mans’ intervention into nature, which is inherently wrong.
However, the worst threat to the wild cat, felis silvestris, is the mating between feral domestic cats and the wild cat as has happened with the Scottish wild cat. This has happened for thousands of years and in another part of this website I mention that the ALC may have some domestic cat in him.
In short the genes of a cat be he wild or domestic are “mashed up” somewhat to use the vernacular. This works against the idea that the genes of the wildcat are being diluted. For example, in S.Africa, near to towns the only cats are hybrids, the domestic having mated with the wild cat. Hybrid cats can be spotted by the white legs and white patches on their bodies. In fact hybrids are found hundreds of miles from human settlements.
TICA (The International Cat Association) effectively supports the breeding of domestic/wild hybrids in allowing registrations as opposed theCFA (Cat Fanciers Association) who don’t because the cat has wild blood (I presume they agree with those who say the program works against the wild cat).
“With domestic cats so widespread, it seems inevitable that hybridization will lead to the virtual extinction of the pure African and European wildcats and their replacement by hybrids.” (Sarah Hartwell – Messsybeasts).
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