5 Feb 2015

Arabian Wildcat in Um Oshar – Record by Mansur Al Fahad

Mansur Al Fahad sent me two excellent photographs of the rarely photographed Arabian Wildcat taken in Um Oshar in the north of the Country in mid-January 2015. Mansur has kindly allowed me to use the photos on my website for which I am very grateful. The Arabian wildcat Felis silvestris gordoni , also known as Gordon’s Wildcat, is found in the mountains, gravel plains and the sand deserts in the north of the Kingdom. Although they do not require drinking water, they just need a regular supply of prey species such as gerbils, jirds and jerboas through which they obtain the required moisture. They also hunt birds and will occasionally eat large insects. Wildcats are ash-grey to buff in colour with fine darker grey speckling on back and flanks and a whitish underside. The back of their ears is orange and the slightly bushy tail has three black rings ending in a black tip, while the underside of all four feet is also black. It is a shy animal that hunts at night and spends the day in hiding. Adapted to life in the wild, the wildcat is very strong and agile and can defend itself fiercely if it is cornered with local tribesmen saying, "They would rather tackle a wild leopard than an Arabian wildcat". They breed all year around, the female giving birth to a litter of two to three kittens in a rock crevice, hollow tree or an empty fox burrow. Similar in size to the domestic cat, the genetically pure Arabian wildcat now occurs only in the United Arab Emirates, northern Oman and northern Saudi Arabia. It makes its home in semi-desert and rocky terrain, avoiding the desert wastelands filled with large dunes that lack scrub and rock. It establishes a territory that may span several square kilometres where the cat maintains several den sites. It usually builds a den with a single entrance on the slope of a dune. The Wildcat faces long-term threats to its existence with its range adversely affected by encroachment from human expansion including hunting and interbreeding with domestic cats which will probably result in the species becoming extinct at some stage.
Arabian Wildcat

Arabian Wildcat

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