Latest News - Post mortem of a hybrid cat - how research informs wildcat conservation

Post mortem of a hybrid cat - how research informs wildcat conservation

Please note: This blog contains images that some people may find distressing.

Entering the dissecting room, we are preparing to witness the post mortem of a hybrid cat.

The University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and National Museums Scotland work together to help inform wildcat conservation work. Both organisations are key partners in the Scottish Wildcat Action project and have signed up to this five-year plan to halt the decline of our native cat.

Professor Anna Meredith joins us. Her wealth of experience in disease research is apparent in the obvious respect she commands from her colleagues. We feel like honoured guests at this unique experience.

The cat lies on a stainless steel table, a suspected roadkill from Newtonmore found in October last year. It has been recently defrosted and lies in a slightly soggy state. We set up the cameras and chat to the staff.

Finally we are ready. The carcass is photographed, weighed and measured before being examined. The cat’s broken back and frayed claws prove that it has definitely been hit by a car. It is also checked for parasites and samples are taken to test for disease.

This helps inform our work on the ground because we know which areas are more at risk from Feline Leukaemia or Feline Aids, both fatal diseases that can be passed on to wildcats through mating or fighting with other cats.

Hybrid cat - dissecting room

Photo: The cat is then expertly skinned. The cat is then expertly skinned. The pelt will be treated and then added to the museum collection, where it will be used in Dr Andrew Kitchener’s research on hybridisation. We can then identify areas where there is high risk of hybridisation with feral cats and focus our Trap Neuter Vaccinate and Return programme accordingly. After the post mortem, the skeleton will also be prepared for research.

As we pack up and breath a thankful gulp of fresh air, I am reminded how incredible such a partnership is. Scientists, veterinarians, fieldworkers and gamekeepers work together to help protect what’s left of our beautiful Scottish wildcats. It is an astonishing achievement in itself. In the death of this unfortunate cat, there is hope because world experts like Anna and Andrew are making use of the evidence to inform Scottish Wildcat Action’s efforts on the ground.

Measuring gut length

Photo: Measuring gut length. For more information about the project, visit or on Facebook and Twitter @SaveOurWildcats.

Scottish Wildcat Action is the first national project to save the highly endangered Scottish wildcat from extinction. It is a partnership involving over 20 organisations, including, Scottish Natural Heritage, Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), Cairngorms National Park Authority, Forestry Commission Scotland, National Museums Scotland, National Trust for Scotland, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh, Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association and the Scottish Wildlife Trust. It is funded by Heritage Lottery Fund and Scottish Government, as well as its partners.

With thanks to Peter Cairns for the photography.




Heritage Lottery Fund

This content was made possible by our Partners & Funders at Heritage Lottery Fund


Image for Vicky Burns

Vicky is the Communications Coordinator for Scottish Wildcat Action. She has a background in third sector communications and marketing and is based at the Scottish Wildlife Trust office in Edinburgh.

email or call 07799 342380

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