The wildcat (Felis silvestris) is a small cat found throughout most of Africa, Europe, and southwest and central Asia into India, China, and Mongolia. Because of its wide range it is classed by the IUCN as Least Concern. However, crossbreeding with housecats is extensive and has occurred throughout almost the entirety of the species' range.
The wildcat shows a high degree of geographic variation. Asiatic subspecies have spotted, isabelline coats, African subspecies have sandy-grey fur with banded legs and red-backed ears, and European wildcats resemble heavily built striped tabbies with bushy tails, white chins and throats. All subspecies are generally larger than house cats, with longer legs and more robust bodies. The actual number of subspecies is still debated, with some organisations recognising 22, while others recognise only four, including the Chinese mountain cat, which was previously considered a species in its own right.
Genetic, morphological and archaeological evidence suggests that the housecat was domesticated from the African wildcat, probably 9,000-10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent region of the Near East, coincident with the rise of agriculture and the need to protect harvests stored in granaries from rodents.