While the importance of viral infections is well studied in domestic cats, only limited information is available on their occurence and prevalence in the European wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris). The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of antibodies to feline coronavirus (FCoV), calicivirus (FCV), herpesvirus (FHV), parvovirus (FPV), immunodeficiency virus (FIV), leukemia virus (FeLV), and FeLV antigenemia in 51 European wildcat sera. Samples were collected between 1996 and 1997 from wildcat populations in France, Switzerland, and Germany. Antibodies to FCoV were detected in two cats (4%) and FCoV RNA was detected in feces of one of these two cats. Antibodies to FCV, FHV and FPV were found at relatively low frequencies of 16%, 4%, and 2%, respectively. Antibodies to FIV were not detected. Although antigen and antibodies to FeLV were detected in 49%, and 75%, respectively, no evidence of FeLV-associated pathology was found. From the low prevalence of FCoV, FCV, FHV and FPV infections and from the fact that the European wildcats live solitarily, it was concluded that these viral infections do not spread readily within a population. Therefore, it may be assumed that release into the wild of European wildcats bred in captivity would not bring about a high risk of introducing of these viral infections to the free-ranging wildcats. As an exception, wildcats should be tested for absence of FIV infection before release if they were at risk to acquire this infection from domestic cats.
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Vol. 35 • No. 4