Wild cats need large, continuous, quasi-natural and undisturbed mixed forests. An animal's territory is about the size of 300 football pitches. The destruction of their habitats led to a sharp reduction in their numbers, but today they are once again widespread in many German forests, including the Kottenforst. The long-term increase in the proportion of old and dead wood in the forests, the maintenance of forest meadows and the strict protection of animals have all contributed to this.
Wild cats usually only leave their hiding place at night and at dusk. They are shy and can only be seen on very rare occasions. There is a trick to find out whether wildcats can be found in a forest area. This takes advantage of a wildcat's fine sense of smell and its preference for valerian, which they are attracted to, especially during the mating season. When valerian is sprayed onto a wooden peg in the forest wildcats rub against the wood and leave some hair behind. Using genetic analysis, scientists can determine whether the hair comes from a real wild cat or a domestic cat.