African Wild Cat {Felis libyca}

South Africa Wildlife

African Wild Cat {Felis libyca}

African Wild Cat
African Wild Cat

The African wild cat is sandy brown to yellow grey in colour, with black stripes on the tail. The fur is shorter than that of the European subspecies and it is also considerably smaller.

Today's domestic cats are generally believed to be descendants of the African Wild Cat, which were tamed by the Egyptians over 4000 years ago to control rats and mice raiding their granaries. Apart from the obvious difference in their ear coloration and the longer legs, the African Wild Cat is easily mistaken for a domestic cat. Interbreeding is possible as they are so closely related to domestic cats. Pure genetic African Wild Cats are quite rare and only found in remote areas as elsewhere interbreeding with domestic cats has taken place.

Quick Facts


Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae

Habitat: Steppes, savannahs and bushland.
Distribution: Africa (and the Middle East). Pure genetic stock of the African Wild Cat is today only found in remote areas. Elsewhere interbreeding with domestic cats has taken place.

Appearance: Sandy brown to yellow grey in colour, with black stripes on the tail. Fur is short.
Size: Slightly larger than a domestic cat.
Head to body length: 45 to 75 cm | Tail 20 to 38 cm | Weight: 3 to 6.5 kg
Diet: Carnivore. Eats primarily mice, rats and other small mammals. They also eat birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects if available.

Reproduction: A female gives birth to an average of 3 kittens. Gestation is approximately 65 days. Mating occurs between July and January and young are born between September to March. Kittens are born blind and need full care of the mother. Most kittens are born in the wet season, when there is sufficient food. They stay with their mother for five to six months, and are fertile after one year.

African Wild Cat
African Wild Cat
Behaviour: The African Wild Cat is generally solitary except when mating, or when the female is raising kittens. Both males and females establish territories which they mark and defend. The territory of a male overlaps with that of a few females, who defend the territory against intruders. African wild cats are nocturnal in the warm weather and diurnal (mainly active during the night and twilight) during very cold weather.

Life Span: 12 - 15 years
Threats: Loss of habitat and hybridisation with domestic cats
Predators: Wild cats are preyed upon as young cats by larger predators, such as foxes, wolves, other cats, and large birds of prey, such as owls, eagles and hawks. African Wild cats are fierce when threatened and can protect themselves from animals larger than themselves.

References: Wikipedia, EnchantedLearning, Animal Diversity (University of Michigan).
Photographs: Courtesy of and © Emdoneni Lodge & Game Farm.

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Want to see African Wild Cat?
Visit Emdoneni Cat Rehabilitation Centre or choose a game reserve / lodge in Eastern Cape, Limpopo, North West Province, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu Natal, Kruger National Park
South African Lodges are located within private game reserves, national parks and nature reserves. Accommodation offered at South African Lodges ranges from rustic to 5-star luxury; from self catering bush camps to fully catered lodges, with packages including daily game activities, day and night game drives, bush walks, horse-back safaris and other eco-activities.
African Wild Cat Information and photographs
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