African Wild Cats are small, fierce cats that live in forests, grasslands, and brush lands in Africa and the Middle East. African Wild Cats are generally nocturnal in warm weather but are diurnal during very cold weather. They are excellent climbers. African Wild Cats have a life span of 12-15 years. They are about 50 percent larger than domesticated cats.
How to identify the African Wild Cat
Smaller than its European cousin, the African Wild Cat, also known as African Desert Cat, appears to have evolved as a separate species many thousands of years ago.
Its coloration varies from sandy yellow to gray as it ranges from arid to forested habitat, with a white throat and underbelly. These graceful cats are from 20 to 30 inches (50-75 cm) long (plus a tail that is half as long as the body). They weigh from 10 to 25 pounds (4.5-11 kg). Fur is short and marked by tabby-like spots and stripes. Tail is somewhat pointed and the fur behind its big ears has a certain reddish shade. The African Wild Cat has powerful jaws and long, pointed canine teeth with sharp retractable claws and characteristic eyes with round pupils.
What the African Wild Cat Eats
Primarily a nocturnal hunter, crepuscular activity is often recorded in territories uninhabited by humans. Hunting is through the stalk and ambush method. Small mammals including rodents and mice are generally taken, along with reptiles, insects and birds. Males are territorial and protective of their domain, which often includes ranges of a number of females.
Where to find the African Wild Cat
Highly adaptable, the wild cat, is seen in a variety of habitats including bush country and plains. The geographical range includes large parts of Africa excluding the rainforests of Central Africa and some of the extreme regions of the Sahara desert. It is also recorded in certain coastal areas of the Middle East. A number of subspecies (ten to fifteen) are recognized but owing to the considerable similarities amongst them, the classification system is widely disputed by scientists. In Uganda the wild cat can be spotted in most savannah habitats.
Reproduction and Conservation of the African Wild Cat
Litter size of the African Wild Cat ranges from two to six babies, with three being the norm. Pregnancy lasts around two months and conception is often timed so that the kittens are born in the rainy season when food supply is plentiful. Independence is reached at six months and sexual maturity at twice that age.
Like other wild cats, the principal threat to this beautiful feline is from hybridizing with feral and domestic cats. Conservation strategies include breeding programs for maintenance of the pure gene pool at least in captivity (with future aims at reintroduction in the wild) and management of feral.