The African golden cat is a wild cat endemic to the rainforests of West and Central Africa. It is about twice the size of a domestic cat, and its rounded head is smaller relative to its body size.
It is a heavily built cat with stocky, long legs, a relatively short tail, and large paws. The cat weighs around 5.5 to 16 kg (12 to 35 lb), with males being larger than females.
Overall, the African golden cat resembles (and is related to) the caracal but has shorter untufted ears, a longer tail, and a shorter, more rounded face. It has small, rounded ears, and its eye colour ranges from pale blue to brown.
The African golden cat has a fur colour ranging from chestnut or reddish-brown, greyish brown to dark slaty. Some have colour spots ranging from faded tan to black; in others, the spotting pattern is only around the belly and inner legs.
Its undersides and areas around the eyes, cheeks, chin, and throat are lighter in colour to almost white. Its tail is darker on the top and either heavily banded, lightly banded or plain, ending in a black tip.
You can differentiate the African golden cat from other wild cats by skin, which has a distinctive whorled ridge of fur in front of the shoulders, where the hairs change direction.
Where to see the African golden cat
The African golden cat’s existence is threatened due to deforestation and bushmeat hunting. It was most recently assessed for The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in 2014 and listed as Vulnerable under criteria A2c+3c.
The African Golden Cat occurs mainly in moist equatorial forests. However, on the periphery of its range, it penetrates savanna regions along riverine forests. It also occurs in montane forests and alpine moorland around East Africa.
African golden cats are present in all western-Uganda national parks except Semuliki National Park. They have been most recently reported in Kibale National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
This wild cat preys mostly on rodents and squirrels but also hunts larger prey like small and medium-size duikers (antelopes). It also frequently includes birds and pangolin in its diet.
There have been several observations by primate researchers of African Golden Cats hunting arboreal primates, especially in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Researchers have reported African Golden Cat remains in five of 196 Leopard droppings in Gabon’s Lopé National Park (Henschel et al. 2005). They also found a single carcass killed by a Leopard in the Ituri Forest (Hart et al. 1996).