The African wild cat (Felis lybica) is reminiscent of the domestic tabby (a grey-streaked cat with dark stripes), with which it’s known to interbreed successfully. It inhabits most savanna habitats in Uganda.
It is a sandy brown to a yellow-grey cat, with black stripes on the tail. The fur is shorter than that of the European subspecies, and it is also considerably smaller.
The African golden cat has a fur colour ranging from chestnut or reddish-brown, greyish brown to dark slaty, while some cats are spotted. In others, the spotting pattern is limited to the belly and inner legs.
You can identify the skins of African golden cats by the presence of a distinctive whorled ridge of fur in front of the shoulders, where the hairs change direction. It is about twice the size of a domestic cat.
Its rounded head is very small relative to its body size. It is a heavily built cat with stocky, long legs, a relatively short tail, and large paws.
Today’s domestic cats are believed to generally be descendants of the African wild cat, which the Egyptians tamed over 4000 years ago to control rats and mice raiding their granaries.
Apart from the obvious difference in their ear colouration and the longer legs, the African wild cat can be mistaken for a domestic cat. Pure genetic African wild cats are pretty rare and only found in remote areas as elsewhere; they’ve interbred with domestic cats.
African wild cat behaviour
African wild cats eat mice, rats and other small mammals primarily, and they also eat birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects if available. They are generally solitary carnivores except when mating or when the female is raising kittens. Both males and females establish territories they mark and defend, and a male’s territory can overlap with a few females.
They are nocturnal in the warm weather and diurnal (mainly active during the night and twilight) during very cold weather.
A female gives birth to an average of 3 kittens after a gestation period of 65 days. Most kittens are born in the wet season when there is sufficient food, stay with their mother for five to six months, and are fertile after one year. African golden cats can live 12 to 15 years in the wild.
Their main predators are foxes, wolves, other larger cats, and large birds of prey, such as owls, eagles and hawks. However, African wild cats can be fierce when threatened and protect themselves from animals larger than themselves.