AFRICAN WILDCAT – Felis lybica

The African Wildcat, also known as the Egyptian Wildcat, is a midget, tabby-like cat that is considered to be part of indigenous species of wildcats in Africa. This species is widely distributed throughout Africa, but it cannot be seen in tropical rainforests and the Sahara Desert. One of the main threats to the African Wild Cats is habitat loss and feral cats.

Scientific researchers have found that the African Wildcat varied into three different species: Near Eastern wildcat, Southern African Wildcat, and Asiatic Wildcat. About 173, 000 years ago, African wildcats were traditionally found in a burial site next to a human skeleton in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic Age in Cyprus. This is a manifestation of the close relationship between a human and a cat that existed centuries ago.

Its nine levels of scientific classification are as follows:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Suborder: Feliformia

Family: Felidae

Subfamily: Felinae

Genus: Felis

Species: F. lybica

The physical description of an African Wildcat

The African Wildcat, or also known as Felis lybica, is the same as the size of a large housecat. They differ in appearance: gradation of coat thickness, the intensity of ground color, and the volume of its bold markings. Compared to a domestic cat, the African Wildcat tends to have longer legs, highlighting its upright posture in its sitting position and walking stature. These are some characteristics that a domestic cat would not possess. These habits are also depicted in ancient Egyptian bronze mummy cases and tomb paintings.

When it comes to the color of its fur coat, it ranges from reddish to sandy yellow to tawny brown to gray. It also has distinct stripes and spots. Its ears and tail could appear reddish or rusty-brown tinted. Its tail is long and thin, with 2 or 3 black rings and a black tip. The African wildcat species draws a distinction from the European Wildcat through its lighter build, less distinct markings, and long thin tail.

The distribution and habitat of African Wildcats

African Wildcats can be seen throughout most of Africa, southwest, and central Asia into India, China, and Mongolia. It is also found around the perimeter of the Arabian Peninsula and the Middle East as far eastward as the Caspian Sea. They have a broad habitat tolerance and are mostly found from rocks, bushes, tall grasses, crops, and disused Aardvark or Spring Hare burrows. They also appear in habitats like deserts, semi-deserts, savannahs, scrub grassland, open forests, and mountainous sceneries such as the Hoggar Mountains. Still, they cannot be seen much in deserts like Sahara and any tropical rainforest.

Ecology of the African Wildcat

This cat species is considered a solitary species, but it can form large temporary groups consisting of females with their offspring. African Wildcats are nocturnal mammals, especially in scorching environments. Sometimes, they are very active in the early mornings and late afternoons. They are also proven to be good hunters due to their sharp hearing senses and powerful claws, making them excellent climbers.

African Wildcats are considered territorial. They use their scent to mark their properties and for communicating with others of their kind.

The African Wildcat’s behavior, diet, and communication habits

African Wildcats are more active mainly during night and twilight: the times when prey is more vulnerable to their power. They have sharp hearing senses, which makes it easier for them to locate their prey precisely. They primarily eat mice, rats, and other small mammals.

In addition, they also love to eat birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. The African Wildcat hunts by waiting for them and attacking it by pouncing on as soon as it is within its range. When defending itself, it raises its hair to make it appear larger and more intimidating to the threat. During the daytime, they tend to hide in the bushes. Male African wildcats are expected to defend their territory against any intruders.

The breeding season of African Wildcats in Southern Africa is from September to March. In Northern Sahara, breeding takes place from January to March. It would take 56-68 days and at 9-12 months for the African Wildcats to reach their sexual maturity, and when a female African Wildcat is in heat, it only allows one male in its territory. Their lifespan is estimated at 16 years.