SIZE: Length (including the tail) 90 cm, mass (m) 5 kg, (f) 4 kg.
COLOUR: Sandy or light grey in the western areas, ranging to a darker grey elsewhere. The body markings are reddish to grey-black, and sometimes include a slightly darker spinal stripe. There are always six vertical dark bands on the flanks, as well as horizontal dark bands on the legs and rings on the tail, which has a black tip.
MOST LIKE: The Small Spotted Cat. The African wild cat, however, is bigger, longer-legged and less stocky than the small spotted cat with less pronounced body markings and stripes rather than spots.
HABITAT: Semi-desert to forest and from sea level up to about 1 600 m. Cover includes rocks, bushes, tall grasses, crops and disused Aardvark or Spring Hare burrows.
The African wild cat resembles a tabby except for its larger size, longer legs, shorter tail and a distinct gait, as well as a characteristic rufous colouring on the backs of the ears. They are shy and mostly nocturnal. They are adept tree-climbers, and mice and small birds are their favoured prey.
They stalk their prey before pouncing, lick their fur into shape, wash their face with their forepaws and sharpen their claws on tree trunks. They also have similar vocalizations to a domestic cat: they mew, purr, hiss and spit, but with greater noise.
Litters of two to five, averaging three, are born during summer from September to March, in the disused burrows of other animals.
The African Wild Cat is almost certainly an ancestor of the European domestic cat: it is larger than the household cat, with longer legs. It interbreeds with the domestic cat when near human settlements, with the result that pure-bred African wild cats are no longer very easy to find in these areas.
WILDLIFE PARKS AND RESERVES WHERE THIS SPECIES IS FOUND: