The African wild cat (Felis lybica)
The African wild cat (F silvestris) is reminiscent of the domestic tabby, with which it has been known to interbreed successfully, and it is found in most savanna habitats in Uganda. It is sandy brown to yellow grey in colour, with black stripes on the tail. The fur is shorter than that of the European subspecies and it is also considerably smaller.
Today’s domestic cats are generally believed to be descendants of the African Wild Cat, which were tamed by the Egyptians over 4000 years ago to control rats and mice raiding their granaries.
Apart from the obvious difference in their ear coloration and the longer legs, the African Wild Cat is easily mistaken for a domestic cat. Interbreeding is possible as they are so closely related to domestic cats. Pure genetic African Wild Cats are quite rare and only found in remote areas as elsewhere interbreeding with domestic cats has taken place.
The African golden cat has a fur color ranging from chestnut or reddish-brown, grayish brown to dark slaty. Some are spotted, with the spots ranging from faded tan to black in color. In others the spotting pattern is limited to the belly and inner legs. Its undersides and areas around the eyes, cheeks, chin, and throat are lighter in color to almost white. Its tail is darker on the top and either heavily banded, lightly banded or plain, ending in a black tip.
Cats in the western parts of its range tend to have heavier spotting than those in the eastern region. Two color morphs, a red and a grey phase, were once thought to indicate separate species, rather than color variations of the same species. Grey skins have hairs that are not pigmented in their middle zones, whereas hair of red skins is pigmented intensively red. Hair of melanistic skins is entirely black.
Skins of African golden cats can be identified 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 in relation to its body size. It is a heavily built cat, with stocky, long legs, a relatively short tail, and large paws. Body length usually varies within the range of 61 to 101 cm (24 to 40 in). Tail length ranges from 16 to 46 cm (6.3 to 18.1 in), and shoulder height is about 38 to 55 cm (15 to 22 in). The cat weighs around 5.5 to 16 kg (12 to 35 lb), with males being larger than females.
African Wild Cats eat primarily mice, rats and other small mammals. They also eat birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects if available.
The African Wild Cat is generally a solitary carnivore except when mating, or when the female is raising kittens. Both males and females establish territories which they mark and defend.
The territory of a male overlaps with that of a few females, who defend the territory against intruders. African wild cats 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. Mating occurs between July and January and young are born between September to March. Kittens are born blind and need full care of the mother. Most kittens are born in the wet season, when there is sufficient food. They stay with their mother for five to six months, and are fertile after one year.
Gestation is approximately 65 days and can live 12 to 15 years in the wild.
African wild cats are preyed upon as young cats by larger predators, such as foxes, wolves, other cats, and large birds of prey, such as owls, eagles and hawks. African Wild cats are fierce when threatened and can protect themselves from animals larger than themselves.