Common Name: African Wild Cat
Phylum: Chordata (Vertebrata)
Genus: Felinae (Felis) Species: Silvestris Scientific Name: Felis Sylvestris Lybica Afrikaans: Vaalbos Kat Xhosa: Ngada Tswana Name: Phage
African Wild Cats are the ancestors of the domestic cat. They are widespread throughout Africa, but absent from the tropical rainforests and Sahara Desert. African Wild Cats are threatened, not so much by diminishing numbers, but by hybridising with domestic and feral cats.
Habitat: Forest , occasionally rocky outcrops (F.s. silvestris) . Woodland , wooded grassland and savannah (F.s. lybica). Semi-desert and steppes (F.s. ornata).
Distribution: Africa, Iraq , Iran , Scotland , France , Spain , USSR , India and Pakistan .
The earliest records of domesticating the African Wild Cat was the acient Egyptians who tamed the cats and placed them in their granaries to protect against rodents. Evidence of this is recorded on the walls of the pyramids and tombs.
Miscellaneous: The African Wildcat is the ancestor of the Domestic cat. This species of cat is widely distributed and has a wide variety of coat colors to help it blend into its environment. Because of that, the Wildcat was originally classified as 3 distinct species, but today they are referred to as one race with 3 subspecies. One other subspecies, F.s. grampia of Scotland , is no longer considered a separate subspecies but a member of F.s. silvestris, although some authors will make reference to it.
Size and Appearance: A more robust version of the domestic cat, the Wildcat weighs between 7-18 pounds, stands 14-16 inches tall and reaches lengths of 29-46 inches. The European Wildcat is typically a gray-brown cat with a wide variety in ground color. The coat is usually boldly marked with stripes that run along the neck and down the flanks, just like a domestic striped tabby, but with fewer more widely spaced stripes. They usually have a white throat patch and may have white patches on their abdomen and between their forelegs. The ears are brown with no central white spots on the backs. The tail is bushy and blunt ended, unlike the tapered end of a domestic cat’s. There is an all black Wildcat in Scotland , commonly referred to as Kellas cats, but it has now been found to be due to mixed breeding with domestic cats and is not a pure Wildcat.
The African Wildcat is also a bit larger and stockier than its tame descendants and is basically a pale striped tabby. Its ground color varies from sandy through yellow-gray to grayish-brown and dark gray. There are 2 color phases reported, one is grayish-tan and the other is steel gray. The darker ground color is found in the forests, while the lighter color is found in the more arid regions. The Asian Wildcat is pale sand-colored or gray and is covered with distinct black spots.
Reproduction and Offspring: After a gestation of 56-63 days, females produce a litter of 1-5 kittens, with 3-4 being average. At birth, the newborns weigh approximately 2.75-4.5 ounces. Their eyes will normally be open by the 10th day and they will begin to walk by the 16th-20th day. They begin to hunt at 12 weeks and become independent by 5 months. They reach sexual maturity around 11 months.
In captivity, they have lived up to 15 years.
Social System and Communication: Solitary. Much like domestic cats, males compete for the females who are in season and they all announce their intentions with loud "caterwauling."
Hunting and Diet: Primarily nocturnal and terrestrial. Their main diet consists of rodents, hares, birds, reptiles, amphibians, young antelope, insects and arachnids.
Principal Threats: The primary threat for this cat is the hybridization of the population with domestic cats. Because of the wide spread problem of feral domestic cats and the long period of time which they have been a problem, it is unsure whether or not there are any pure wildcats remaining at all. If so, they are in very remote areas far away from human habitation.