The African Wild Cat

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The African wildcat (Felis silvestris lybica) is a subspecies of wildcat that is widely distributed throughout Africa and it is the most numerous of the cat species.

Fossils of these felines found amongst human burials in Cyprus date back 10 000 years and it is believed that the wildcat is the ancestor of all domestic cats. Today interbreeding between domestic cats and wild cats is common, so pure wild cats are usually only found in protected areas such as nature reserves.

It is this interbreeding that poses the greatest threat to survival of the species and any cat found within a nature reserve is removed for this reason.

African Wild cats closely resemble their domestic relatives, except for their reddish ears, longer legs, and a noticeably more upright posture when sitting down.

These felines are only about 40cm tall on average and weigh between 3.2 and 4.5 kg each. Their coats are sandy brown with black striping on the legs and back, and some spotting on the flanks. Black facial stripes and neck stripes are also featured.

Africa wild cats pursue and eat mice, rats and other small rodents, but will also eat fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects if it can get its paws on them. The most common method of securing a meal is by stalking the prey to within about a metre and then pouncing.

They are solitary animals and seldom socialise with one another, except during the mating season.

Gestation is 56 to 60 days in the African wild cat and between two and five kittens are usually born in a burrow in the ground, during the rainy season. Born blind and helpless, the kittens' eyes take about 10 days to open, and they are up and about by five weeks. Mother cat will teach them how to hunt from about 3 months old and they leave her side at the age of 5 months old, growing to their full size in a year.

Although the African wild cat is listed as Least Concern by the IUCN, it is rarely seen in the wild, due to its nocturnal habits. Your best chance at spotting one of these tabby-cat like creatures is on a night drive and even then chances are slim because of their elusive natures and small size. On occasion they may venture forth during the day time if the weather is very cold.

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Thursday, 22 February 2018