Africa’s Secret Seven are mysterious animals that are difficult to spot. The African wild cat is
one of them. These nocturnal hunters are rarely seen, but their Africa-shaped footprints
give them away. They live in scrublands and dry forests throughout Africa.
The African wild cat is the ‘tabby’ of the bush
The African wild cat is the ancestor of the domestic cat. Egyptians domesticated the African
wild cat to control pests raiding granaries. It is a small cat with long legs and a short tail.
They have sandy yellow to grey fur, which is lighter coloured on the belly. The fur is
patterned with black spots, which are more numerous on the back, flanks and tail. They are
generally similar in appearance to a tabby domestic cat. Melanistic and albino individuals
have been reported. The African wild cat is similar in appearance to the European wildcat as
well. However it has a shorter body and legs, and a longer neck and head.
The safest in all the land
It is listed as ‘Least Concern’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s ‘Red
List’. It is widely distributed throughout Africa, Asia and Europe. The African wild cat is found
in a wide range of habitats, including semi-desert, steppe, woodlands, savannahs and
mountains. It prefers areas with dense cover such as thickets or reeds.
Hunting and diet
The African wild cat is a solitary hunter. It stalks its prey before pouncing on it. It is a
nocturnal animal that hunts at night. During the day they rest in dens or take shelter
amongst rocks. Their diet consist of small mammals such as rodents, hares and small
antelopes. They have also been known to eat reptiles, birds, eggs, insects and fruit. They are
an important part of the Madikwe ecosystem.
Spot their secret kittens on your African safari
Not unlike their domestic descendants the African wildcat is a solitary animal. The only time
they come together is during the mating season. Females give birth to two to four kittens
after a gestation period of around two months. They stay with their mother until they are
around six months old, after which they disperse to find their own territory.
There is still much unknown information about the African wild cat. Their secretive
behaviour make them difficult to study. The next time you go on safari, see if you can spot
one of Madikwe’s Secret Seven – the African Wild Cat. Book your stay at Madikwe Safari