The African wildcat, also called Near Eastern wildcat, is a wildcat subspecies that lives in Africa and around the periphery of the Arabian Peninsula. Individual African wildcats were first domesticated about 10,000 years ago in the Middle East, and are the ancestors of the domestic cat. Due to their near identical domesticated relatives, the African wildcat is one of the most difficult African cat species to identify. Breeding with house cats (the only wild cat that will bread with a domesticated cat) has also made the African wildcat increasingly difficult to find.
Our African wildcat, Ola, is 3 years old. She came to the reserve in 2014. While she looks very similar to the domestic farm cat Nikita, her genes are different and she is an endangered animal. The typical housecat has adjusted to a diet of ‘cat food’ from a bag but Ola’s diet consists primarily of raw meat. Lizards, mice and small insects might also find themselves served up for dinner if they risk entering her enclosure!
The fur color of the African wildcat is light sandy grey, and sometimes with a pale yellow or reddish hue. The ears are reddish to grey, with long light yellow hairs around the pinna. Stripes around the face are dark ochre to black: two are running horizontally on the cheek, and four to six across the throat.
A dark stripe is running along the back, the flanks are lighter, and the belly is whitish. Pale vertical stripes on the sides often dissolve into spots. Two dark rings are on the forelegs, and hind legs are striped. The feet are dark brown to black.
African wildcats inhabit a broad variety of habitats, especially hilly and mountainous landscapes. While they can live in desert areas, such as the Sahara, they prefer not to.
When confronted, the African wildcat raises its hair to make itself seem larger in order to intimidate its opponent. In the daytime it usually hides in the bushes, although it is sometimes active on dark, cloudy days. The territory of a male can overlap with that of up to three females!
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