African Wildcat - Felis lybica

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Shona Nhiriri Tswana Phage
Zulu Mpaka Shangaan Mphaha Venda Phaha

5 cm


3 cm

Visible Male/Female Differences

Males are larger than the females.

Habitat and Distribution

All habitats except desert. They require cover to hide in during the day, such as burrows, caves, thickets or holes in trees.


Changes seasonally and depends on food availability. Prefers rats and mice but if these are scarce wild cats readily switch to mammals up to the size of dassies and hares. Also takes the young of small antelopes and birds up to the size of guinea fowl and also eats jackal berries. Will eat insects and reptiles and take carrion. Sometimes raids domestic poultry.


Litters of 2-5 are born in September-March after a gestation of 65 days. The mother may carry them to a new refuge every few days to avoid predation. Kitten's eyes open at 10-14 days. Families disperse at 5 months. African wildcats interbreed with domestic cats.

Behavior and Habits

They are active at right, dusk and the early mornings. Can also be seen during the day in cool weather. They are solitary and believed to be territorial. They are good climbers and will takes refuge in trees if pursued. The use the normal technique: stalking, rushing, pouncing and grabbing the with the front claws. They display amazing aerial jumps as they snatch doves from the air at waterholes as as they land or take off. Precise killing bites are used depending on the size of the prey. 


Typical cat-like spitting with the ears flattened is a defensive threat. Arching the back and tail and fluffing up the hair is a neutral threat. Caterwauling precedes aggression.

Dung and Field sign

Droppings are buried, left exposed, or accumulated into middens. Claws are sheathed while walking and do not mark in the spoor. Spoor and dung are indistinguishable from those of domestic cats. African wild cats pluck feathers from prey whereas genets do not.

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