African wildcat

Felis silvestris lybica

The African wildcat is a wildcat subspecies that occurs across northern Africa and extends around the periphery of the Arabian Peninsula to the Caspian Sea. As it is the most common and widely distributed wild cat, it is listed as Least Concern by IUCN since 2002.

The African wildcat appears to have diverged from the other subspecies about 131,000 years ago. Some individual African wildcats were first domesticated about 10,000 years ago in the Middle East, and are the ancestors of the domestic cat. Remains of domesticated cats have been included in human burials as far back as 9,500 years ago in Cyprus.

Note that the spelling ''lybica'' is due to an orthographical error by Georg Forster but is now the accepted spelling of the species' systematic name.
African Wild Cat  African wildcat,Felis silvestris lybica,Geotagged,South Africa

Appearance

The African wildcat is sandy brown to yellow-grey in color, with black stripes on the tail. The fur is shorter than that of the European subspecies. It is also considerably smaller: the head-body length is 45 to 75 cm , the tail 20 to 38 cm , and the weight ranges from 3 to 6.5 kg .

Naming

Based on a mitochondrial DNA study of 979 domestic and wild cats from Europe, Asia, and Africa, ''Felis silvestris lybica'' split off from the European wildcat about 173,000 years ago and from the Asian subspecies ''F. s. ornata'' and ''F. s. cafra'' about 131,000 years ago. About 10,000 years ago, some ''Felis silvestris lybica'' individuals were domesticated in the Middle East. Modern domestic cats are derived from at least five "Mitochondrial Eves". None of the other subspecies of ''Felis silvestris'' contributed to the domestic breed, and many of those subspecies' own mtDNA is being swamped by interbreeding with feral cats. The only organization currently known to have a program specifically aimed at conserving African wildcats and reducing genetic pollution by domestic cats is Alley Cat Rescue.

Distribution

The African wildcat occurs across northern Africa and extends around the periphery of the Arabian Peninsula to the Caspian Sea. This extremely wide distributional range is accompanied by a very broad habitat tolerance. It is thinly distributed in true deserts such as the Sahara, and occurs especially in association with hill and mountain country, such as the Hoggar. It occurs discontinuously from Morocco through Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and into Egypt, and is extensively distributed across the savannas of West Africa from Mauritania on the Atlantic seaboard, eastwards to the Horn of Africa, Sudan and Ethiopia; southwards it is present in all East and southern African countries.

Behavior

The African wildcat eats primarily mice, rats and other small mammals. When the opportunity arises, it also eats birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. The cat approaches its prey slowly, and attacks by pouncing on its prey as soon as it is within range . The African wildcat is mainly active during the night and twilight. When confronted, the African wildcat raises its hair to make itself seem larger and 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 overlaps with that of a few females, who defend the territory against intruders. A female gives birth to two to six kittens, with three being average. The African wildcat often rests and gives birth in burrows or hollows in the ground. The gestation lasts between 56 and 69 days. The kittens are born blind and need the full care of the mother. Most kittens are born in the wet season, when there is sufficient food. They stay with their mother for five to six months and are fertile after one year.

Habitat

The African wildcat occurs across northern Africa and extends around the periphery of the Arabian Peninsula to the Caspian Sea. This extremely wide distributional range is accompanied by a very broad habitat tolerance. It is thinly distributed in true deserts such as the Sahara, and occurs especially in association with hill and mountain country, such as the Hoggar. It occurs discontinuously from Morocco through Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and into Egypt, and is extensively distributed across the savannas of West Africa from Mauritania on the Atlantic seaboard, eastwards to the Horn of Africa, Sudan and Ethiopia; southwards it is present in all East and southern African countries.The African wildcat eats primarily mice, rats and other small mammals. When the opportunity arises, it also eats birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. The cat approaches its prey slowly, and attacks by pouncing on its prey as soon as it is within range . The African wildcat is mainly active during the night and twilight. When confronted, the African wildcat raises its hair to make itself seem larger and 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 overlaps with that of a few females, who defend the territory against intruders. A female gives birth to two to six kittens, with three being average. The African wildcat often rests and gives birth in burrows or hollows in the ground. The gestation lasts between 56 and 69 days. The kittens are born blind and need the full care of the mother. Most kittens are born in the wet season, when there is sufficient food. They stay with their mother for five to six months and are fertile after one year.

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Taxonomy
KingdomAnimalia
DivisionChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderCarnivora
FamilyFelidae
GenusFelis
SpeciesF. silvestris
Photographed in
South Africa