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African Wild Cat

Updated on January 26, 2015
VladimirCat profile image

Vladimir is a former champion ratter (retired). His hobbies are bushwalking, birdwatching and nature studies

Felis libyca
Felis libyca | Source

Your Kitty's Ancestor

All the domestic cats you know today have a common ancestor - and that ancestor still runs free across the savannah which is a lot more than you can say for the human ancestor.

My noble ancestor is the African wild cat, Felis libyca, found today across Africa and Arabia.

But the African Wild Cat is threatened . Loss of habitat and hybridisation with domestic cats is leading rapidly to the demise of this wonderful creature.

Beautiful African Wild Cat
Beautiful African Wild Cat

Why Cats moved in with People

The tough little wildcat of Egypt, Felis libyca, first lived in the swamps and marshes along the Nile. As time progressed, and people began to grow grains and other foodstuff and keeping it for longer periods of time, rodents and other dastardly vermin found they could easily get a free meal.

But my noble ancestor, the African Wild Cat, with its ferocity and rapacity, could keep the rodent population under control!

Your excessive use of agriculture resulted in large scale storage of grains which attracted the usual and well know group of freeloaders, mice and rats. Grain attracted rodents. Rodents attracted my ancestors, and they set up housekeeping close to human settlements. Eventually, being what we are, we moved in with you.

When Cats tamed People

Ferocious African Wild Cat
Ferocious African Wild Cat | Source

Rodent Killing Cats of the Past

What a thrilling scene it must have been! These ferocious ancestors of mine slinking around the village to hunt down the deadly (and tasty) rodents. I can imagine quite clearly the grateful Egyptians leaving out scraps of food to encourage the Wild Cats to stay. Then one or two of the more friendly of my forebears allowed themselves to be petted and hand fed.

Pretty soon they had the best hammock in the house.

These rodent-killing cats were held in the highest esteem and the penalties for injuring or killing one were severe. Ah, those were the days! We ended up being worshiped as semi-divine creatures and, although I may not go so far as to demand the right of worship be restored, a little respect goes a long way.

We didn't need you to survive, you needed us,

Did You Know?

If a fire broke out in an Egyptian house, the cat was the first to be saved.

You don't see too much of that these days.

Wild Cats don't have to be BIG

African Wild Cat in the Selinda Reserve, Sth Africa.
African Wild Cat in the Selinda Reserve, Sth Africa. | Source

Wild Cats don't have to be BIG

Here's a good looking African Wild Cat in the Selinda Reserve, Sth Africa.

There are various other species of small wild cat around the place. You don't necessarily have to be big to stay top cat.

Smaller wild cats live in all continents except for Antarctica and Australia. (Only my domesticated family and a few undesirable ferals live downunder, apart from the Mystery Big Cat of Australia).

An African Wild Cat
An African Wild Cat

What does an African Wild Cat look like?

What's really quite fascinating to the serious genealogist like myself, is the striking family resemblance between Felis Libyca and the common or garden tabby cat you can trip across anywhere.

The African Wild Cat is coloured a sandy brown to a yellow grey, with black stripes on the tail. The shadings are darker in wet regions and paler in dry. They have dark garters on the upper legs and indistinct spots on chest.

So apart from being a little larger and a little leggier, you can't pick instantly if you're admiring a true specimen of Felis Libyca or simply staring at a neighbourhood tabby.

The main clue is the whereabouts of the cat in question.

I want to be Wild!

African Wild Cats are Under Threat

The habitat of the African Wild Cat shrinks a little more each year but the primary threat is that bane of catdom - the domestic cat gone feral.

Hybridisation is the term used. Feral male cats have a competitive advantage over male wildcats when comes to access to females, due to both their larger size and nastier disposition. So my ancestor, after lasting all this time, is now in danger of being bred out of existence!

The pure strains of African Wild Cat will only be safe in protected areas remote from human habitation and isolated from feral domestic cats. I hate to sound callous, but something drastic has to be done about feral domestic cats - wherever they are found.

Raise YOUR paw

What should be done about feral cats?

See results

© 2009 Vladimir

Leave a felicitation for Felis Libyca - No ferals need respond

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    • savateuse profile image


      6 years ago

      Beautiful pictures!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Wonderful photos of cats. I wish there were an easy solution for feral cats.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Saw a magnificent African wild cat at the Lion and Rhino Park in South Africa recently. Looked just like a really big tabby tom and narrowed his eyes at us in a friendly fashion. I wonder if its true that they can't be tamed even as kittens? I don't agree that "something should be done about ferals". Yes, you do sound callous. It's not their fault that they have been kicked out by some human, or abandoned or whatever. Trapping, neutering and returning is the most humane method and there are many animals groups in South africa who are committed to helping these poor creatures. Also lots of people who make a business of feeding the colonies. Something should be done about people, more likely!

    • Brandi Bush profile image


      9 years ago from Maryland

      Wow, the pictures of these wild cats are amazing! :)

    • CCGAL profile image


      9 years ago

      Our beloved kitty, Ms. Clawdia, looked just like one of those African Wild Cats. She was born of a barn cat in northern California, a normal domesticated tabby, but her sire was at least part Bobcat, and she had all of the "extras" that being a Bobcat brings other than size. She was small like the African Wild Cat. We still miss her after all these years.

    • Paul Ward profile image


      9 years ago from Liverpool, England

      I have found myself watching films of African Wild Cats and thinking that they move just like domestic :)

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I had no idea that cats started out in Africa along the Nile. The wild cat looks basically the same as most of its progeny. I guess not much has changed aside from cosmetic features.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Fascinating - so wonderful to learn this. It's awful, though, that these, like so many other species, are threatened or endangered.

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 

      10 years ago from UK

      What a thrill to discover the African Wild Cat, and to find that it looks so, well, cat-like (with supermodel legs, though!) I know when people come across my page on the Scottish Wildcat they wonder if I'm just spinning them a yarn and it's nothing but a tabby cat, since all the other non-domesticated cats are so much bigger.

      Lensrolling the African Wild Cat to its Scottish cousin and will feature the African Wild Cat there next time I update. We can't let either of these noble and ancient cat breeds die out.

      Sending a Valentine blessing your way, Vladi.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Another great lens, Vladi. Found it very interesting. Blessed!

    • Franksterk profile image

      Frankie Kangas 

      10 years ago from California

      Excellent lens. The photos, the info and your writing style are suburb. Blessed!

    • imolaK profile image


      10 years ago

      Great lens. Blessed!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      As all of your lenses... this is a great one. Love that you teach humans about cats. Thanks!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      As all of your lenses... this is a great one. Love that you teach humans about cats. Thanks!

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Greetings Vladi and I am honored by your recent visit and comments to gird our whatsis and get on with it. I would've expected no lesser feline response from one whose inner strength is legendary. I'm sure you will appreciate the fact that I girded my whatsis on a recent trip to Africa where I did observe your larger relatives... the Leopard and the Lion, but did not meet the relative in this lens. You do have a fascinating legacy with your species!

    • naturegirl7s profile image

      Yvonne L B 

      12 years ago from Covington, LA

      Master Vladi, I commend your work and to show my appreciation, have featured this very lens on our Dear Tippi Hedren lens. Dax, Blaze and Star Noir send their good wishes.

    • ctavias0ffering1 profile image


      12 years ago

      Another excellent lens Vladi 5*

    • Kiwisoutback profile image


      12 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great work! I like the video you added on these cats, I just watched it. They look like our typical housecats, but a bit bigger and larger paws. Squid Angel blessed!


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