This is a page on the African wildcat written for children. Visitors are free to use the content as they wish but please credit the source, http://pictures-of-cats.org
The African wildcat is a subspecies (type) of wildcat. A “subspecies” means that there is more than one type of cat of a certain species. There are probably five types of wildcat. Please note that when I write about a “wildcat” I am not writing about all the wild cats in the world but a type of cat called a “wildcat”. When writing about this cat there is no space between “wild” and “cat”.
The African wildcat has a name in Latin: Felis silvestris lybica. Experts (people who know cats well) like to use Latin, an ancient language, to name the wildcats. It makes it complicated for kids, though.
Because of its name you can work out that this cat lives in Africa. It actually lives in north Africa and also in places that are not in Africa. These places are in an area from the Arabian Peninsula to the Caspian Sea. You can see where this is in the picture on this page. Africa is a continent. There are many countries in Africa and this wildcat lives in many of them. One area where you will hardly see it is the Sahara Desert which is in the north of Africa. African wildcats don’t like the desert. Also in some countries just below the Sahara there are fewer wildcats. This is also because this cat is not happy living in wet tropical forests that are in that area.
This wildcat is about the same size as a domestic cat. The cat that might be in your house right now. It actually looks a bit like a domestic tabby cat. This should not be surprising because a domestic cat is really a sort of very tame African wildcat. For this reason the African wildcat is important in the history of cats. One difference between the African wildcat and the domestic cat is that the wildcat has longer legs and is probably normally a bit thinner.
Another difference is that the back of the ears of the wildcat are usually grey or black. The tail is long and thin. It has a black tip. A bit of fur grows out from the tips of each ear about half an inch long.
The color of the wildcat changes depending on where it lives. In drier places the coat is lighter and less spotted while in areas where there is more rain the coat is darker and there are more spots on it. The spots are a bit faint sometimes and they can join together to make a stripe.
The tabby coat is a kind of cat coat in which each hair has bands of color in it. A lot of cats have tabby coats. The brown colored tabby coat is the best for a cat living in the wild because it means the cat looks a bit like the background. It cannot be seen very easily. This protects the cat.
The African wildcat normally lives in grassy areas and woods, sometimes near water. It attacks, kills and eats small animals like rats to survive. Sometimes it will kill hares and even small antelopes. It is also very good at killing snakes. This particular skill was a big reason why people liked the African wildcat living nearby. The cat helped to protect them.
As a result the African wildcat became friendly with people about 9,500 years ago. The wildcat began to live around farmer’s homes and caught and ate the rats and snakes. There were more rats near people because the people stored grain and the rats ate the grain. Gradually the cat and human became friends. These cats were the first domestic cats in the world.
Sometimes African wildcats catch and eat large spiders called “hunting spiders”. This may be a reason why our domestic cat companions are always interested in catching a spider in the home.
It is difficult to know how many African wildcats there are in the world because they often mate with domestic cats. The kittens they make are half wildcat and half domestic cat. They are not true wildcats anymore. They look like wildcats which makes it hard to know whether they really are an African wildcat. This is the biggest problem for the survival of the African wildcat in the world.