19 facts about the African golden cat

African golden cat
African golden cat. Photo: Johannes Pfleiderer.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Here are 19 succinct facts about the mysterious African golden cat. There’s more detailed information in other articles at the base of the page.

  1. Local people call the African golden cat the “boy of the leopard” or “the leopard’s brother” because they believe that it follows the leopard.
  2. Local people believe this cat species to be fierce and they fear it. And in many parts of Africa, it is the subject of tribal superstitions.
  3. In Cameroon, pigmy tribes carry the cat’s tail to bring good fortune when hunting elephants. I don’t know if this is still practised. An ancient culture like is liable to change and fade in a rapidly changing world.
  4. Skins of this cat are sometimes used locally during circumcision rights or to wrap up valuable objects. The above caveat applies here too.
  5. It is believed that the similarly named Asian golden cat is unconnected taxonomically i.e. DNA. Although there are both part of an early split in the Panthera lineage about 6 million years ago.
  6. It is believed that the African golden cat should be in the caracal group along with the serval.
  7. This small wild cat species is about twice the size of a large domestic cat. It is robust, weighing about 8-16 kg. Males are larger than females.
  8. They are seen in many colours. The fur varies from marmalade orange-red to sepia-grey. In addition, the coat can be spotted all over or unspotted or somewhere in between for each colour type. The undersides are almost always white or whitish and marked with dark spots or blotches. The cat has a heavy muzzle and a round face.
  9. The fur from just in front of the soldiers to the crown of the head changes direction and points forward.
  10. You will find this cat in the middle of the African continent on the west side in general terms. Specifically: Angola; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Congo; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Côte d’Ivoire; Equatorial Guinea; Gabon; Ghana; Guinea; Liberia; Nigeria; Sierra Leone; Uganda. It is unclear whether the cat still lives in the following countries: Benin; Burundi; Gambia; Guinea-Bissau; Kenya; Rwanda; Senegal; Sudan; Togo. This information is time sensitive as the population is steadily declining (IUCN Red List).
  11. The African golden cat is very adaptable as to where it lives and is found in almost every type of forest including primary forest, secondary vegetation, recently logged forest with a dense understory and riverine forest where watercourses enter more open habitat. It is typically found in forested areas with very dense undergrowth around rivers.
  12. It is primarily a ground-based hunter i.e. terrestrial as compared to arboreal i.e. moving around in the trees to hunt. This is based upon the cat’s stocky build. It is believed to be mainly active at dawn and dusk (crepuscular) and during the night.
  13. The main prey for this cat are small animals and birds. These include: duikers, monkeys, rodents and as mentioned birds. They are known to raid chicken coops and kill sheep. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it was found from 60 scats (feces) that they fed on small to medium-sized rodents. The normal weight of consumed animal was 1.4 kg.
  14. This is a solitary cat. It is believed that both males and females keep apart both in terms of geography and in time. They achieve this through scent marks, scrapes and faeces.
  15. It is believed that they have a wide range of sounds typical of a small wild cat which include, hissing, meowing and growling. It is believed that they purr and in close-contact situations they gurgle.
  16. Based on observations of a captive golden cat, the gestation period is 75 days and two litters of two kittens were born. The newborn kittens varied in weight from 180-235 g. By day six their eyes were open. They developed rapidly thereafter. By 19 days both kittens made their first attempt to jump onto a low tree stump. By 12 weeks of age the male kitten weight 2.9 kg and the female 2.5 kg.
  17. The population size is decreasing and they are classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List. Their survival in the wild is threatened by habitat loss i.e. deforestation and fragmentation of their distribution. Before 2000, West and East Africa suffered from an 88-92% reduction in rainforest.
  18. Another threat is bush meat i.e. being killed by locals for food. This includes the killing of prey animals which leads to “empty forest syndrome”. The building of roads has speeded up the declining population because it has allowed access to forest for hunters and deforestation. Another threat is wire-snares for other animals.
  19. The human population in the area of their distribution is growing at the fastest rate in the world at +2.6-2.8% per annum for West, Central and East Africa as at 2011. This increases human activity which invariably negatively impacts survivability of all wild species. (facts on conservation are from IUCN Red List)
African Golden Cat Facts For kids
African Golden Cat Facts For kids. Credits: Photos (2) of African golden cat by Panthera Cats on Flickr. Swamp rat by Chugy (Flickr). Picture of tropical forest in Gabon (part of this cat’s habitat) by carlosoliveirareis.

Click the following for a kids’ version: African Golden Cat Facts For Kids

Except as stated the source is Wild Cats of the World by Mel and Fiona Sunquist (the best book on the wild cats). If you want specific references, please ask in a comment and I’ll be pleased to provide them.


African golden cat. Camera trap photo: Gary P. Aronsen, research associate in the Department of Anthropology at Yale University, USA

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