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The African Wildcat (Felis sylvestris lybica), also called the Near Eastern Wildcat, can be found in most of northern Africa and around the Arabian Peninsula as far as the Caspian Sea. African Wildcats are roughly the size of domestic cats, being about 24 inches (60 cm) in body length, with a 14-inch (36 cm) tail. They are in fact closely related to domestic cats, their common ancestor diverging probably around 131,000 years ago. Ancestors of today's African Wildcat were domesticated about 9,000 years ago in the Middle East. Archaeologists discovered the remains of an African Wildcat (believed to be a domesticated pet) in a human grave in Cyprus that was dated 9,500 years old.


African Wildcats differ from other wildcat species in their coloring and other subtle physical characteristics. The stripes on their neck and shoulders, as well as their slender frame and tufted ears are unique, as well as their coats, which are shorter than other wildcat species'.

The African Wildcat's large range is due to their ability to tolerate many different kinds of habitats. It can be found in the Saharan desert, but is even more common in hill and mountain country like the Hoggar Mountains. It thrives in the savannas of Mauritania, the Horn of Africa, Sudan and Ethiopia.


Their diet consists primarily of rodents and other small mammals but it is opportunistic - it will hunt birds, reptiles and amphibians if it has the chance. It is most active during the twilight hours and early night, although it may have increased daytime activity when it is particularly cloudy and dark. Female African Wildcats will give birth to a litter of about two to six kittens, the average number being three.


The African Wildcat's wide distribution and healthy population means that it is listed as Least Concern by the IUCN.

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