Africa’s lions, leopards and cheetahs are absolutely breathtaking in every sense of the word, but they are not the only fabulous felines the continent has to offer. In fact, there are seven other species of wild cats that can be found during an African safari vacation.
While these kitties may be smaller than their larger counterparts, they are no less beautiful or fascinating. Many of them actually happen to have some fairly astounding abilities, like leaping 10 feet into the air! Read on to learn more about seven small cats of Africa that need your love, too.
Caracals are gorgeous, medium-sized wild cats recognizable by the tall black tufts they sport on their ears. They stand about 18 inches at the shoulder and weigh up to 40 pounds.
While caracals may be best known for their wispy ears, they have an even more impressive quality: they are some of the world’s best jumpers. An adult caracal can leap up to 10 feet in the air in order to catch elusive prey like pheasants and other birds. The ancient Egyptians even once tamed caracals to use for hunting.
Spotting a caracal is difficult because they are mostly nocturnal, solitary and shy, but they can potentially be found throughout grasslands in southern and eastern Africa.
A serval is another medium-sized African cat. This species often looks like a large version of housecat but with longer legs and a stunning spotted coat. In fact, the serval has the longest legs relative to body size of any cat. They typically stand around 20 inches at the shoulder and weigh 30 to 40 pounds.
Although they are still shy, you can find servals more easily than caracals. They have a wide-ranging habitat stretching across central Africa and reaching along the east coast all the way down to the Cape of Good Hope.
African Golden Cat
The African Golden Cat is an incredibly rare and beautiful medium-sized cat that lives almost exclusively in the forests of the Congo, with some subspecies also being found along swathes of the west African coast.
This species is reddish-brown, and about twice the size of a typical domestic cat, weighing up to 35 lbs. Seeing an African golden cat is truly a rare treat that can make safaris in the Congo and East Africa well worth the trip.
If you spot a creature stalking in the Savannah that looks like it could be a large stray, look a little closer. There is a solid chance that this may actually be an African wildcat, the species that was domesticated to become a common housecat.
True African wildcats have a longer, lankier, and more muscular build compared to a housecat. Their shoulder blades also protrude more noticeably, like a cheetah’s. All have a faint grey tabby pattern.
With a wide range stretching across most of Africa, they are also very common in the wild. And, like most regular cats, they definitely won’t come when you call them!
Black Footed Cat
Black-footed cats are tiny, spotted cats that are found predominantly in arid regions of South Africa. Weighing less than six pounds on average and at a standard size half that of a typical domestic cat, black-footed cats may be the smallest wild cat species in the world.
They typically hunt at night and rest during the day in abandoned burrows dug by animals like aardvarks. Their small size means they must hunt voraciously every night to maintain their energy — an adult black-footed cat may catch as many as 14 small animals a night!
Cats of North Africa
- The Sand Cat is a small cat adapted to life in the desert, with thick paw pads and large ears used to detect vibrations caused by small prey.
- The Jungle Cat is rare in Africa, only found near the Nile in Egypt, but found more commonly in the jungles of southern Asia. They live mostly in wetland habitats, hunting with large fangs.
Come Get to Know Africa’s Small Cats on an African Safari Vacation
You can potentially meet Africa’s small cats in person — and ensure they get the spotlight they need to shine alongside their big cousins — when you book an African safari vacation package today.
Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui