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What Is the African Golden Cat?

Lumara Lee
Lumara Lee

The African golden cat, or Profelis aurata, is a jungle cat that inhabits African rainforests. In spite of its name, coloration of the African golden cat generally ranges from grey to orange and reddish brown, with some specimens displaying melanistic black from an overabundance of melanin in their fur. Some of the cats have spots, and some don’t. Their heads appear disproportionately small for the size of their bodies. Considered a medium-sized feline, a large African golden cat can reach a length of 57 inches (145 cm) and weigh up to 30 pounds (13.6 kg).

They are shy and elusive, and not as much is known about the African golden cats as about other jungle cats. Rare sightings have shown that African golden cats spend much of their time perched on tree branches, but it isn’t known whether they mostly live in trees or on the ground. They are carnivorous and hunt on the ground, preying mostly on rodents and supplementing their diet with birds, antelopes, and the occasional small monkey. The African golden cat has a stocky build and large paws. It generally lives a solitary lifestyle outside of mating season.

Veterinarian with a puppy
Veterinarian with a puppy

Predation by humans is one of several factors that threaten the African golden cat. Although it is a legally protected species, it is often hunted for its meat and pelt. Some cultures consider the tail a talisman, and its pelt is used in some religious ceremonies.

Loss of habitat due to deforestation is another threat to this species. The African golden cat has displayed the ability to adapt to logged areas because the secondary growth supports the large rodent population that is the mainstay of its diet, but its numbers continue to decline. Another factor contributing to this decrease in population is loss of the cats' prey, since wild meat is popular and is hunted to excess.

Often referred to locally as the leopard’s brother, the African golden cat inhabits much of the same region as the leopard. It also counts among leopards' prey. Like other cats, the African golden cat is nocturnal, but has been seen hunting during the day.

The cats' period of gestation is approximately 75 days, with one to three kittens born to each litter. Cubs can weigh anywhere between 6 and 8 ounces (170 and 235 grams) at birth and are weaned after three to four months. They mature at around 22-24 months, and have been known to live for 12 years.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the African Golden Cat and where can it be found?

The African Golden Cat (Caracal aurata) is a medium-sized wild cat native to the rainforests of West and Central Africa. It inhabits dense tropical forests, bamboo forests, and cloud forests, ranging from sea level to altitudes of over 3,000 meters. This elusive feline is rarely seen and prefers undisturbed habitats, making it a mysterious subject for researchers.

How big is the African Golden Cat and what does it look like?

Adult African Golden Cats are similar in size to a large domestic cat, weighing between 5.5 to 16 kilograms. They have a robust build with a variable coat color that can be reddish-brown, grayish-brown, or golden, often with a pattern of spots or rosettes. Their fur is thick and soft, providing camouflage and insulation in their humid forest habitats.

What does the African Golden Cat eat?

African Golden Cats are carnivorous and have a diverse diet. They primarily prey on small mammals like rodents, tree hyraxes, and small antelopes, but they also hunt birds, monkeys, and even small reptiles. Their opportunistic feeding habits help them adapt to various environments and availability of prey within their forested territories.

Is the African Golden Cat endangered?

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the African Golden Cat is classified as Vulnerable. Habitat loss due to deforestation, bushmeat hunting, and the illegal pet trade are significant threats to their survival. Conservation efforts are crucial to protect this species and the ecosystems they inhabit.

How does the African Golden Cat reproduce?

African Golden Cats are solitary animals, coming together only to mate. The specifics of their reproductive behavior are not well-documented, but it is known that females give birth to one or two kittens after a gestation period of around 75 days. The kittens are born blind and helpless, relying on their mother for protection and nourishment.

What efforts are being made to conserve the African Golden Cat?

Conservation efforts for the African Golden Cat include habitat protection, anti-poaching measures, and research to better understand their ecology and behavior. Organizations are working to establish protected areas and corridors to ensure genetic flow between populations. Education and community involvement are also key to reducing human-wildlife conflict and promoting coexistence.

Discussion Comments


Before reading this article, I had actually never heard of the African golden cat. Also, they are once again, an animal that's being hunted for their meat and fur. There should be a strict laws that bans the hunting of these animals. Either that, or people should be required to have a registered hunting license.

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      Veterinarian with a puppy