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.
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.