There’s something special about being in a game reserve and seeing the big cats like lions, leopards and cheetahs and then coming across a little African wild cat. Wild cats look so much like domestic cats that it’s hard to believe that they aren’t the tame, lovable creatures that rule our hearts and homes. Although they live side by side with their larger cat family members, Wild cats have to be alert and cunning as they are preyed upon by lions and leopards. Because they’re nocturnal you don’t see them very often, so when you do, it makes the occasion quite memorable.
We’ve come across these cats a few times in the wild. They’re usually seen at sundown and disappear very quickly when they see humans. However, on our last two visits to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, we were able to spend some time photographing them. They are mainly terrestrial, especially when hunting rats, mice, spiders and birds, but you actually need to keep an eye out for them in trees, as our most successful sightings have been during the day when they’ve found a nice spot on a branch to sleep on. If you’re very lucky, they will lie there warily watching you without running off. Our biggest problem was not being able to get out of the car to get close enough for a decent photograph.
Wild cats are solitary animals that only get together to mate and a successful copulation results in a pregnancy lasting about two months. Breeding takes place throughout the year, peaking during the summer months, and litters usually comprise of two to five kittens.
African wild cats (Felis lybica) are greyish in colour with stripes on the legs and tail, and the females are slightly smaller than the males. They’re found throughout the region.