African Golden Cat, Profelis aurata

The African Golden cat (Profelis aurata) is a wild cat that can be found in West and Central Africa. Its range extends east from Senegal into Kenya, and from the north, it extends from the Central African Republic south into Angola. It prefers a habitat in tropical rainforests but can also be found in bamboo forests, cloud forests, or high moorland habitats. It can be found living in areas at sea level up to 9,800 feet above sea level. Although it is closely related to the serval and the caracal, it is currently the only member in its genus.

There are two currently recognized subspecies of the African golden cat. These have distinct marking patterns that help to identify each one. Profelis aurata, which can be found from the Congo to Uganda, will either have spots on its underside or faded spots occurring only on the belly. Profelis aurata celidogaster, which can be found throughout Western Africa, can have spots on the entire body or can have a few spots on the neck and back with distinct spots on the sides.

As with the species as a whole, Profelis aurata celidogaster was thought to have had a separate subspecies known as P. a. cottoni. It was found in 1939, however, that P. a. cottoni was actually a melanistc variation. These individuals have been found throughout P. a. cottoni‘s range, as well as in captivity.

The African golden cat can vary in fur color, from burnished to brownish red, and melanistic, or all black, individuals can occur. Spotted markings can vary in color as well, from nearly black to light tan, and some cats do not have spots at all. The under belly and areas around the eyes, chin, cheeks, and throat are typically lighter in color, and can even be nearly white. The top of the tail is usually darker than the rest of the body, and it can be banded light are dark, or can be plain. The tail will always have a black tip. In western locations, the cats have denser spots, whereas in eastern locations the spotting is lighter. Red and grey color variances were once thought to have been different species, although they are the same cats.

Approximately two times the size of a house cat, the African golden cat can have a body length ranging from 1.6 feet to 3.3 feet, and the tail can reach a length of up to fourteen inches. The average weight of this cat is between eighteen to thirty five pounds, and males are usually larger than females. It is stalky and has a head that is small in comparison to the rest of its body. The legs are long, and the tail is relatively short. The African golden cat has large paws. Despite is similarities to the caracal, it lacks tufted ears and has a longer tail. This cat can be distinguished by the curved edge on the fur around the neck, which grows at a different angle than the other fur.

Little is known about the African golden cat, due to its withdrawn nature. Normally nocturnal, these cats are also crepuscular, preferring to spend their time awake in the evenings and mornings. It is able to climb, but typically, it will hunt on the forest floor catching prey like rodents, but it will hunt monkeys, birds, giant forest hogs, and small antelope.

The reproduction habits of this cat are known from captive individuals, where they are apt to breed. After a pregnancy lasting around seventy-five days, one to two kittens are born weighing 6.3 to 8.3 ounces. After one week, the kittens are able to see, and they are weaned at six to eight weeks. Kittens are known to develop quickly, and one was seen scaling a sixteen-inch wall at only sixteen days old. In captivity, the Africa golden cat can live to be twelve years old, but the lifespan of wild cats is unknown. The conservation status of the African golden cat as listed by the IUCN is “Near Threatened”.

Image Caption: Felis aurata. Credit: J G Keulemans/Wikipedia