AFRICA’S LITTLE CATS
Africa’s Big Cats receive most of our attention due to their endangerment and visibility, but Africa is home to another smaller species of wild cats.
These Little Cats, equally impressive as the Big Cats with their sets of skills, are more elusive and harder to spot in the wild, as they mostly avoid humans and other animals.
Here are the four Little Cats of Southern and Eastern Africa:
The African Wild Cat
The African Wild Cat is the ancestor of the domestic cat and an endemic species of wild cat in Africa. Widespread throughout the continent, excluding the Sahara and rainforests, these animals look more like pets than wild cats.
The average size of the African Wild Cat is around 45-75cm (17-30 inches) long. They have a distinctive tawny-colour on their upper ears and are mostly nocturnal, preying on mice and other small animals.
The Black-Footed Cat
The Black-Footed Cat gets its name, yes you guessed it, from its black feet. These little cats are the smallest of Africa’s wild cats, weighing around at only 2kg (4½ pounds), but they are also the most dangerous to their prey, with a 60% kill rate! Typically living in savannas, grasslands and semi-desert areas, the Black-Footed Cat preys on small animals like birds, rodents and rabbits.
These animals are solitary, anti-social creatures and nocturnal. During the day they will rest in abandoned burrows. They absorb moisture from their prey, so rarely drink water.
The largest of Africa’s small cats, the Caracal can easily be recognised by its distinctive ears, which have black tufts of fur at the tips. These little cats are extremely elusive and difficult to photograph. Caracals prefer savannas, forests and semi-desert areas.
Adult Caracals weigh between 11 to 18kg (25-40 pounds) and they are mostly nocturnal. Their prey consists of rodents, birds and small mammals. Besides reaching high speeds of around 80 km/h (50 mph) in short bursts, these animals can jump up to 5 meters (16 feet) high to snatch birds in flight out of the sky!
Larger than the Black-Footed Cat, the Serval is about the same size as the Caracal. They prefer habitats near water and have no set mating season. These little cats are active during the night and day, making them easier to spot in the wild. Their diet consists mainly of rodents.
Servals have very large ears in comparison to their body size. Their ears are used like radars to zone in on the location of their prey. These wild cats are built for height, rather than speed, and they have extremely long legs, the longest legs relative to body size out of any cat species.