African Golden Cat – Description, Diet, Personality, And Fun Facts

By Kevin Myers | 2023 Update

Prepare to be dazzled by one of Africa’s most mysterious and elusive felines—the African Golden Cat. Imagine a creature so secretive that it’s often referred to as Africa’s “ghost cat”. 

Did the small size fool you? Because this little firecracker is a fearless hunter, taking on everything from rodents to small antelopes.

In a world where big cats often steal the limelight, the African Golden Cat is a reminder that sometimes, the most intriguing secrets of the wild are hidden in the shadows.

CharacteristicsAfrican Golden Cat
Scientific NameCaracal aurata
Average Size55-90 cm (21-35 in) in body length
Weight5-16 kg (11-35 lbs)
Coat ColorVariable, ranging from golden-red to gray
Coat PatternSolid, spotted, or striped
EarsLarge and tufted
HabitatTropical rainforests, montane forests, swamp forests
RangeEquatorial Africa, including parts of Central and West Africa
DietCarnivorous; preys on small to medium-sized mammals, birds, and rodents
BehaviorSolitary, primarily nocturnal, agile climbers
Conservation StatusLeast Concern (IUCN Red List)

African Golden Cat Pictures & Videos

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What is An African Golden Cat?

Origin and Evolution

1. A Furry Fossil Tale

So, let’s hop in our time machine and rewind the clock a few million years. African Golden Cats are part of the family Felidae, which means they’re related to all the big and small cats you know, from lions to your furry friend at home. But the specific lineage of these golden beauties is a bit of a mystery because, well, they’re super secretive!

2. Cats on a Different Path

It’s believed that the African Golden Cat split from its closest relatives, the Caracal and the Serval, about 5 million years ago. So, while their cousins were evolving to master the open savannahs and deserts, the Golden Cats were carving out their niche in the dense jungles of Africa.

3. African Through and Through

One thing’s for sure though: African Golden Cats are true Africans. They’ve been on the continent for millions of years and are perfectly adapted to their rainforest homes. We may not know everything about their origin, but we do know that these cats see Africa as their home as much as the mighty elephant or the regal lion.

Physical Appearance and Adaptation

1. A Size Surprise

Kicking off with the basics, the African Golden Cat isn’t your average kitty. Weighing between 5 to 16 kg (11 to 35 lbs), it’s about twice the size of a domestic cat. That’s a pretty hefty bundle of fur and claws!

2. Fashion Forward

Now, about their stunning coat—it can range from a beautiful golden reddish-brown to a sleek grey. And here’s a cool fact: they can even change color! Yep, their fur can darken when they’re in cooler areas and lighten up in warmer spots. Talk about a built-in fashion statement!

3. Facial Markings and More

Up close, you’d notice distinctive white lines around their eyes and cheeks, and a white underbelly. They’ve also got tufted ears, somewhat like a lynx, and their eyes are a striking shade of green or amber.

4. Built for the Hunt

When it comes to hunting, their compact bodies and powerful legs are perfect for sprinting and leaping onto prey. They’re also great climbers, thanks to their sharp, retractable claws—just the right tools for an ambush from above.

5. Camouflage Kings

Their fur not only looks fabulous but also helps them blend into the dappled sunlight of their forest homes. This makes them almost invisible in the undergrowth—a super handy trick when you’re stalking dinner or avoiding bigger predators.

Behavior and Lifestyle

1. The Solo Act

Alright, let’s talk about how African Golden Cats roll. They’re solitary creatures, like most cats, except when they’re mating or raising kittens. They love their alone time and are most active during the night, although they can be flexible and adjust their schedules if needed.

2. Home Sweet Home

These cats are territorial and mark their home range with scent markings. A cat’s territory can range anywhere from 5 to 48 square kilometers, depending on the availability of food and mates. 

3. Stealth Mode: On

When it comes to hunting, they’re ambush predators. They’ll stalk their prey silently and then pounce when the moment is just right. Their diet is pretty varied, ranging from rodents and birds to small antelopes and monkeys. They’ve even been known to take down duikers, which are much larger than them!

4. Communicating the Cat Way

As for communication, they use a combination of vocalizations, body language, and scent marking. They can hiss, spit, growl, and even make a high-pitched gurgling noise. But you’re only going to hear all of this if you’re really lucky. They’re generally very quiet and elusive creatures.

5. Tree Climbers

And finally, remember how I said they’re great climbers? They use this skill to escape danger, scout for prey, and even just to relax. Imagine chilling in a tree, basking in the dappled sunlight, with the entire jungle around you. Not a bad way to live, huh?

Eating Habits

1. A Taste for Variety

When it comes to the dinner table, African Golden Cats are not picky eaters. They’re what we call “opportunistic predators”, which is just a fancy way of saying they’ll eat whatever they can get their paws on.

2. Small but Mighty

Their menu includes rodents, birds, small monkeys, and even small antelopes like duikers. Yep, you heard right. These cats, which are only about twice the size of a domestic cat, can take down prey much larger than themselves!

3. Ambush Experts

When they hunt, they rely on stealth and surprise. They’ll silently stalk their prey, keeping low to the ground and using their camouflage to blend in. Then, when they’re close enough, they’ll pounce! Their powerful hind legs give them a great spring, and their sharp claws and teeth do the rest.

4. Night Shift

They’re primarily nocturnal hunters, which means they do most of their hunting at night. Their prey is most active during that time, and the cover of darkness gives them an extra edge.

5. Climbing for Dinner

And don’t forget their climbing skills! These come in handy when they’re hunting birds or tree-dwelling rodents. 

Distribution and Habitat

1. The Heart of Africa

Alright, if you’re ever hoping to catch a glimpse of the elusive African Golden Cat, you’ll need to venture deep into the heart of Africa. They’re found across the equatorial belt of the continent, from Senegal in the west all the way to Kenya in the east.

2. Rainforest Rulers

When it comes to setting up home, African Golden Cats are all about that rainforest life. They love the dense, humid tropical rainforests where they can use their fabulous fur to blend into the dappled sunlight. 

3. Altitude? No Problem

But don’t think they’re just lowland lovers. These cats have been spotted at altitudes up to 3,000 meters in places like Mount Kilimanjaro. They’re also found in more open habitats like savannah and woodland, as long as there’s enough cover for them to stay hidden.

4. Shrinking Real Estate

Sadly, their preferred rainforest habitats are shrinking due to deforestation and human encroachment, which is a real concern for their survival.

Predators and Threats

1. The Predator’s Predators

You’d think being a predator puts you at the top of the food chain, right? Well, not always. Even African Golden Cats have to watch their backs. They have to be wary of larger predators like leopards and hyenas, who wouldn’t mind a golden cat snack.

2. Human Threats

But the real danger comes from us, humans. The African Golden Cat faces a number of human-related threats that are putting pressure on their survival.

3. Deforestation Disaster

First up is habitat loss due to deforestation. As we continue to cut down rainforests for timber and to clear land for agriculture, these cats are losing their homes. This not only reduces the spaces where they can live, but it also fragments their populations by making it a mission for them to find mates to reproduce with.

4. Hunting and Trapping Woes

Then there’s hunting and trapping. In some areas, they’re hunted for their beautiful fur. They’re also sometimes killed by locals who see them as a threat to their livestock. And let’s not forget the threat of being caught in snares set for other animals.

5. Climate Change Concerns

And last but not least, there’s the looming threat of climate change. Changes in weather patterns could disrupt their habitats and food sources, adding another layer of uncertainty to their future.

Conservation Status and Life Today

1. Vulnerable Vibes

As of now, the African Golden Cat is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN List. That’s just one step away from Endangered, and it’s mostly because of the threats I mentioned earlier.

2. Low and Lower

Estimates suggest that their population has declined by over 30% over the past 15 years, and it looks like this trend might continue if we don’t take action. 

3. Conservation Champions

But it’s not all bad news. Conservation efforts are on the go to help protect these elusive felines. This includes research to understand their behavior and needs better, anti-poaching initiatives, and efforts to conserve and restore their habitats.

4. Protected Areas

Protected areas, like national parks and reserves, are also crucial for their survival. These spaces provide a refuge where they can live without the threat of deforestation or human encroachment.

5. Education and Awareness

There’s also a growing focus on education and awareness. By teaching local communities about the importance of these cats and the role they play in the ecosystem, we can help change attitudes and reduce threats.

5 Incredible Fun Facts About African Golden Cat

1. Masters of Disguise

Not only do African Golden Cats have a beautiful, golden coat, but they can actually change its color! Depending on the temperature and their surroundings, their coat can lighten or darken. How’s that for a natural chameleon?

2. Heavyweight Champions

Even though they’re not much larger than your average house cat, African Golden Cats can take down prey much larger than themselves. They’ve been known to hunt and kill small antelopes, which can be several times their size. Talk about punching above your weight!

3. Tree-top Loungers

These cats aren’t just excellent climbers—they also love to hang out in trees. Whether they’re scouting for prey, escaping from danger, or just taking a nap, trees are an essential part of their lifestyle.

4. The Ghost Cat

African Golden Cats are so elusive and secretive that they’re often referred to as Africa’s “ghost cats”. In fact, they were captured on camera in the wild for the first time ever only in 2002!

5. Vocal Variety

Despite being solitary creatures, African Golden Cats have a variety of vocalizations. They can hiss, spit, growl, and even make a high-pitched gurgling noise. Not exactly the kind of cat that got your tongue!

Animals Similar to the African Golden Cat

Here are a few feline species that share some similarities in terms of size, habitat, or behavior:

Caracal: Also known as the African Lynx, the Caracal is a medium-sized wild cat species found in various regions, including parts of Africa, Middle East, and Asia. Like the African Golden Cat, Caracals have tufted ears, a similar body size, and are skilled climbers.

Serval: Another African wild cat, the Serval, has a slender body, long legs, and distinctive large ears. It inhabits grasslands, marshes, and wetlands. While larger than the African Golden Cat, they share a similar habitat preference and hunting strategies.

Jungle Cat: Found in various regions including Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, the Jungle Cat is a medium-sized feline with a similar body size to the African Golden Cat. It has a sandy or grayish coat and can be found in wetland and forested areas.

Ocelot: Native to the Americas, the Ocelot is a small to medium-sized wild cat with a beautifully spotted coat. Although not found in Africa, it shares some similarities in appearance and behavior with the African Golden Cat.

African Golden Cat FAQs

Q: How is the African Golden Cat different from the Caracal?

A: The African Golden Cat and the Caracal are different species of wild cats. While they may share some similarities in terms of size and habitat, they have distinct physical features and behaviors. The African Golden Cat has a more robust build, a longer tail, and a coat that can range from reddish-brown to gray. The Caracal, on the other hand, has tufted ears and a slender body with a reddish-brown or sandy coat.

Q: Are African Golden Cats endangered?

A: The African Golden Cat is currently listed as a species of least concern on the IUCN Red List. However, due to habitat loss, poaching, and other threats, their populations are declining in certain regions. Continued monitoring and conservation efforts are necessary to ensure their long-term survival.

Q: What is the habitat of the African Golden Cat?

A: African Golden Cats are primarily found in the dense rainforests of Central and West Africa. They are also known to inhabit other types of forested areas, including montane forests and swamp forests. They rely on the cover and resources provided by these habitats for their survival.

Q: Are African Golden Cats solitary or social animals?

A: African Golden Cats are primarily solitary animals. They are known to be territorial and establish their own home ranges. While they may encounter other cats during mating season or in overlapping territories, they typically lead solitary lives.

Q: What do African Golden Cats eat?

A: African Golden Cats are carnivorous and primarily feed on small to medium-sized prey. Their diet includes rodents, birds, small antelopes, monkeys, and other small mammals. They are skilled hunters and use their agility and stealth to ambush their prey.

Q: Can African Golden Cats be kept as pets?

A: African Golden Cats are wild animals and are not suitable to be kept as pets. They have specific habitat requirements, dietary needs, and natural behaviors that cannot be fulfilled in a domestic environment. It is important to respect their status as wildlife and support conservation efforts to protect them in their natural habitats.