African golden cat

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African golden cat
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Family: Felidae
Subfamily: Felinae
Genus: Caracal
C. aurata
Binomial name
Caracal aurata
(Temminck, 1827)
  • C. a. aurata
  • C. a. celidogaster
AfricanGoldenCat distribution.jpg
Distribution of the African golden cat, 2015 [1]
  • Profelis aurata [2]

The African golden cat (Caracal aurata) is a wild cat endemic to the rainforests of West and Central Africa. It is threatened due to deforestation and bushmeat hunting and listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. [1] It is a close relative of both the caracal and the serval. [3] Previously, it was placed in the genus Profelis. [2] Its body size ranges from 61 to 101 cm (24 to 40 in) with a 16 to 46 cm (6.3 to 18.1 in) long tail. [4]



Felis aurata was the scientific name used by Coenraad Jacob Temminck who described a reddish-brown coloured cat skin in 1827 that he had bought from a merchant in London. [5] Temminck also described a grey coloured skin of a cat with chocolate brown spots that had lived in the menagerie in London. He named it Felis celidogaster. [6] Felis neglecta proposed by John Edward Gray in 1838 was a brownish grey cat skin from Sierra Leone. [7] Felis rutilus proposed by George Robert Waterhouse in 1842 was a reddish cat skin from Sierra Leone. [8] Felis chrysothrix cottoni proposed by Richard Lydekker in 1906 was a dark grey cat skin from the Ituri Rainforest. [9] A black cat skin from eastern Congo was proposed as Felis maka in 1942. [10]

In 1858, Nikolai Severtzov proposed the generic names Profelis with F. celidogaster as type species, and Chrysailurus with F. neglecta as type species. [11] In 1917, Reginald Innes Pocock subordinated both the African golden cat and the Asian golden cat to Profelis. [12] This classification was followed by several subsequent authors. [13] [10] [14] [15] [2]

Phylogenetic analysis of cat samples showed that the African golden cat is closely related with the caracal (Caracal caracal). These two species, together with the serval (Leptailurus serval), form the Caracal lineage, one of the eight lineages of Felidae. This lineage evolved nearly 8.5 million years ago. [16] [3] Because of this close relationship, the African golden cat has been placed into the genus Caracal. [17]

Two African golden cat subspecies are recognised as valid since 2017: [18]


The following cladogram shows the phylogenetic relationships of the African golden cat: [3] [17]

Bay cat lineage

Marbled cat (P. marmorata)


Bay cat (Catopuma badia)

Asian golden cat (Catopuma temminckii)


Caracal lineage

Serval (L. serval)


Caracal (Caracal caracal)

African golden cat (Caracal aurata)


Andean mountain cat (L. jacobita)

Colocolo (L. colocolo)

Geoffroy's cat (L. geoffroyi)

Kodkod (L. guigna)

Oncilla (L. tigrinus)

Lynx lineage


Puma lineage




Leopard cat lineage



Domestic cat lineage



Skull of an African golden cat in the Museum Wiesbaden Profelis aurata 02 MWNH 254.jpg
Skull of an African golden cat in the Museum Wiesbaden

The African golden cat has a fur colour ranging from chestnut or reddish-brown, greyish brown to dark slaty. Some are spotted, with the spots ranging from faded tan to black in colour. In others the spotting pattern is limited to the belly and inner legs. Its undersides and areas around the eyes, cheeks, chin, and throat are lighter in colour to almost white. Its tail is darker on the top and either heavily banded, lightly banded or plain, ending in a black tip. Cats in the western parts of its range tend to have heavier spotting than those in the eastern region. Two color morphs, a red and a grey phase, were once thought to indicate separate species, rather than colour variations of the same species. [19] Grey skins have hairs that are not pigmented in their middle zones, whereas hair of red skins is pigmented intensively red. Hair of melanistic skins is entirely black. [10]

Skins of African golden cats can be identified by the presence of a distinctive whorled ridge of fur in front of the shoulders, where the hairs change direction. It is about twice the size of a domestic cat. Its rounded head is very small in relation to its body size. It is a heavily built cat, with stocky, long legs, a relatively short tail, and large paws. Body length usually varies within the range of 61 to 101 cm (24 to 40 in). Tail length ranges from 16 to 46 cm (6.3 to 18.1 in), and shoulder height is about 38 to 55 cm (15 to 22 in). The cat weighs around 5.5 to 16 kg (12 to 35 lb), with males being larger than females. [4]

Overall, the African golden cat resembles the caracal, but has shorter untufted ears, a longer tail, and a shorter, more rounded face. It has small, rounded ears. Its eye colour ranges from pale blue to brown. [20]

Distribution and habitat

The African golden cat inhabits tropical forests from sea level to 3,000 m (9,800 ft). It prefers dense, moist forest with heavy undergrowth, and is often found close to rivers, but it may also be found in cloud forest, bamboo forests, and high moorland habitats. The cat is found from Senegal in the west to Kenya in the east, and ranges as far north as the Central African Republic and as far south as northern Angola. [4]

In Guinea's National Park of Upper Niger, it was recorded during surveys conducted in 1996 to 1997. [21]

In Uganda's Kibale National Park, an African golden cat was recorded in an old growth forest patch in 2008. [22] In Gabon's Moukalaba-Doudou National Park, it was recorded in forested areas during surveys in 2012. [23]

Ecology and behaviour

Due to its extremely reclusive habits, little is known about the behaviour of African golden cats. They are solitary animals, and are normally crepuscular or nocturnal, although they have also been observed hunting during the day, depending on the availability of local prey. [4]

African golden cats are able to climb, but hunt primarily on the ground. They mainly feed on tree hyrax, rodents, but also hunt birds, small monkeys, duikers, young of giant forest hog, and small antelope. They have also been known to take domestic poultry and livestock. [4] [19]


Knowledge of the African golden cat's reproductive habits is based on captive individuals. The female gives birth to one or two kittens after a gestation period of around 75 days. The kittens weigh 180 to 235 g (6.3 to 8.3 oz). Their eyes open within a week of birth, and they are weaned at 6–8 weeks. They grow and develop rapidly in comparison with other small cat species. One individual was reported to be scaling a 40-cm wall within 16 days of birth, reflecting a high degree of physical agility from an early age. Females reach sexual maturity at 11 months of age, and males at around 18 months. In captivity, they live up to 12 years. Their lifespan in the wild is unknown. [4]


African golden cat pelts Profelis aurata (African golden cat) fur skins.jpg
African golden cat pelts

The African golden cat is threatened by extensive deforestation of tropical rainforests, their conversion to oil palm plantations coupled with mining activities and road building, thus destroying its essential habitat. It is also threatened by bushmeat hunting, particularly in the Congo Basin. [1]


The African golden cat is listed in CITES Appendix II. [1] Hunting African golden cats is prohibited in Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone. In Gabon, Liberia and Togo, hunting regulations are in place. [24]

Related Research Articles

Felidae Family of mammals

Felidae is a family of mammals in the order Carnivora, colloquially referred to as cats, and constitutes a clade. A member of this family is also called a felid. The term "cat" refers both to felids in general and specifically to the domestic cat.

Margay Small wild cat

The margay is a small wild cat native to Central and South America. A solitary and nocturnal cat, it lives mainly in primary evergreen and deciduous forest.

Wildcat Small wild cat

The wildcat is a species complex comprising two small wild cat species, the European wildcat and the African wildcat. The European wildcat inhabits forests in Europe and the Caucasus, while the African wildcat inhabits semi-arid landscapes and steppes in Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Central Asia, into western India and western China. The wildcat species differ in fur pattern, tail, and size: the European wildcat has long fur and a bushy tail with a rounded tip; the smaller African wildcat is more faintly striped, has short sandy-gray fur and a tapering tail; the Asiatic wildcat is spotted.

Sand cat Small wild cat

The sand cat, also known as the sand dune cat, is a small wild cat living in sandy and stony deserts far from water sources. With its sandy to light grey fur, it is well camouflaged in a desert environment. Its head-and-body length ranges from 39–52 cm (15–20 in) with a 23–31 cm (9.1–12.2 in) long tail. Its 5–7 cm (2.0–2.8 in) long ears are set low on the sides of the head, aiding detection of prey moving underground. The long hair covering the soles of its feet insulate its foot pads against the extremely hot and cold temperatures in deserts.

Jungle cat Medium-sized wild cat

The jungle cat, also called reed cat and swamp cat, is a medium-sized cat native to the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia and southern China. It inhabits foremost wetlands like swamps, littoral and riparian areas with dense vegetation. It is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, and is mainly threatened by destruction of wetlands, trapping and poisoning.

Black-footed cat Small wild cat native to Southern Africa

The black-footed cat, also called the small-spotted cat, is the smallest wild cat in Africa, having a head-and-body length of 35–52 cm (14–20 in). Despite its name, only the soles of its feet are black or dark brown. With its bold small spots and stripes on the tawny fur, it is well camouflaged, especially on moonlit nights. It bears black streaks running from the corners of the eyes along the cheeks, and its banded tail has a black tip.

Asian golden cat Small wild cat

The Asian golden cat is a medium-sized wild cat native to the northeastern Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and southern China. It has been listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List since 2008, and is threatened by hunting pressure and habitat loss, since Southeast Asian forests are undergoing the world's fastest regional deforestation.

Serval Small wild cat

The serval is a wild cat native to Africa. It is rare in North Africa and the Sahel, but widespread in sub-Saharan countries except rainforest regions. On the IUCN Red List it is listed as Least Concern. Across its range, it occurs in protected areas, and hunting it is either prohibited or regulated in range countries.

Caracal Small wild cat

The caracal is a medium-sized wild cat native to Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, and India. It is characterised by a robust build, long legs, a short face, long tufted ears, and long canine teeth. Its coat is uniformly reddish tan or sandy, while the ventral parts are lighter with small reddish markings. It reaches 40–50 cm (16–20 in) at the shoulder and weighs 8–19 kg (18–42 lb). It was first scientifically described by German naturalist Johann Christian Daniel von Schreber in 1776. Three subspecies are recognised.

Leopard cat Small wild cat

The leopard cat is a small wild cat native to continental South, Southeast, and East Asia. Since 2002 it has been listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List as it is widely distributed although threatened by habitat loss and hunting in parts of its range.

Flat-headed cat Small wild cat

The flat-headed cat is a small wild cat native to the Thai-Malay Peninsula, Borneo, and Sumatra. It is an Endangered species, because the wild population probably comprises fewer than 2,500 mature individuals, with small subpopulations of no more than 250 adults. The population inhabits foremost wetlands, which are being destroyed and converted. For these reasons, it is listed on the IUCN Red List since 2008.

Kodkod Small wild cat

The kodkod, also called güiña, is the smallest cat in the Americas. It lives primarily in central and southern Chile and marginally in adjoining areas of Argentina. Its area of distribution is small compared to the other South American cats. Since 2002, it has been listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List as the total effective population may comprise less than 10,000 mature individuals, and is threatened due to persecution and loss of habitat and prey base.

Marbled cat Small wild cat

The marbled cat is a small wild cat native from the eastern Himalayas to Southeast Asia, where it inhabits forests up to 2,500 m (8,200 ft) altitude. As it is present in a large range, it has been listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List since 2015.

<i>Pardofelis</i> genus of mammals

Pardofelis is a genus of the cat family Felidae. This genus is defined as including one species native to Southeast Asia: the marbled cat. Two other species, formerly classified to this genus, now belong to the genus Catopuma.

Felinae subfamily of mammals

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European wildcat Small wild cat

The European wildcat is a wildcat species native to continental Europe, Scotland, Turkey and the Caucasus. It inhabits forests from the Iberian Peninsula, Italy, Central and Eastern Europe to the Caucasus. It has been extirpated in England and Wales.

African wildcat Small wild cat

The African wildcat is a wildcat species native to Africa, West and Central Asia up to Rajasthan in India and Xinjiang in China. The IUCN Red List status Least Concern is attributed to the species Felis silvestris, which at the time of assessment also included the African wildcat as a subspecies.

<i>Caracal</i> (genus) genus of mammals

Caracal is a genus of the subfamily Felinae in the family Felidae. Previously, it was considered to be a monotypic genus, consisting of only the type species: Caracal caracal, commonly called caracal.


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