African Golden Cat Key Facts

*   Endemic to Africa   *   Fur lies forward on head & neck   *   Very few studies   *

African Golden Cat (Caracal aurata)
African Golden Cat Drinking by Terry Whittaker

African Golden Cat Information

SCIENTIFIC NAME Caracal aurata


NAME ORIGIN The Golden Cat gets the name from its reddish coat. The full common name is the African Golden Cat which distinguishes it from the similar Asian Golden Cat. There are no other English common names, although the greyish form used to be called the Silver Cat, until it was established they were in fact the same species.


SIZE The African Golden Cat belongs to the medium sized group, together with the Caracal and Serval. African Golden Cats are robustly built and weigh between 8 and 16kgs.

IDENTIFICATION The African Golden Cat has a stocky build and a short tail. The small, rounded face has few markings and the ears are black.

The cat's coat can vary from reddish to grey, with or without spots. The underside is pale to white often with blotches.

Melanistic and partially black cats have been recorded.


BEHAVIOR The solitary African Golden Cat feeds mainly on rodents and birds, and is active at dawn and dusk (crepuscular) and at night (nocturnal).

Video: Elusive Golden Cat Filmed - by National Geographic
African Golden Cat Distribution Map
African Golden Cat Distribution Map
Reproduced with permission from the book Cats of Africa

African Golden Cat Distribution

The African Golden Cat occurs in the tropical forests of equatorial Africa from Senegal, Sierra Leone and Liberia in the west, through Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and a minimal distribution in Uganda and Kenya in the east.


View the most recent African Golden Cat distribution.

African Golden Cat Description

BODY The African Golden Cat is one of the three medium sized African cats, on average being smaller than the Caracal and heavier (but not taller) than the Serval. The body has a stocky build with muscular legs and large paws. The relatively short tail has a dark line along the top, may have some bands and ends in a dark tip. Unique among the cat species, the fur has a distinctive ridge along the shoulders where it changes direction to lie forward. This pattern extends along the neck to the top of the head.  

COAT The African Golden Cat's coat is one of the most variable among the cat species ranging from reddish to grey. Spotting can occur at various densities and shades or there may be no spots at all. The underside of the cat is pale to white, often with large blotches. Melanistic and partially black cats have been recorded.

African Golden Cat Physical Characteristics
African Golden Cat Physical Characteristics
Image Credit: African golden cat, camera trap image
© Laila Bahaa-el-din / Panthera
Image Source ARKive with permission
African Golden Cat Facial Characteristics
African Golden Cat Facial Characteristics
Image Credit: African golden cat portrait
© Terry Whittaker /
Image Source ARKive with permission

HEAD The rounded head with its heavy muzzle is relatively small compared to the stocky body. The face has few markings, just some white patches around the eyes, mouth and lower jaw which extends down the chin and neck.

The small ears are black on the back like the Caracal's however there are no ear tufts.


AGE In the wild - unknown. In captivity - up to 12 years.

More African Golden Cat Information and Fact Sheets

1. ARKive Wildlife Imagery and Fact File - African Golden Cat Photos and Videos  

2. International Society for Endangered Cats (ISEC) - African Golden Cat Fact Sheet  

3. IUCN Cat Specialist Group (CatSG) - Detailed Information and Academic Reference List - African Golden Cat Information

Arkive video - African golden cat - overview