IUCN African Wildcat Distribution Map
Interactive map of the African and other Wildcat's range by the IUCN Red List

The Afro-Asiatic Wildcat (Felis lybica) distribution is widespread in Africa and extends into the Middle East and Asia. The African range excludes the Sahara desert and central tropical rainforests, otherwise habitat varies considerably. Currently two subspecies are recognised in Africa - collectively called 'African Wildcat' on this website. The third subspecies in Asia is not included on this website.

African Wildcat Distribution in Africa

African Wildcats occur in 46 African countries across all five regions (IUCN Red List):

North Africa: Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, Western Sahara

West Africa: Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Togo

Central Africa: Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic Republic Congo

East Africa: Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Somalia, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Southern Africa: Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland

African Wildcat Subspecies

Some authors group all the Wildcat subspecies under Felis silvestris and others separate them into two species - Felis silvestris in their European range and Felis lybica in the African and Asian range.

The last taxonomic revision of the Felidae cat family in 2017 uses the latter grouping and proposed the following subspecies:

North African Wildcat - Felis lybica lybica - East, West and North Africa extending to the Middle East

Southern African Wildcat - Felis lybica cafra - Southern Africa

Asian Wildcat - Felis lybica ornata - Asian range (spotted coat)

For the purposes of this website - the African Wildcat refers to the subspecies F. l. lybica and F. l. cafra.

For the full classification of this wild cat see Felis Lineage - Felis lybica Classification - previously known as Felis silvestris lybica.

African Wildcat (Felis lybica) Subspecies

African wildcat stalking in long grass ~ Arkive
African Wildcat (Felis lybica) in Grassland Habitat

African Wildcat Habitat

The African Wildcat occurs in a variety of habitats due to its extensive range across most of Africa. The exceptions are the central tropical rainforests and only sparsely in the true deserts of the Sahara in the north.

The IUCN Red List has standardised habitat types globally and the following types are suitable for the Afro-Asiatic Wildcat (IUCN Red List):

  • Forest
    • Temperate & Subtropical/Tropical Dry
  • Savanna
    • Dry & Moist
  • Shrubland
    • Temperate & Subtropical & Mediterranean-type
  • Grassland
    • Temperate & Subtropical
  • Desert
    • Hot & Temperate & Cold

Where to see African Wildcats in Africa

All of the medium to smaller cats are very difficult to spot in the wild. Many are nocturnal or crepuscular and rarely seen during the day. The best chances are to visit the national parks or local nature reserves of each country within their distribution, and go on the early morning and late afternoon to evening game drives.

To find out where there have been sightings have a look at iNaturalist. This is a global citizen science platform where people can post their sightings of animals in the wild. Identification is verified by other members and subsequently conservationists and scientists use this data in their important work.

Here are links to view the sightings that have recently been posted:

Southern African Wildcat Observations

North African Wildcat Observations

(Note there are also images of dead animals if you are a sensitive viewer.)

If you have been lucky enough to spot one of the smaller cats in your travels, no matter how long ago, please upload your images to the platform and thus help with research and conservation of this species.

Another excellent resource if you are planning a trip to Africa is the Mammal Watching website. Here comprehensive trip reports and mammal lists are posted by travellers that focus on observing the mammals of the world. Check out the trip reports listing African Wildcats in their sightings checklist as well as possibly some photos.

Southern African Wildcat (Felis lybica cafra)
iNaturalist Southern African Wildcat Observation Botswana - © bgirin CC BY-NC

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