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
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 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.
- Temperate & Subtropical/Tropical Dry
- Dry & Moist
- Temperate & Subtropical & Mediterranean-type
- Temperate & Subtropical
- 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:
(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.