African golden cat (Profelis aurata / Caracal aurata)
Although among African tribes it became a subject of numerous superstitions, scientists know little about it. The tribes of Cameroon use its tail as a talisman bringing luck during elephant hunting. In other parts of the country, the cat’s skin is used for circumcision rituals. Why is this cat considered an almost magical animal? Nobody managed to find an explanation to this phenomenon. It is known, however, that its secret nature stimulates the imagination not only of Westerners, but also residents of the Black Continent.
- Class: Mammal
- Order: Carnivora
- Family: Felidae
- Subfamily: Cats (Felinae)
- Genus: Golden cat
- Species: African golden cat
- Caracal aurata aurata
- Caracal aurata celidogaster
It may be found in the tropical rainforests of Equatorial Africa. It occurs on the territories of Sierra Leone, Senegal, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, the northern Angola, Kenya (which is uncertain, though) and Uganda.
It prefers thick forests where it lives in the abundant undergrowth, often near rivers. It can be encountered in the bamboo forests, fog forests, and in the moors. For its habitats, it selects mostly dense overgrown territories, where it is easier to find food, in its case – rodents.
Golden cat is approx. two times larger than an average domestic cat, it has also a firmer body, ended with a tail of a medium-length. Its head is rather small in relation to the body, and its limbs are short.
Its name suggests golden coat coloration, however in reality it actually may range from orange-red to brownish-gray. There is a black stripe running down through its back. On its body, there are as well a number of spots. Its throat, chest, belly and inner sides of the legs are white. At the bottom of the body, there may also be spots or dark dots.
On its round head, there are perky, slightly rounded ears, which are covered inside with a light fluff. The muzzle slightly falls, creating a nice, exotic profile resembling that of a caracal.
Its body is on average 61 – 101 cm (24 – 40 in) long, while the weight ranges from 5.5 to 16 kg. (12 – 35.3 lb) This quite a considerable variation is due to the fact that males are much larger and heavier than females.
This mysterious cat reluctantly crosses its paths with humans and therefore it is difficult to say much about it. Certainly, it constitutes an important part of the locals’ cultural life.
What we do know about the golden cat is that it hunts on the ground, however rarely by a day. It prefers hunting at dusk or dawn. It feeds mainly on small mammals: rats and bush hyrax. It may as well eat birds and monkeys. Its powerful jaws are able to cope even with strong duikers – antelopes from the family Bovidae. It has a tendency to steal, what was observed when it was attacking chicken coops or herds of goats and sheep.
Like most of the felines, it leads a reclusive life. It also seems like it has its own territories, which borders it marks with the smell of feces and urine.
After about 75 days of pregnancy, usually one, rarely two kittens are born. They are protected in well-camouflaged dens. Right after the birth, they weigh usually from 180 to 235 g (0.4 – 0.52 lb). In contrast to other cats, the golden cat’s offspring develop rapidly. After about 6 – 7 days after birth, they open their eyes. From the earliest stage of development, they are very clever.
The next stages of development take place relatively quickly. The kittens start walking after approx. 2 weeks, and after approx. 40 days, they start eating other animals. Females reach their sexual maturity after approx. 11 months, while males a bit later – after approx. 18 months.
Detailed information / Dimensions
African golden cat
- Body length: 61 – 101 cm (24 – 40 in)
- Tail length: 16 – 46 cm (6.3 – 18 in)
- Height: 38 – 55 cm (15 – 22 in)
- Weight: 5.5 – 16 kg (12 – 35.3 lb)
- Average lifespan: 12 years in captivity; the lifespan of these cats living in freedom has not been well known
- Males are larger than females
The golden cat – curiosities
- The golden cat is an endemic species of the tropical forests of Africa.
- The observations of cats living in captivity showed that golden cats can change the coat coloration from gray to reddish and vice versa. A similar phenomenon may occur in the natural environment.
- The golden cat is called “leopard’s brother” by the locals. They claim that the golden cat originated from the leopard.
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