African golden cats (Profelis aurata) are medium-sized wild cats found in moist forest parts of Western and Central Africa. Not much is known about these nocturnal shy predator. They weigh around 8 pounds, have a 3-feet long body, and a shoulder height of about 19 inches. As for its color, the name can be a misnomer with the base coat color of these cats ranging from a golden reddish brown to silver gray, or even a black coat. Twice the size of the domestic cat breeds, these feline creatures are stocky with long legs and large paws. Here is a look at some interesting facts that will help you know more about this fascinating wild cat.
One of the central African medium-sized species, these cats are robustly build and weigh around 16-18 kg. A full-grown member of this species can grow to 90 cm in body length with broad shoulders of around 19 inches, a body that is around three-feet long, and tail length which varies from 6.5-18 inches in length. It resembles the Caracal and Serval cats. From the marmalade orange to reddish brown, and even gray and metallic black, the colors of these cats can vary greatly. The chin, chest, and belly are white. Sometimes the coat may be spotted all over or on the underside of the white belly. Along with this, the tail has stripes with a black tip.
The primary habitat of these cat is the African equatorial belt consisting of the dense rainforests. Sometimes, you may find the wild cats in the secondary forest regions like the tropical dry forests and Savannah scrub with the dense undergrowth. These wild animals are also found in regions of West Africa, in the forests of Senegal to Benin.
These cats are opportunistic, solitary hunters preying on small mammals like rodents and ungulates like the small deer and the duika. In addition to this, these cats are also known to feed on mid-sized animals like monkeys, hyrax, a range of birds, and even goats and sheep. While being a good terrestrial hunter, these cats can also climb very well and are quite active in the lower part of the canopies. In certain cases, you might also see them scavenging on the prey of other animals such as the leopards with which it shares much of its area.
Reproduction and Life Span
Not much is known about the reproduction cycle of this fascinating creature. Some reports have indicated that in captivity, the gestation period of the cats lasted for approximately 78 days with small litter sizes of only one or two kittens. The newborns weigh around 7-8 ounces with their eyes opening at around six to seven days. This is quite surprising as most cats do not open their eyes till around two weeks. By three weeks, the kittens can walk and prance around with quite an ease. They start eating solid foods when they are around six weeks of age. When they are around 18-23 months, these cats reach their sexual maturity. The lifespan of these wild cats may vary. However, in captivity, the golden cats are known to live for around 12 to 15 years.
There are a number of sacred beliefs associated with these beautiful cats. While the pygmy people in Cameroon use the tail as a talisman to protect them when they hunt, other tribes may use it for their ceremonial robes. However, hunting of this cat is banned in a number of countries. With its restricted natural habitat depleting over time, along with the bush meat trade, these cats might soon be in danger.