The African Wildcat is a wildcat subspecies that occurs across northern Africa and extends around the periphery of the Arabian Peninsula to the Caspian Sea. As it is the most common and widely distributed wild cat, it is listed as Least Concern by IUCN since 2002.
The fur color of the African wildcat is light sandy grey, and sometimes with a pale yellow or reddish hue. The ears are reddish to grey, with long light yellow hairs around the pinna. Stripes around the face are dark ochre to black: two are running horizontally on the cheek, and four to six across the throat. A dark stripe is running along the back, the flanks are lighter, and the belly is whitish. Pale vertical stripes on the sides often dissolve into spots. Two dark rings are on the forelegs, and hind legs are striped. The feet are dark brown to black.
Pocock described the African wildcat as differing from the European wildcat by inconspicuous stripes on the nape and shoulders, a less sharply defined stripe on the spinal area and by the slender tail, which is cylindrical, less bushy and more tapering. Ears are normally tipped with a small tuft.
Skins of male wildcats from Northern Africa measured 47–59.7 cm (18.5–23.5 in) in head-to-body length with a 26.7–36.8 cm (10.5–14.5 in) long tail. Skins of female wildcats measured 40.6–55.8 cm (16.0–22.0 in) with a 24.1–33.7 cm (9.5–13.3 in) long tail. Male wildcats from Yemen measured 46–57 cm (18–22 in) in head-to-body length with a 25–32 cm (9.8–12.6 in) long tail; females were slightly smaller measuring 50–51 cm (20–20 in) in head-to-body length with a 25–28 cm (9.8–11.0 in) long tail. Both females and males ranged in weight from 3.2 to 4.5 kg (7.1 to 9.9 lb).
The fur is shorter than of the European wildcat, and it is considerably smaller.
African wildcats occur across northern Africa and around the periphery of the Arabian Peninsula to the Caspian Sea. They are found from Morocco through Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and into Egypt, and inhabit the savannas of West Africa from Mauritania to the Horn of Africa, Sudan and Ethiopia. They are also present in all East and southern African countries. They inhabit a broad variety of habitats, especially in hilly and mountainous landscapes such as the Hoggar. But in deserts such as the Sahara they occur at much lower densities. Much better adapted to desert habitat are sand cats.
The African wildcat eats primarily mice, rats and other small mammals. When the opportunity arises, it also eats birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects.
The cat approaches its prey slowly, and attacks by pouncing on its prey as soon as it is within range (about one meter). The African wildcat is mainly active during the night and twilight. When confronted, the African wildcat raises its hair to make itself seem larger in order to intimidate its opponent. In the daytime it usually hides in the bushes, although it is sometimes active on dark, cloudy days. The territory of a male overlaps with that of a few females, who defend the territory against intruders.