The widespread and common ancestor of domestic cats, the Wildcat, has recently been categorized into two species. The first groups the bush and steppe cats of Africa and Asia (Felis lybica), known as the African Wildcat and the Asian or Asiatic Wildcat. The second groups the forest cats of Europe (Felis silvestris), known as the European Wildcat. All the Wildcat species can interbreed with domestic cats and unfortunately hybridization is becoming a serious threat to purebred Wildcat populations.

(To avoid confusion with the general term 'wild cat' we use the spelling 'wildcat' to refer to this particular species.)

African/Asiatic Wildcat (Felis lybica) Unique Facts

~ Ancestor of the domestic cat ~

~ Interbreeds with domestic cats ~

~ Multi continent range - Africa and Asia  ~

African Wildcat (Felis lybica)
African Wildcat stalking in long grass © Alain Mafart-Renodier / Biosphoto
Image Source

African & Asiatic Wildcat (Felis lybica) Classification

The taxonomy or scientific classification of the African and Asiatic Wildcat species (Felis lybica) is as follows:

Kingdom: Animalia   (animals)

Phylum: Chordata   (vertebrates)

Class: Mammalia   (mammals)

Order: Carnivora   (carnivores)

Suborder: Feliformia   (cat-like)

Family: Felidae   (cats)

Subfamily: Felinae   (small cats)

Genus: Felis

Species: Felis lybica (African and Asiatic Wildcat)

African & Asiatic Wildcat (Felis lybica) Subspecies (lower classifications)

The global conservation status for the Wildcat is Least Concern (LC) due to the wide range and estimated numbers. This includes all the Wildcat species - African, Asiatic and European.

Many subspecies have been recognized in the past, however the latest taxonomic revision proposes three subspecies of Wildcats within Africa and Asia:

1. Felis lybica lybica - East, West and North Africa, Arabian Peninsular, Middle East; islands of Corsica, Sardinia and Crete

(light coloration with reddish spots, pale yellow ears and whitish face)

2. Felis lybica cafra - Southern Africa

(reddish body and ears with transverse stripes)

3. Felis lybica ornata - South-west and Central Asia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Mongolia and China

(light coloration with irregular black or brown spots)

References:

  • The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2017-1. <www.iucnredlist.org> Felis silvestris. 23 May 2017.
  • Kitchener et al. 2017. A revised taxonomy of the Felidae. The final report of the Cat Classification Task Force of the IUCN / SSC Cat Specialist Group.

African & Asiatic Wildcat (Felis lybica) Conservation and Research

African and Asiatic Wildcats are common and widespread and there are no specific conservation projects for these cats; research has mostly been on the European Wildcat.

African & Asiatic Wildcat (Felis lybica) Facts and Information

The following websites have well researched and authoritative information on Wildcats. Most group all three of the Wildcats together - African, Asiatic and European and the taxonomy may differ to that used here.

  • Wildcat Images and Videos - ARKive
  • Wildcat Fact Sheet - ISEC
  • African Wildcat Fact Sheet - ISEC
  • Asiatic Wildcat Fact Sheet - ISEC
Recommended Books about all Wild Cats
Wild Cats of the World - Luke Hunter
Luke Hunter 2015
(general and academic interest)
The Wild Cat Book - Sunquist
Fiona and Mel Sunquist 2014
(general interest)
Small Wild Cats - Sanderson and Watson
J. Sanderson & P. Watson 2011
(general interest)
Biology and Conservation of Wild Felids
D.Macdonald & A.Loveridge 2010
(academic interest)
Wild Cats of the World - Sunquist
Mel and Fiona Sunquist 2002
(general and academic interest)