The widespread and common ancestor of domestic cats, the Wildcat, has recently been categorized into two species (Kitchener et al. 2017). The first groups the bush and steppe cats of Africa and Asia (Felis lybica), previously known as the African Wildcat and the Asian or Asiatic Wildcat, into one species now called the African-Asiatic Wildcat. The second groups the forest cats of Europe (Felis silvestris), now called 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.)
Key Facts about African-Asiatic Wildcats
~ Ancestor of the domestic cat ~
~ Interbreeds with domestic cats ~
~ Multi-continent - Africa & Asia ~
African-Asiatic Wildcat (Felis lybica) Classification
African-Asiatic Wildcats belong to the genus Felis and the full taxonomy or scientific classification of the African-Asiatic Wildcat species is:
Kingdom: Animalia (animals)
Phylum: Chordata (vertebrates)
Class: Mammalia (mammals)
Order: Carnivora (carnivores)
Suborder: Feliformia (cat-like)
Family: Felidae (cats)
Subfamily: Felinae (small cats)
Species: Felis lybica (African-Asiatic Wildcat)
The scientific name for the African-Asiatic Wildcat is Felis lybica which is also known as the binomial name, species name, latin name, biological name or zoological name. Some use the term 'botanical name' however that term is only applicable to the plant kingdom (botany) and not the animal kingdom (zoology).
African-Asiatic Wildcat (Felis lybica) Subspecies
Many subspecies have been recognized in the past, however the last Felidae taxonomy revision in 2017 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)
African-Asiatic Wildcat Conservation and Research
The global conservation status for the Wildcat is Least Concern (LC) due to the wide range and estimated numbers. This includes all the Wildcats - African, Asiatic and European. Separate assessments according to the reclassification of this species will be conducted in due course.
African Wildcats 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 Facts and Information
The following organizations 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 Conservation Status and Distribution Map - IUCN Red List
- African Wildcat Detailed Information - IUCN Cat Specialist Group
- Asiatic Wildcat Detailed Information - IUCN Cat Specialist Group
- African Wildcat Information - Cats For Africa