Kalahari: Little Cats

This is part of a series of photographs from our 2008 and 2009 trips to the Kalahari.  Click here to see a map of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

Solitary African Wild Cat (©2009 WMB)

Although the Big Cats of the Kalahari (lions, leopards and cheetah) get a lot of attention from visitors, it’s the Little Cats which are the true gems. Rarely seen, I really believe they only let you see them if they want you to. In this area they include the Caracal (also known as a African Lynx – although it is different to the North American and Eurasian Lynx species), the African Wild Cat, and the Black-footed cat.

Of the three we have only ever seen the African Wild Cat. Usually the odd glimpse of a cat at the side of the road. During our 2009 visit to the Kalahari, we saw several African Wild Cats up close. These cats look and behave very much like our domestic cats. Just a bit bigger (up to 6 kilograms or around 13 pounds), with very distinctive horizontal stripes on their legs. And, according to those who know, they are more ferocious!

One very special sighting was early morning on the road between the Urikaruus and Mata Mata camps. We were driving along and came to “signpost”. In the Kalahari these are made up of rounded rocks cemented together with distances to the different camps on them. The one we came to that day was much smaller than the one in the image, but you get the idea.

Signpost at the main Twee Rivieren camp

On top of this signpost was an African Wild Cat, which we at first assumed was a solitary cat. Until we noticed all the younger ones in the long grass. This was a mother African Wild Cat with her five youngsters.  A really rare sighting of so many together. Although the “kittens” were already quite big, they obviously weren’t ready to leave their mother yet.

African Wild Cat mother watching her kittens play (©2009 WMB)

The little cats raced around chasing each other, under and up a huge thorn tree. Playing with kitten-like abandon in the early morning sun. The mother cat sat a short distance away keeping watch – first on the signpost, and later a little way away on a slope.

African Wild Cat "kitten" chasing its siblings on a thorn tree (©2009 WMB)

A skittish "kitten" getting spooked by something - or maybe its feet just got wet in the grass! (©2009 WMB)

Even wild cats like to stop for a scratch and lick! (©2009 WMB)

This is part of a series of photographs from our 2008 and 2009 trips to the Kalahari.  Click here to see a map of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

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About lisa@notesfromafrica

I live on the Southern coast of South Africa, and write about the things that interest, amuse or inspire me. You can find me at http://notesfromafrica.wordpress.com and https://southerncape.wordpress.com (my photoblog)
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15 Responses to Kalahari: Little Cats

  1. M(i)zHitRun says:

    It looks like these cats’ build become more destinctive as they age, but maybe that is just my imagination? The kittens looks a lot like the cats we keep as pets. Nice action shot of the ‘skittish kitten’ 🙂 My cat does that when she tasted something bad.

  2. They’re such beautiful cats! And lovely pics – amazing light.
    Sunshine x

  3. davidpj says:

    Great photos, as usual. You’re lucky to have such stunning memoirs of your African expeditions. It’s one thing to take photos of landscapes and such, but spotting rarely glimpsed wild animals, and being able to share them so well, is another! I like the second mother picture the most.

  4. 2summers says:

    I’ve never seen or heard of African wild cats before. They’re stunning. It is now my dream to see one with my own eyes. (African wild dogs are high on my list too.)

  5. Slowvelder says:

    Wow Lisa – what a special moment you have managed to capture on camera. I live among these animals (we have Serval too) and manage to catch a glimpse of them now and then although mainly at night. Never in my wildest dreams do I expect to be able to get a photo of one – they are so quick and shy. @2Summers – when you come to visit I will take you to see some wild dog. I know where some live 🙂 – Lisa why don’t you come too???

    • We got lucky! It was a magical experience. The cats seemed to be totally untroubled by the fact that we were there. Willie took great photos, didn’t he?

      I might just take you up on that offer some day! Haven’t been to your part of SA in YEARS. After hearing about our vet’s trip to Kruger, I’m thinking it would be nice to go there again.

  6. bagnidilucca says:

    We had Tallulah, an Abyssinian cat, who looked a lot like these cats. She weighed only 2.5 kilos though. These cats are very beautiful.

    • Abyssinians are gorgeous cats! And you’re right they do look very like our African Wild Cats. Besides being bigger, the one thing that distinguishes African Wild Cats from domestic cats, are the horizontal stripes on their legs.

  7. Pingback: African cats and our new friend Savannah. | The Slowvelder

  8. Liezel Louw says:

    Hi I have pictures as I reared a cat with stripes on the legs and yellow ears and tummy. We did not have him genetically tested but in his behavior and how he looked he could only have been an african wildcat. Let me know if you would like to see some of them. L Louw

    • Hi Liezel!

      Somehow I managed to miss your comment . . . Yes, I’d like to see the photos of your cat. African Wild Cats are known to breed with ordinary domestic cats. Do you live in an area close to African Wild Cats?

      Thanks for visiting my blog and for your comment! 🙂

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