What Wild Cats Might You See on an African Safari?


If you are planning an african safari, one animal that you are almost guaranteed to see is an african wild cat. African wild cats can be grouped into 2 groups; big cats and small cats. 

How many species of cats are in africa?

There are about 10 species of wild cats in Africa. These wild cats are spread across the continent from the green savannahs of east africa to the deserts in south and north of Africa. 

What are the big cats of africa?

The big cats of Africa vary greatly in terms of elusiveness, physical appearance, and their endangerment status. 

The big cats include the Lion, king of the jungle, leopards, and cheetahs. The lion is widely sighted in most parks in Africa. The same case applies to the cheetah. 

Here’s a summary of some of the wild cats you might get to see on an African safari;

  • Lions
  • Cheetahs 
  • Leopards
  • Caracal
  • Serval

We have gone into detail about each cat, whether its a big or small cat, and the likelihood of seeing one while on safari below. 



The Lion is one of the easiest animals to see while on an african safari. Lions live in groups called prides and roam freely in most parks in Africa. The serengeti in Tanzania has a large population of wild lions making it one of the best places to see large prides of lions. Check out this article for which other animals live in the serengeti plains



The cheetah is the fastest animal in the world. Cheetahs are widely found in eastern and southern africa. Therefore, if you are going on safari to east or southern africa, you might get to see the Usain Bolt of animals. 



The leopard is the most elusive cat as they are nocturnal and live on top of trees. As such, you might not get to see one of them in the wild but if you go on a morning game drive, you might just get to see one of them before they go into hiding for the day. 

The best parks to see leopards are masai mara, serengeti, londolozi game reserve. 

What small cats live in africa?

Some small wild cats in Africa are slightly bigger in stature than a normal domesticated cat and others are about the same size as a normal cat. Some of the smaller cats you can expect to see while on safari include the following;



Caracal cats are common in Africa though not easily sighted due to their small size. These cats have long ears and black fur.

The caracal can be sighted in some parks in Kenya. However, the best place to come up close with these cats is at a zoo such as the Nairobi national park animal orphanage. 



Serval cats are medium sized with brownish fur and dark spots. The serval cat actually looks like a small cheetah. This is mainly because of the black spots. These cats can be seen in most parks with savannah grassland. 

What do African wild cats eat?

African wild cats prey on birds, rats, and mice. Most are able to jump as high as 6 feet which allows them to catch birds. Other cats hunt wild rabbits and hares. 

Are African wild cats territorial?

Yes, African wild cats are territorial. They use scent marks for communication. Sometimes, male cats territory might overlap the territories of upto 3 female cats. Although they are territorial, most cats live in solitude except during mating season. 


To summarise, you’ll get to see some wild cats while on an african safari. The types of cats you see will depend on which country and park you decide to go to. The Lion is one of the easiest cats to see while on safari. The others can be elusive but your experienced tour guide should be able to guide you on the best places within the parks to see the other wild cats. 

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