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Black-footed cat in the wild, Kimberley, Northern Cape, South Africa
© Andreas Jonsson

The black-footed cat (Felis nigripes) might weigh as much as a lion’s paw, but it is as vicious as the rest of the wild cat family. Here are 9 facts about the black-footed cat, also known as the small-spotted cat, that you need to know:

1. Even though this member of the genus Felis looks more like an adorable moggie, it is believed to be the world’s deadliest cat. They achieve the highest kill rate, successfully taking their target in 60% of hunts. Other wild cats, such as lions and leopards, rarely succeed more than a 20% of the time.

2. This tiny cat is perhaps the smallest of all wild cat species in Africa. The total length of its body is between 50-72 cm (including the tail). The male weights between 1.7-2.4 kg while the female is only 1-1.6 kg. Kittens weigh a mere 60-90 g when born.

3. Sometimes walking more than 35 km a night to find a prey, the black-footed cat is an opportunistic hunter that takes anything it can possibly overpower. Males can even take down hares or small bustards.

4. The black-footed cat is also solitary, with both sexes marking their territories by urinating.

Black-footed cat in the wild, Kimberley, Northern Cape, South Africa
© Andreas Jonsson

5. These cute cats have pink skin, which is different from other wild cats whose skin is usually dark tan to black.

6. The black-footed cat’s vision is six times better than that of humans, aided by extremely large eyes. It’s also equipped with excellent night vision and impeccable hearing that can pick up even the tiniest sound.

7. Despite its name, only the pads and underparts of the cat’s feet are black. Coat coloration ranges from reddish-fawn (in the southern parts of Africa) to a much paler colour further north. The chin and throat are white, with distinct dark bands on the throat, and a black-tipped tail. This description helps a lot when differentiating it from an African wildcat.

8. The black-footed cat can be found in parts of southern and central southern Africa, favouring arid to semi-arid scrub and short grassland, and open terrain close to rocky outcrops.

9. This great hunter is predominantly nocturnal but occasionally crepuscular – which means it can be seen out of its den just after sunset and before sunrise. During the day they rest in either burrows dug by other species, in hollow termite mounds, or among rock tumbles. That’s where it gets its Afrikaans name from – miershooptier – which means anthill tiger.

Black-footed cat in the wild, Kimberley, Northern Cape, South Africa
© Andreas Jonsson
Africa Geographic Editorial

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