The World’s Second Smallest Cat
The Black-Footed Cat (Felis nigripes) is the second smallest wild cat in the world and holds the title of the smallest cat in Africa weighing 2.2-5.5 pounds (1-2.5kgs) with a body length of approximately 14-20 inches (36-52 cm). This feline is endemic to the arid south west Africa and prefers dry, open savanna and grassland with some vegetation cover. The Black-Footed Cat is nocturnal and opposite of the Rusty-Spotted Cat in that they are highly unsociable and will “seek refuge at the slightest disturbance.” However, they are also quite courageous and will hold their ground. In parts of South Africa they are called “miershooptier” or anthill tigers due to this tenacity and the fact that during the day they like to rest in abandoned termite mounds or burrows.
In general, they hunt small prey like rodents and small birds, but they are voracious hunters and can successfully hunt Cape Hare which are heavier than them. Although they are so small, they have high energy requirements (they need about 250 grams per day) and kill up to fourteen small animals per night. Similar to the big cats they are know to cache their food for later consumption.
The Black-Footed Cat’s coat is tan to reddish brown, covered with dark spots and the legs have wide dark stripes. They get their name from the bottom of their feet which are entirely black. Their tails are ringed with black stripes and a black tip. All this helps with camouflage as they are capable stalk-and-pounce hunters.
An interesting adaptation feature of the Black-Footed Cat, which is different that most felids, is that they can go long periods without drinking water from standing bodies of water; They obtain most of their hydration from their prey and by licking dew on long grass.
Similar to the Rusty-Footed Cat, this feline is listed as Vulnerable although it is protected in that no hunting of it is allowed in any of its range. There are thought to be more than 10,000 individuals in the wild.