About animals

Black-footed cat


Black-footed Cat, Black-footed Cat Latin Name: Felis nigripes Burchell, 1882 Other Names: Small spotted cat

Lives in southern Africa, in the Kalahari desert, in Botswana and Namibia, but is very rare there.

The characteristic features of desert cats in this animal are weakly expressed: the auricles are not enlarged at all, the hair on the pads of the paws is small. This hair, covering the lower legs, not only protects the cat from hot sand, but also increases the tactile sensory sensitivity of the paws, which helps to find underground insects.

She has a short, pointed tail. Her skull is narrower than that of the desert and Gobian cats.

Color: Their fur is tan in different shades, black stripes are located in the shoulders, legs and short tail. In general, the pattern of stripes and spots on a black-footed cat is very intense. In winter, the main color is paler, sand tones, dark yellow, light brown predominate. Feet are also black, for which the animal got its name.

Its two varieties are known: one that lives in the Kalahari desert, is lighter: the other, which inhabits arid grassy areas, is painted brighter.

Males, on average, are about 42.5 - 50 cm in length, while females are about 33.7 - 36.8 cm. 2/7 of the body length (about 15-22 cm) is accounted for by a thin, sharp tail tail, decorated with transverse rings and a black tip. Height at shoulders: about 25 cm.

Weight: Of all the wild cats, she is the smallest and lightest. Weight on average is 1-1.9 kg, less often up to 2.5 kg. In this case, the average weight of males: 1.6-2.1 kg, females: 1.2 kg. Males are approximately 31% heavier than females.

Life expectancy: up to 10-13 years

Voice: The voice of this cat is amazingly loud and sonorous. When females give out an alarm - kittens instantly hide and freeze.

Habitat: Black-footed cat lives in dry open plains, occupying the steppes and savannahs. They are found in grassy habitats with scattered shrubs and solitary sparse woody vegetation.

Enemies: Nothing is known about his enemies. Probably, these are large predatory mammals and birds, as well as poisonous snakes and pythons.

For these cats, hunting is not a threat, but they are often destroyed by poison and traps, indiscriminately laid out for jackals and other predators. Locust poisoning threatens them directly, as they feed on locusts. Loss of habitat due to overgrazing by cattle also threatens the existence of the black-footed cat, reducing the living space and the amount of their prey.

Its food in nature is usually made up of small animals: rodents (ground squirrels), birds and small non-toxic reptiles, invertebrates. The small size of the animal, and not the large size of its population, may be explained by the scarcity of the diet.

They catch larks by chasing within a short distance and then making a quick leap. Black-footed cats sometimes catch larks in the air, as they fly quite low. They get small rodents by pursuit or patiently waiting for them at the hole, then to catch him. They also catch large winged insects such as grasshoppers and locusts.

According to the legends of the inhabitants of Botswana, these cats attack sheep and even giraffes. The fact that the cats themselves are the size of a big rabbit does not bother them.

Black-footed cats are perfectly adapted to its anhydrous habitat, so the cat can remain without water for a long time, getting all the moisture necessary for the body from its food.

Black-footed cats occupy the burrows of rabbits or termites, hence their common name came from: ant (termite) tigers.

They are active mainly at night, to which they are compelled by the anxiety factor, in a place where a person does not meet them, they appear during the day, but more often hunt in the early morning and later in the afternoon.

This cat catches its prey, chasing and then attacking it. He kills rodents by destroying the spinal cord with his long fangs, biting the victim’s neck vertebrae. What is also common for these cats is to bury more prey and return to the cache and the undernourished victim later. They sometimes feed on the meat of large dead mammals such as lambs.

Social structure: Black-footed cats lead a solitary solitary lifestyle, even during courtship they have minimal contact between the sexes. Males have large territorial possessions, females are located on the periphery, sometimes going to his possessions, to which the male is tolerant. The study shows that both males and females establish the boundaries of their territory, the area of ​​which can reach 12-15 km, marking them with urine and fecal remains.

Reproduction: Vocalizations and the detection of fragrant urine placed by estrous women play an important part in ensuring that these cats meet together for mating. Mating takes place in August-September, and the female expresses her willingness to mate only within 5-10 hours to a maximum of two days. That is how much the estrous period lasts for her. Many believe that the brevity of the estrous period is aimed at minimizing the amount of time mating cats, when they are maximally vulnerable and accessible to predators. After mating, males and females go their separate ways.

In the female’s underground hole after pregnancy, it is 63-68 days old, in November two kittens are usually born (less often 1 or 3), each weighing about 60-84 g. Newborns have a pinkish color due to poorly developed fur coat. The hair grows well, and the kittens acquire the characteristic coloring of an adult animal by about six weeks of age. At the age of three weeks, they are able to leave the den. When kittens are worried, they do not run to hide back to the den. Instead, they scatter across the desert, hiding in the closest shelter and freeze until their mother gives an audible end-alarm. Hearing him, the kittens activate and leave their shelters to gather around the mother again.

When the kittens reach about five weeks of age, the female begins to bring still live prey and let it out in front of them, allowing them to catch and kill her. Kittens at the age of 6 weeks stop receiving mother’s milk and start hunting on their own.

In 1962, Leihausen managed to cross a black-footed cat with a domestic cat. In nature, crossing with local cats, black-footed cats polluted and diluted their wild genetic line, which threatens the existence of the species.

Season / breeding season: November - mid December

Puberty: They become sexually mature at the age of 20-21 months.

Pregnancy: 63-68 days

Offspring: 1-2 kittens

This cat does not have economic value for humans, since it is very difficult to hunt them, over the past 12 years, only 15 cat skins were obtained by hunters.

The population is constantly decreasing and currently does not exceed 10,000 individuals. This species is listed in the international Red Book (listed in Appendix I CITES).

Felis nigripes nigripes - in Namibia,

Felis nigripes thomasi, darker - in Botswana.


Black-footed cat member of the genus Felis . It was first described by English naturalist William John Burchell in 1824.

Two subspecies have been assigned:

According to Shortridge's description, F. p. Morphs smaller and paler than F. n. Thomasi but since specimens with the characteristics of both of the proposed subspecies have been found near Kimberley in central South Africa, the existence of the subspecies is called into question since there are no geographical or environmental barriers to their ranges.

The following cladogram shows the phylogenetic relationships of black-footed cats and other species within Felis lines.

Black-footed cat ( F. morphs )


The black-footed cat is the smallest wild cat in Africa and rivals the rusty spotted cat as the smallest wild cat in the world. Males reach a head to body length of 36.7 to 43.3 cm (14.4 to 17.0 inches) with tails 16.4 to 19.8 cm (6.5 to 7.8 inches) in length. Females are smaller from maximum head to body length 36.9 cm (14.5 inches) and tails 12.6 to 17.0 cm (5.0 to 6.7 inches) in length. Men Adult residents weigh an average of 1.9 kg (4.2 lbs) and a maximum of 2.45 kg (5.4 lbs). Adult female residents weigh an average of 1.3 kg (2.9 pounds) and a maximum of 1.65 kg (3.6 pounds). The shoulder height is about 25 cm (9.8 inches).

Despite its name, only the block and bottom of the cat's legs are black. The cat is stocky with rounded ears, large eyes and a short black tip of the tail. The fur varies in color from cinnamon to the negative effects of the tony, and with a pattern of black or brown spots that fuse to form a ring on the legs, neck and tail. These models provide the animal with a disguise, the backs of their ears, however, have the same color as the background color of the fur. They have six mammary glands, and unlike other spotted cats, not pigmented skins.

Distribution and habitat

The black-footed cat is endemic in southern Africa, and is primarily found in South Africa, Namibia, slightly in Zimbabwe, and probably in the extreme south of Angola. Only historical, but not recent records exist in Botswana. She lives in a dry, open savannah, grassland and Karu semi-desert with shrubs and tree crowns at an altitude of up to 2000 m (6.600 ft), but not in the dry and sandiest parts of the Namib and Kalahari Deserts. During the night they need sparse shrubs and trees span to hunt, but spend daylight hours in burrows or empty termite mounds.

Ecology and behavior

Black-footed cats are solitary and strictly nocturnal animals, and rarely. They spend a day of rest in a tight lid in unoccupied burrows of springhares, porcupines and aardvarks, or in hollow termite mounds. They go hunting after sunset.

They are usually found in a dry, open habitat with some degree of vegetation. Apparently, they get all the moisture they need from their prey, but will drink water when available.

Unlike most other cats, black-footed cats are poor climbers, and tend to ignore tree branches. Their stocky bodies and short tails do not facilitate climbing. They vigorously dig in the sand to expand or change burrows for shelter.

Black-footed cats are highly uncommunicative animals that seek shelter at the slightest disturbance. When cornered, they are known to protect themselves fiercely. Because of this habit and their courage, they are called miershooptier (anthill tiger in Afrikaans) in parts of South Africa Karoo. They rarely use termitniks for binding or for carrying cubs. San legend claims that a black-footed cat can kill a giraffe by piercing its jugular vein. This is an exaggeration to emphasize the courage and perseverance of the animal. The only time they change their solitary behavior during the breeding season, and among women with dependent kittens.

A woman wanders in an average household range of 10 km 2 (3.9 square miles) per year, and a male resident on 22 km 2 (8.5 square miles). The range of an adult male covers a range of one to four females. On average, an adult animal travels 8 km (5.0 miles) per night in search of prey. Cats use smell markings throughout their ranges; males spray urine up to twelve times per hour. Other forms of odor marking include rubbing objects, shelling with claws, and precipitation of feces in visible places. Their calls sound louder than other cats, their size, apparently, to allow them to call relatively long distances. When close to each other, however, they use a quieter purr or gurgle, or hiss and growl if threatened.

Diet and hunting

Because of their small size, black-footed cats prey mainly on small species of ungulates, such as rodents and small birds, but can also take on a white-corrugated bustard and a Cape hare, the latter being heavier than himself. Insects and spiders provide less than 1% of the production of mass consumption. They are known from time to time to blow lambs of jumpers. They are unusually active hunters, killing up to fourteen small animals at night. Their energy requirements are very high, with approximately 250 g (9 ounces) of production per day consumed, which is about one sixth of its average body weight.

Black-footed cats hunt mostly intrusive, rather than an ambush, using a cover of darkness and all available traces of the cover approach their prey before the final attack. They were found hunting, moving quickly to clear the prey from the crust, but also slowly cutting through shreds of vegetation. Less often, they wait outside the burrow of rodents, often with their eyes closed, but staying alert for the slightest sound. In general, with large cats, but unlike most other small species, black-footed cats were observed to hide some of their captured prey for subsequent feeding, rather than consuming it immediately.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Black-footed cats lived in captivity for ten years. Females reach puberty after eight to twelve months. They enter the race only one or two days at a time, and are susceptible to mating for several hours, requiring the man to find them quickly. Mating occurs frequently during this period. Pregnancy lasts from 63 to 68 days. Litter usually consists of two kittens, but can vary from one to four young. Kittens weigh between 60 and 84 g (2.1 to 3.0 ounces) at birth. They are born blind and helpless relatively, although they are able to crawl in a few hours. They can walk for two weeks, begin to take solid foods after about a month, and completely weaned from two months of age.

Females can have up to two litters during spring, summer, and fall. They are behind their kittens burrowing, moving them to new places regularly after the first week. In general, kittens develop at a faster pace than in other similar sized cats, quickly adapting to a relatively aggressive environment. They become independent of five months, but can remain within their mother.


Known threats include indiscriminate predator methods such as bait poisoning and jaw traps, habitat degradation from overgrazing, intraguild predation, disease, reduced springhare populations and inappropriate farming methods. Distribution data indicate that most protected areas may be too small to maintain adequately viable subpopulations.

Field studies

The Blackfoot Cat Working Group conducts research work at the Benfontein Wildlife Sanctuary and the Nuwejaarsfontein Farm near Kimberley, Northern Cape, where seven blackfoot cats had radio collars. This project is part of a multidisciplinary effort to study the distribution, ecology, health and reproduction of black-footed cats over a long period. In November 2012, this project was extended to the Biesiesfontein Farm located in the Victoria West area. Camera traps are used in research to collect behavior data without disturbing it. In particular, the interaction of cats with aardwolves is observed.

In captivity

Wuppertal Zoo acquired a black-footed cat back in 1957 and successfully bred them in 1963. In 1993, the European Endangered Species Program was created to coordinate which animals are best suited for mating to maintain genetic diversity and avoid inbreeding. International Stud Book for the black-footed cat is kept at the Wuppertal Zoo in Germany.As of July 2011, detailed records exist for a total of 726 captive cats since 1964; around the world, 74 individuals were kept in 23 institutions in Germany, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, Britain and South Africa.

A number of zoos reported breeding successes, including the Cleveland Zoo, the Fresno Chaffee Zoo, the Brookfield Zoo and the Philadelphia Zoo.

The Nature Institute Audubon Center for the Study of Endangered Species works on modern genetics with cats. In February 2011, a woman was kept giving birth to two male kittens - the first black-footed cats to be born as a result of in vitro fertilization using frozen and thawed sperm and frozen and thawed embryos. In 2003, sperm was collected from a male and then frozen. It was later combined with a woman’s egg, creating fetuses in March 2005. These embryos were frozen for almost six years before being defrosted and transferred to a surrogate woman in December 2010, who carried the embryos for a period of time, resulting in two kittens. The same center reported that on February 6, 2012, a female black-footed cat kitten, Crystal, was born into a domestic cat substitute after an interspecific embryo transfer.

Felis nigripes - The Black-footed Cat

Not much bigger than a domestic cat, the Black-footed Cat is one of the world’s smallest wild cats, and is certainly the smallest on the continent. It is shy, rarely seen, and well-camouflaged by its tawny brown and black markings. It is also known as the Small-spotted cat and the Asant Hill Tiger.

Did you know? Because of chromosomal differences, the Black-footed Cat cannot interbreed with other cats.

This cat has a brown coat (which can range from a light tan color to a rich cinnamon hue) with black or dark-brown spots. Over the legs, shoulders and tail, these spots become bands. The skull is broad, and this cat is characterized to a large extent by its very large, round eyes and its rounded ears. The tail is shorter than that of a domestic cat.

Males are between 370 and 490mm in length with an added tail of between 80 and 200mm.
Females are about 350 to 400mm long with a tail length of 130 to 180mm.


The Black-footed Cat chooses scrubby shrublands and savannahs as its natural habitat. It is a hunter, and needs a habitat with trees and shrubs as this enables it to find the prey on which they survive. During the heat of the day, this cat opts for a hollow termite mound or a burrowed hole, where it is kept safe and cool.


This cat is found exclusively in the southern countries of Africa, such as Namibia, South Africa and Botswana.

In South Africa, these cats can be found at the Cat Conservation Trust in Cradock, Addo Elephant National Park (just an hour outside Port Elizabeth), Benfontein Nature Reserve near Kimberley, Kwandwe Private Game Reserve near Grahamstown, and Tenikwa Wildlife Awareness Center near Plettenberg Bay on the Garden Route.

Diet - Carnivore

As with all wild cats, the Black-footed Cat is a carnivore, eating mainly mammals and birds. In fact, almost three-quarters of their diet comprises mammals, some of which are double the size of this little feline. Depending on habitat and prey availability, some of these cats also eat invertebrates.


This cat is a nocturnal and crepuscular (active at dusk and dawn) animal and an opportunistic hunter, stalking available prey and being rather indiscriminate when it comes to specific types. Females do not share their home range with other females, but the range of male cats usually overlaps with those of females'. Both males and females hunt on their own.