Meet the African black footed cat!
However, did you know there’s an additional species of wild cat in Africa – recognized as one of the smallest cat species in the world? Black footed cats are half the size of a domestic cat, and are subdivided into two species – Felis nigripes nigripes and Felis nigripes thomasi.
If you’re genuinely interested in African wild cats, here’s everything you should know about the fascinating black footed cat.
Black footed cat characteristics
Whilst on safari you may come across more than one type of wild cat. To be sure you’ve seen an African black footed cat, consider these characteristics that distinguish it from the other African wild cat species:
- Looks- Despite the species name, only the underparts of the feet and the cat’s pads are black. The cat has a stocky build with large eyes, rounded ears, and a black-tipped short tail. Black footed cats’ furs vary in color ranging from brown to cinnamon. Their hairs are patterned with brown or black spots that merge to form rings on their legs, tails, and necks. The face has the look of a typical domestic cat – with diagonal black lines that run across the outer corner of each eye to cheeks. Ears are plain and slightly rounded with the same color as the body. When threatened or stalked, black footed cats ears flatten to keep a low profile.
- Size- Being one of the smallest type of wild cats around the world, black footed cats measure half the size of a typical domestic cat. Their lengths vary from male to female. Males can reach around 45 cm in length while females reach around 40 cm.
- Weight- Black footed adult male cats measure about 1.9kgs with their female counterparts measuring 1.3kgs.
- Coat- The coat is entirely pale with numerous dark spots all over. The coat’s spots sometimes merge to form bars or stripes, mostly visible on the legs. Black footed cats’ coats uniquely differ from one another, which is a characteristic that can be used to identify one individual from another. Their base colors range from much paler in their northern drier areas to reddish- fawn in their southern parts.
- Age- When living in the wild, black footed cats have a life-term of 8 years that doubles to 16 years when domesticated or kept in captivity.
Range & habitat
Black footed cats of Africa are mostly found primarily in scrub deserts, sand plains, and short to medium-length grass plains. Additionally, black footed cats like to reside in areas of grasses with high birds and rodents densities.
They are found only in three African counties: Namibia, South Africa, and Botswana. African deserts where you have a good chance of spotting black footed cats are the Karoo desert and the Kalahari desert.
Black footed cats’ population size is estimated at around 13,867, with about 9,707 estimated to be mature. Because of their species’ patchy distribution, no subpopulation is estimated to contain more than 1,000 adult individuals.
The cats feed mainly on birds, insects, small lizards, and mice. They have adapted well to their habitat that is mostly dry places and need very little water for their survival.
Behaviour & lifestyle
Black footed cats are known to be primarily terrestrial and nocturnal. Because of their high metabolic rates, they can use a third of their body weight every night. They also rarely sleep for more than 14 hours a day.
When they are satisfied, or their meals are big, they have a tendency to keep leftovers in termites mounds or aardvark digs and caves.
When hunting in areas with little to no cover, black footed cats flatten their ears low to the ground. Their hunting tactics are sneaking up on prey and pouncing on them instantly. Because of their calculated hunting moves, they are known even to catch birds in flight. Because they are opportunistic hunters, they like eating small mammals, insects, and reptiles.
Their sleeping places are mostly unused aardvarks and springhare burrows or rock crevices. They also travel longer distances to hunt and get back to their residing areas. A female Black footed cat can hunt away from its sleeping place of about 8 miles while males can hunt afar about 16 miles.
They maintain their hunting ranges through urine spraying, rubbing on objects, and scent marking such as claw raking and leaving uncovered feces.
Black footed cats are very vocal; they emit loud, deep throat voices, which is frequently repeated during their breeding seasons. Females use soft calls when communicating with kittens.
They only come together during breeding seasons for mating. Females of the species have shorter estrus than other cats species, and their gestation periods are about 63-68 days.
Their litter size is between one and four, with the most common litter size for these cats being two. Black footed cats kittens are born with their eyes closed and opens as soon as they are six days of age. Kittens are weaned in two months and sexually mature within twelve months. adolescents.
Fun black footed cat facts
- Black footed cats are one of the most deadliest cats, with a hunting success rate of around 60%.
- They’re the smallest in Africa with a whole-body length of 50-72 cm.
- They are opportunistic hunters, walking long-night distances hunting.
- They are solitary, with both sexes making urine territories.
- The vision of a black footed cat is around six times better than that of humans.
Meet the black footed cat
Did you enjoy learning more about the black footed cat? Have you ever met this unique creature face-to-face? Tell us about your black footed cat experience in the comment section below. Because those who care share!
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