The black-footed cat (Felis nigripes), also called the small-spotted cat, is the smallest wild cat in Africa, having a head-and-body length of 35–52 cm (14–20 in). Despite its name, only the soles of its feet are black or dark brown. With its bold small spots and stripes on the tawny fur, it is well camouflaged, especially on moonlit nights. It bears black streaks running from the corners of the eyes along the cheeks, and its banded tail has a black tip. The first black-footed cat known to science was discovered in the northern Karoo of South Africa and described in 1824. It is endemic to the arid steppes and grassland savannas of Southern Africa. In the late 1960s, it was recorded in southern Botswana, but only few authentic records exist in Namibia, in southern Angola, and in southern Zimbabwe. Due to its restricted distribution, it has been listed as a vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List since 2002. The population is suspected to be declining due to poaching of prey species for human consumption as bushmeat, persecution, traffic accidents, and predation by domestic dogs and cats. The black-footed cat has been studied using radio telemetry since 1993. This research allowed direct observation of its behaviour in its natural habitat. It usually rests in burrows during the day and hunts at night. It moves between 5 and 16 km (3.1 and 9.9 mi) on average, in search of small rodents and birds, mostly moving in small circles and zig-zagging among bushes and termite mounds. It feeds on 40 different vertebrates and kills up to 14 small animals per night. It can catch birds in flight, jumping up to 1.4 m (4 ft 7 in) high, and also dares to attack mammals and birds much heavier than itself. A female usually gives birth to two kittens during the southern-hemisphere summer between October and March. They are weaned at the age of two months and become independent after four months of age at the latest.
Also known as
This breed is also called Anthill Tiger, Black-Footed, Black-Footed Cat, Felis Nigripes, Miershooptier as well as Small-Spotted Cat.
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