The black-footed cat, also called the small-spotted cat, is the tiniest wild cat in Africa, having a head-and-body length of 14–20 in. Despite its name, only the soles of its feet are dark brown or black. Its beautiful small spots and stripes on the brown fur are well camouflaged, particularly on moonlit nights. It bears black lines running from the corners of the eyes along the cheeks, and its banded tail has a dark tip.
Small-sized and cuddly faces don’t change the fact that Black-footed cats are the deadliest cats on earth. Here are six points that will prove this right.
- Eyes: The black-footed cat’s sight is 6 times better than that of humans, aided by large eyes. It’s also decked with exceptional night vision and flawless hearing that can pick up even the tiniest noise.
- Hunting: Black-footed cats use 3 very distinct methods to catch their prey. One technique is called “fast hunting,” in which the black-footed cats bound fast and “almost randomly” through the tall grass, cleaning out small prey such as rodents or birds. Another of their techniques takes them on a slower course through their territory, with the cats weaving discreetly to sneak up on potential prey.
- The Number: Almost every night, a black-footed cat hunts between 12 and 18 small birds or rodents, averaging a kill about every 40 minutes. With a 60 percent success rate, black-footed cats are nearly 3 times as thriving as lions, which average a successful kill under 25 percent of the time.
- Hidden Wonders: This great black-footed cat is nocturnal but seldom crepuscular – which means it can be recognized out of its den just after sunset and before sunrise. During the day, they sleep either in burrows dug by other animals, in vacant termite mounds or between rock tumbles.
- Stamina: Sometimes walking more than 30 km darkness to hunt prey, the black-footed cat is an opportunistic stalker that takes anything it can overwhelm. Males can even take down small bustards or hares.
- Endemic: The black-footed cat is endemic to Central Southern and central Africa, preferring arid to semi-arid scrub and short grassland, and free terrain close to rugged outcrops.