The Black footed cat is one of the least studied cats in Africa, and was listed as Vulnerable in 2005. This is the smallest of the African cat species, with males only weighing up to about 2.5 kg in weight. Females are a little smaller and weigh up to about 1.7 kg in weight. The body length, including the tail, is about 60cm long for the males, and females being a bit smaller at round about 54cm.
Only the pads and the under parts of the feet are black in colour, and this is where the animal gets their name from. The colour differs from cinnamon to tawny and has patterns of black or brown spots that merge to become rings on the legs. They have very large eyes and their ears have a rounded look to them.
They live in dry, open savanna, grassland and Karoo semi dessert areas going up to altitudes of 2 000m above sea level. So this means that they are mostly found in South Africa, Namibia, a little bit into Zimbabwe and has been recorded in Botswana in the past.
Black footed cats are solitary and strictly nocturnal, making it very rare to see. They spend their daytime hours in old borrows or hollows. Unlike most cats, they are not very good climbers, their stocky bodies and short tails make it difficult for them to climb.
These small cats are very territorial, stretching from 10km2 for females and up to 25km2 for the males. Territories are marked in many different ways, like sent marking and rubbing their heads against objects. Females are only in estrus for two to three days, so males need to locate them very quickly. Females can have two litters a year, averaging about two kittens per litter. Kittens weigh about 80grams at birth but grow up quickly, reaching sexual maturity at about one year of age.
They hunt mostly small rodents and bird, but can bring down prey heavier than themselves, like the Cape hare. Insects and spiders are also prey, but only form about 1% of their diet.
Story by Stefan (River Lodge)