MammalMAP: the black footed cat
The black footed cat or Felis nigripes is one of the world’s smallest cats. These cats get their name from the colour of the underparts of their paws – which is black. The colour of its fur varies from cinnamon-buff to tawny with black or brown spots that merges to form rings on its legs, neck, and tail.
The females weigh on average 1.3 kgs while its male counterpart weighs in at 1.9 kgs. Wow, that’s small! It would take three black footed cats to weigh the same as an average African wildcat.
These kitties are opportunistic feeders – chowing on a variety of 40 vertebrate species. Quite adept at killing prey bigger than they are, these cats are capable of jumping up 1.4 m high to catch birds in flight. Their hunting success is quite impressive – they can catch one vertebrate every 50 minutes.
Black footed cats are generally anti-social. Females and males only associate for mating – which is only 5 – 10 hours. Females give birth to a litter of two kittens in an underground. The kittens are born blind but quickly develop motor skills and venture out the den at three weeks. At this age, the mother will often bring back live prey for the kittens to practice on. By six weeks, the kittens are capable of killing their own prey. Even after they are independent, the kittens may stay within their mother’s territory.
So where do we find these fabled felines? These cats are endemic to southern Africa. They primarily inhabit the dry, open savannahs, grasslands and Karoo semi deserts of South Africa and Namibia. These animals are threatened by habitat fragmentation as the result of grazing, agriculture and the use of poisons as a means of pest control.
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