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Tiger, Ranthambore Tiger Reserve

Black footed cat

Black footed catThe smallest of all the species of cats, Black-footed cat is indeed one of the most fascinating of them all. Also known as the ant-hill tiger, or little spotted cat, this is the smallest of the African felids. It is reputed to be exceptionally fierce.Virtually water independent, receiving most if not all their moisture needs from their prey. They also have higher energy requirements than larger African wild cats.

Zoological name: Felis negripes

Species: Just slightly bigger than the Asian rusty spotted cat and the South American kodkod (similar to a very small domestic cat).Unlike most spotted cats, the black-footed cat's skin is an un-pigmented pink.

There are two recognised subspecies:
- F. n. nigripes East Cape Province and Namibia
- F. n. thomasi Botswana and East Cape Province
- F. n. thomasi has a darker coat than F. n. nigripes.

Physical appearance: With a shoulder height of approximately 22cm and a body length of 50cm, the average male weighs in at about 2.2kg - however the female often weighs as little as 1.5kg and as such can be classified as the smallest of all wild cats. In appearance the cat has a large broad head in proportion to its small body - its coat colour varies from light sandy brown to reddish brown and is covered with dark spotted patches which sometime coalesce into broken stripes. The legs of the black-footed are bared with dark horizontal stripes and the tail is broken with dark rings and terminates in a black tip. The pads of its feet are black and are surrounded by long black hairs which give the small felid its name as well as protecting its feet from the heat of the semi-desert habitat.

Presence on the planet: In the genus Felis and has just two named sub-species. Felis nigripes nigripes displaying a paler coat is found in the northern parts of its range (Botswana, Namibia and Angola) and Felis nigripes thomasi having a darker coat, is native to the Eastern Cape Provence and the southern parts of South Africa.

Black footed catHabitat: The black-footed cat is restricted to the arid lands of Southern Africa. It is typically associated with open, sandy, grassy habitats with sparse shrub and tree cover, such as the Kalahari and Karoo regions . A. Sliwa describes long grass with high rodent and bird densities as optimal habitat.

Diet:Their diet consists of shrews, gerbils, hares, lizards and beetles. In one study, 57% of stomachs contained murid or mouse-like rodents, and 43% contained arachnids. Highly opportunistic, black-footed cats will take any prey they can overpower. One male was recorded as having ingested 450 grammes in one night, nearly one third of his bodyweight. Uneaten food is cached for later. They have been observed to scavenge springbok carcasses and take birds in the air. Black-footed cats are regularly reported to hang onto the throats of sheep until they pierce their jugular veins! While eating they empty the contents of their preys stomachs and intestines, pulling them through their teeth to squeeze the contents out.

They will drink if water is available but they usually get all the moisture they require from their prey. It has been reported that they will also eat a lot of grass.

Reproduction & Offspring: These cats have a gestation period of about 65 days. Litters range from one to three kittens. The altricial kittens first leave their burrow in about 30 days and shortly thereafter, begin eating solid food. Although kittens grow fairly quickly, they do not reach maturity until about a year and a half.

Conservation status: Black-footed cats are described as a rare species by many experts, whilst other reports suggest that they are common in parts of their range. Although not generally threatened by hunting, pest control by local farmers may well present a problem - poison and traps, indiscriminately laid for the African Wildcat and Jackal are reported to be affecting black-footed cats in certain areas. The black-footed cat is listed as 'Least Concern' in the IUCN Red Book of Endangered Species and is listed in CITES Appendix I.

Life span: Unknown.
13 years
Echoing wildness !

This has been described as sounding like a soprano tiger. It must be so loud so that mating calls can be heard over long distances as these cats are solitary animals. When the kittens are frightened, they will scatter, hide and freeze. The female will sound the all-clear with a low mewing call.

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