The black-footed cat, Felis nigripes, lives in the grasslands of southern Africa, and is a nocturnal hunter. It’s one of the smallest of all wild cats, weighing only between 2 to 5 pounds, and it’s rare. Although hunting them is forbidden in the wild, farmers still kill and poison them, and there are only 40 individuals in zoos. Has anybody seen one?
Photo courtesy of Pixdaus Nature Photography
Here’s its range:
They’re cute like housecats, but don’t forget that they’re also fierce hunters: the Feline Conservation Foundation reports that they can take prey, like hyrax, much larger than themselves.
The Black-Footed Cat Working Group notes this:
Black-footed cats are opportunistic hunters, feeding on 40 different vertebrate species. Their varied food spectrum comprises of rodents and shrews (55%), small birds (20%), large, soft-bodied insects, spiders, scorpions, small snakes and geckos.
They are capable of killing prey larger than itself, can catch birds in flight and jump up to 2 m distance and 1.4 m high.
The black-footed cat’s appetite is extraordinary. They are very successful hunters catching on average one vertebrate prey animal every 50 minutes. During the course of one night they eat prey amounting to one fifth of their own body mass. If their catch is too large to finish in one go, they hide it in their dens or even in aardvark digs and return hours later to continue feeding.
The excuse for posting these photos is the announcement that, for the first time, two black-footed cats were produced through in vitro fertilization. According to ZooBorns (where you can see more incredibly cute photos), sperm was taken from a male in Omaha in 2003, frozen, and then used in 2005 to to fertilize eggs from a female at the Audubon Center for the Research of Endangered Species in New Orleans. These embryos were kept frozen for six years before being transplanted into a different female at the Audubon Center. After two months of gestation, two male kittens were born on February 13 of this year. Here are photos of mom and offspring:
Here’s the “anthill tiger” making a kill. It’s undoubtedly a setup shot, but does show the hunting technique: