There is indeed a peculiar species of cat in the world. They have round eyes, a patchy fur, and black stripes on their body and tail. Despite their small appearance, these cats have become a “terror” to many other creatures.
The Most Dangerous Cat Species in the World
They are called black-footed cats, but in reality, their feet are not black; it’s only the fur and pads on their soles that have that color. Black-footed cats live in southern and southwestern Africa. They typically inhabit bushes and grasslands and sometimes even reside near rocky outcrops.
The black-footed cat may appear cute, but it is a true predator. When looking from the outside, the black-footed cat doesn’t look much different from a regular house cat. Some individuals in the population are even smaller than domestic cats. On average, they weigh only about 1 to 2 kg. They have a length of 36 to 52 cm and a height of 20 to 25 cm. The black-footed cat’s scientific name is Felis nigripes.
Contrary to their adorable appearance, black-footed cats are truly perfect hunting machines hidden within their small bodies. According to scientific statistics, their success rate in hunting reaches up to 60%. This number is a dream come true for lions. Compared to black-footed cats, lions have a hunting success rate of 30%, cheetahs at 58%, leopards at 38%, and tigers at 5%. Therefore, it can be said that in a race for hunting, the black-footed cat would be the champion. This also makes them the most dangerous small cat species on Earth.
The success rate of black-footed cats in hunting reaches up to 60%, even higher than lions. (Photo: NatGeo) The vision of black-footed cats is six times better than that of humans. Their night vision and hearing are extremely perfect. Black-footed cats mainly live at night, especially after sunset. Before sunrise, they will return to rest in the burrows of other species or hide among rocks or hollow termite mounds.
To successfully catch prey, black-footed cats use three different techniques simultaneously. Among them, stalking technique is commonly used when hunting in dense bushes. Black-footed cats will silently crawl under trees and grass to search for potential prey. Sometimes, they lie in ambush right at the entrance of the prey’s den. They are even willing to wait for hours. As soon as the prey peeks out, the black-footed cat will rush in, throwing them out of the den and seizing them. In addition, black-footed cats have an incredibly fast hunting technique, darting through tall grass in an instant to catch birds or mice.
The quiet black-footed cat lurks among the bushes to hunt its prey. Its hunting skills were even featured in the miniseries “Super Cats” by PBS Nature. According to an African legend, the black-footed cat can take down a giraffe by biting its neck arteries. However, these cats are not adept climbers, so they do not live in trees. Biologists explain that their short tail and body prevent them from easily climbing trees like other cat species. Instead, black-footed cats spend most of their time digging and expanding burrows, establishing their territories on sandy ground.
Black-footed cats can catch 10 to 14 prey in just one night. For black-footed cats, any moving prey can be food. On average, a black-footed cat can catch anywhere from 10 to 14 small birds or mice in one night. That means they are catching about 1 prey every 50 minutes. This is because food accounts for the largest proportion of their body weight, and their metabolism is very fast, so they frequently hunt for food. Statistics show that black-footed cats can eat up to 3,000 mice each year, as well as birds, insects, and reptiles. They are very active hunters, traveling up to 20 miles each night to find prey.
Most of the time, black-footed cats live solitary lives, except during mating and raising their young. The mating period of black-footed cats is not long. Female cats are only in heat for 1 to 2 days, and they only accept the male’s advances for about 5 to 10 hours during that time. During this period, black-footed cats can emit special sounds to quickly and effectively locate their mate.
Black-footed cats typically give birth to two litters in a year. The gestation period ranges from 63 to 68 days. On average, mother cats usually give birth to 1-4 kittens each time. Newborn kittens weigh only about 2 to 3 ounces. They will be weaned after 3 months. Mother cats will catch and leave live prey in the den for the kittens to practice hunting. By 3-4 months old, the kittens are able to live independently and reach sexual maturity at 8 to 12 months old.
Although black-footed cats are excellent hunters, they are also prey for many other species. Since 2016, the IUCN Red List has listed black-footed cats as a vulnerable species. This means that they are at high risk of extinction. Currently, this species can only be found in Botswana, Namibia, parts of Zimbabwe, Southern Angola, and South Africa. Moreover, if kept in captivity, black-footed cats can live up to 13 years.
*This article is compiled from Nationalgeographic and Wildcatconservation.