This is one of my favorites, everyone!
The Black-footed Cat (Felis nigripes) is the smallest of all African cats and one of the smallest in the world, weighing only 5.4 pounds (2.45 Kg) for fully-grown males, and only 3.6 pounds (1.65 Kg) for fully-grown females.
The largest males measure up to 17 inches (36 cm) from nose to the base of the tail, with an almost 8-inch tail (19.8 cm). The pads and the fur on the bottom of its feet are black (hence the name).
Black-footed Cats can be found in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and southern Angola. Historical records indicate that they once existed in Botswana, but none can be found there now. Their habitat consists of open savanna, grassland, Karoo semi-desert, but not in the driest and more desolate parts of the Kalahari.
There are two recognized subspecies of the Black-footed Cat:
- Felis nigripes nigripes (Botswana, Namibia, and the northern part of South Africa)
- Felis nigripes thomasi (the rest of South Africa)
F. n. nigripes is smaller and paler than F. n. thomasi, in general, but since there are no hard geographical boundaries between the range and individuals of both subspecies have been observed to inhabit the same areas, the existence of subspecies is sometimes questioned.
Black-footed Cats are only active at night, and are therefore difficult to observe. Most of their water comes from their prey (mostly rodents and birds), because they live in dry environments, but they will drink water when they can. These cats are ground-dwellers, and are not inclined to climb trees. They can dig their own burrows but prefer to customize abandoned termite mounds or dens dug by other animals.
Female Black-footed Cats will give birth to a litter of one to four kittens, though the average litter size is two. Their gestation period lasts for 63 to 68 days.
Black-footed Cats are easily startled, and prefer flight to fight. But when they are cornered, they will fight fiercely and to the death. Because of this, they are known as meershooptier in parts of the southern Karoo, which means "anthill tiger." One San legend claims that a Black-footed Cat once took down a giraffe by piercing its jugular - this story is meant to emphasize the amount of courage contained in such a tiny cat.