The black-footed cat (Felis nigripes), also called small-spotted cat, is the smallest African cat and endemic to the southwestern arid zone of Southern Africa. It is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List since 2002, as the population is suspected to be declining due to bushmeat poaching of prey species, persecution, traffic accidents and predation by domestic animals.
|Distribution of the black-footed cat in Southern Africa|
Felis nigripes was the scientific name proposed by William John Burchell in 1824 who described cat skins used by ethnic people for making cloaks. Felis (Microfelis) nigripes thomasi was proposed as a subspecies by Guy Chester Shortridge in 1824 who described skins collected in Griqualand West as being darker. The existence of subspecies was questioned, as no geographical or ecological barriers between populations exist.
The following cladogram shows the phylogenetic relationships of black-footed cat and other species within the Felis lineage. 
The black-footed cat is the smallest wild cat in Africa and rivals the rusty-spotted cat as the world's smallest wild cat. Males reach a head-to-body length of 36.7 to 43.3 cm (14.4 to 17.0 in) with tails 16.4 to 19.8 cm (6.5 to 7.8 in) long. Females are smaller with a maximum head-to-body-length of 36.9 cm (14.5 in) and tails 12.6 to 17.0 cm (5.0 to 6.7 in) long. Adult resident males weigh on average 1.9 kg (4.2 lb) and a maximum of 2.45 kg (5.4 lb). Adult resident females weigh on average 1.3 kg (2.9 lb) and a maximum of 1.65 kg (3.6 lb). The shoulder height is about 25 cm (9.8 in).
Despite its name, only the pads and underparts of the cat's feet are black. The cat has a stocky build with rounded ears, large eyes, and short black-tipped tail. The fur varies in color from cinnamon-buff to tawny, and is patterned with black or brown spots that merge to form rings on the legs, neck, and tail. These patterns provide the animals with camouflage; the backs of their ears, however, are the same color as the background color of their fur. They have six mammae, and unlike other spotted cats, non-pigmented skin.
The black-footed cat is endemic to southern Africa, and primarily found in South Africa, Namibia, marginally into Zimbabwe, and likely in extreme southern Angola. Only historical but no recent records exist in Botswana. It lives in dry, open savanna, grassland and Karoo semidesert with shrub and tree cover at altitudes up to 2,000 m (6,600 ft), but not in the driest and sandiest parts of the Namib and Kalahari Deserts. During the night, they need sparse shrub and tree covers to hunt but spend the daytime in burrows or empty termite mounds.
Black-footed cats are solitary and strictly nocturnal animals, thus rarely seen. They spend the day resting in dense cover in unoccupied burrows of springhares, porcupines, and aardvarks, or in hollow termite mounds. They emerge to hunt after sunset.
They are typically found in dry, open habitat with some degree of vegetation cover. Apparently they get all the moisture they need from their prey, but will drink water when available.
Unlike most other cats, black-footed cats are poor climbers, and will generally ignore tree branches. Their stocky bodies and short tails are not conducive to tree-climbing. They dig vigorously in the sand to extend or modify burrows for shelter.
Black-footed cats are highly unsociable animals that seek refuge at the slightest disturbance. When cornered, they are known to defend themselves fiercely. Due to this habit and their courage, they are called miershooptier (anthill tiger in Afrikaans) in parts of the South African Karoo. They rarely use termite mounds for cover or for bearing their young. A San legend claims that a black-footed cat can kill a giraffe by piercing its jugular. This exaggeration is intended to emphasize the bravery and tenacity of the animal. The only times their solitary behavior changes is during breeding season, and among females with dependent kittens.
A female roams in an average home range of 10 km2 (3.9 sq mi) in a year, and a resident male of 22 km2 (8.5 sq mi). The range of an adult male overlaps the ranges of one to four females. On average, an adult animal travels 8 km (5.0 mi) per night in search of prey. The cats use scent marking throughout their ranges, with males spraying urine up to twelve times an hour. Other forms of scent marking include rubbing objects, raking with claws, and depositing faeces in visible locations. Their calls are louder than those of other cats of their size, presumably to allow them to call over relatively large distances. When close to each other, however, they use quieter purrs or gurgles, or hiss and growl if threatened.
Due to their small size, black-footed cats hunt mainly small prey species, such as rodents and small birds, but may also take the white-quilled bustard and the Cape hare, the latter being heavier than itself. Insects and spiders provide less than 1% of the prey mass consumed. They are known occasionally to scavenge the lambs of springboks. They are unusually active hunters, killing up to fourteen small animals in a night. Their energy requirements are very high, with about 250 g (9 oz) of prey per night consumed, which is about a sixth of its average body weight.
Black-footed cats hunt mainly by stalking, rather than ambush, using the cover of darkness and all available traces of cover to approach their prey before the final pounce. They have been observed to hunt by moving swiftly to flush prey from cover, but also to stalk slowly through tufts of vegetation. Less commonly, they wait outside rodent burrows, often with their eyes closed, but remaining alert for the slightest sound. In common with the big cats, but unlike most other small species, black-footed cats have been observed to hide some of their captured prey for later feeding, rather than consuming it immediately.
Black-footed cats have lived for ten years in captivity. Females reach sexual maturity after eight to twelve months. They come into estrus for only one or two days at a time, and are receptive to mating for a few hours, requiring males to locate them quickly. Copulation occurs frequently during this period. Gestation lasts from 63 to 68 days. A litter consists usually of two kittens, but may vary from one to four young. Kittens weigh 60 to 84 g (2.1 to 3.0 oz) at birth. They are born blind and relatively helpless, although they are able to crawl about after just a few hours. They are able to walk within two weeks, begin taking solid food after about a month, and are fully weaned by two months of age.
Females may have up to two litters during the course of spring, summer, and autumn. They rear their kittens in a burrow, moving them to new locations regularly after the first week. In general, kittens develop more rapidly than other similarly sized cats, quickly adapting to a relatively hostile environment. They become independent by five months of age, but may remain within their mother's range.
Known threats include methods of indiscriminate predator control, such as bait poisoning and steel-jaw traps, habitat deterioration from overgrazing, intraguild predation, diseases, declining springhare populations and unsuitable farming practices. Distribution data indicate that the majority of protected areas may be too small to conserve adequately viable sub-populations.
The Black-footed Cat Working Group carries out a research project at Benfontein Nature Reserve and Nuwejaarsfontein Farm near Kimberley, Northern Cape, where seven black-footed cats have been radio-collared. This project is part of a multidisciplinary effort to study the distribution, ecology, health, and reproduction of black-footed cats over an extended period. In November 2012, this project was extended to Biesiesfontein Farm located in the Victoria West area. Camera traps are used in the research to collect behavioural data without disturbing them. In particular the cats' interaction with aardwolves is observed.
Wuppertal Zoo acquired black-footed cats as long ago as 1957, and succeeded in breeding them in 1963. In 1993, the European Endangered Species Programme was formed to coordinate which animals are best suited for pairing to maintain genetic diversity and to avoid inbreeding. The International Studbook for the black-footed cat is kept in the Wuppertal Zoo in Germany. As of July 2011, detailed records exist for a total of 726 captive cats since 1964; worldwide, 74 individuals were kept in 23 institutions in Germany, United Arab Emirates, USA, UK, and South Africa.
The Audubon Nature Institute' Center for Research of Endangered Species is working on advanced genetics involving cats. In February 2011, a female kept there gave birth to two male kittens – the first black-footed cats to be born as a result of in vitro fertilization using frozen and thawed sperm and frozen and thawed embryos. In 2003, the sperm was collected from a male and then frozen. It was later combined with an egg from a female, creating embryos in March 2005. Those embryos were frozen for almost six years before being thawed and transferred to a surrogate female in December 2010, which carried the embryos to term, resulting in the birth of the two kittens. The same center reported that on 6 February 2012, a female black-footed cat kitten, Crystal, was born to a domestic cat surrogate after interspecies embryo transfer.
The Asiatic linsang (Prionodon) is a genus comprising two species native to Southeast Asia: the banded linsang (Prionodon linsang) and the spotted linsang (Prionodon pardicolor). Prionodon is considered a sister taxon of the Felidae.Egyptian weasel
The Egyptian weasel (Mustela subpalmata) is a species of weasel that lives in northern Egypt. It is rated "Least Concern" by the IUCN Red List.Felidae
Felidae is a family of mammals in the order Carnivora, colloquially referred to as cats. A member of this family is also called a felid. The term "cat" refers both to felids in general and specifically to the domestic cat (Felis catus).Reginald Innes Pocock divided the extant Felidae into three subfamilies: the Pantherinae, the Felinae and the Acinonychinae, differing from each other by the ossification of the hyoid apparatus and by the cutaneous sheaths which protect their claws.
This concept has been revised following developments in molecular biology and techniques for analysis of morphological data. Today, the living Felidae are divided in two subfamilies, with the Pantherinae including seven Panthera and two Neofelis species. The Felinae include all the non-pantherine cats with 10 genera and 34 species.The first cats emerged during the Oligocene, about 25 million years ago, with the appearance of Proailurus and Pseudaelurus. The latter species complex was ancestral to two main lines of felids: the cats in the extant subfamilies and a third major group of extinct cats of the subfamily Machairodontinae. The machairodonts included the saber-toothed cats such as the Smilodon. The "false sabre toothed cats", the Barbourofelidae and Nimravidae, are not true cats, but are closely related and together with Felidae and other cat-like carnivores (hyaenas, viverrids and mongooses) make up the feliform carnivores.The characteristic features of cats have evolved to support a carnivorous lifestyle, with adaptations for ambush or stalking and short pursuit hunting. They have slender muscular bodies, strong flexible forelimbs and retractable claws for holding prey, dental and cranial adaptations for a strong bite, and often have characteristic striped or spotted coat patterns for camouflage.Feliformia
Feliformia (also Feloidea) is a suborder within the order Carnivora consisting of "cat-like" carnivorans, including cats (large and small), hyenas, mongooses, civets, and related taxa. Feliformia stands in contrast to the other suborder of Carnivora, Caniformia ("dog-like" carnivorans).
The separation of the Carnivora into the broad groups of feliforms and caniforms is widely accepted, as is the definition of Feliformia and Caniformia as suborders (sometimes superfamilies). The classification of feliforms as part of the Feliformia suborder or under separate groupings continues to evolve.
Systematic classifications dealing with only extant taxa include all feliforms into the Feliformia suborder, though variations exist in the definition and grouping of families and genera. Indeed, molecular phylogenies suggest that all extant Feliformia are monophyletic.The extant families as reflected in the taxa chart at right and the discussions in this article reflect the most contemporary and well-supported views (as at the time of writing this article).
Systematic classifications dealing with both extant and extinct taxa vary more widely. Some separate the feliforms (extant and extinct) as: Aeluroidea (superfamily) and Feliformia (suborder). Others include all feliforms (extant, extinct and "possible ancestors") into the Feliformia suborder. Some studies suggest this inclusion of "possible ancestors" into Feliformia (or even Carnivora) may be spurious. The extinct (†) families as reflected in the taxa chart are the least problematic in terms of their relationship with extant feliforms (with the most problematic being Nimravidae).Felinae
The Felinae is a subfamily of the family Felidae that comprises the small cats that have a bony hyoid, because of which they are able to purr but not roar.Other authors proposed an alternative definition for this subfamily: as comprising only the living conical-toothed cat genera with two tribes, the Felini and Pantherini; thus excluding all fossil cat species.Felis
Felis is a genus of small and medium-sized cat species native to most of Africa and south of 60° latitude in Europe and Asia to Indochina.The genus includes the domestic cat. The smallest Felis species is the black-footed cat with a head and body length from 38 to 42 cm (15 to 17 in). The largest is the jungle cat with a head and body length from 62 to 76 cm (24 to 30 in).Felis species inhabit a wide range of different habitats, from swampland to desert, and generally hunt small rodents, birds and other small animals, depending on their local environment. The worldwide introduction of the domestic cat also made it common to urban landscapes around the globe.Genetic studies indicate that Felis, Otocolobus and Prionailurus diverged from a Eurasian progenitor about 6.2 million years ago, and that Felis species split off 3.04 to 0.99 million years ago.Ferret-badger
Ferret-badgers are the five species of the genus Melogale, which is the only genus of the monotypic mustelid subfamily Helictidinae.
Bornean ferret-badger (Melogale everetti)
Chinese ferret-badger (Melogale moschata)
Javan ferret-badger (Melogale orientalis)
Burmese ferret-badger (Melogale personata)
Vietnam ferret-badger (Melogale cucphuongensis)Haussa genet
The Haussa genet (Genetta thierryi) is a genet species native to West African savannas. It is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.Haussa genets have been sighted in Senegal's wooded steppes, in moist woodlands in Guinea-Bissau, and in rainforest in Sierra Leone, Ghana and Ivory Coast.Long-nosed mongoose
The long-nosed mongoose (Herpestes naso) is a mongoose native to Cameroon, Republic of the Congo, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Kenya, Nigeria, and Tanzania.Lutrogale
Lutrogale is a genus of otters, with only one extant species—the smooth-coated otter.Mabula Game Reserve
Mabula Game Reserve is a private game reserve situated in the Limpopo province of South Africa. It is about 12,000 hectares (30,000 acres) in area and is about 47 km from Bela Bela (Warmbaths). The current owner of Mabula Game Reserve is the Indian businessman baron Vijay Mallya.Mustelinae
Mustelinae is a subfamily of family Mustelidae, which includes weasels, ferrets amd minks.It was formerly defined in a paraphyletic manner to also include wolverines, martens, and many other mustelids, to the exclusion of the otters (Lutrinae).Narrow-striped mongoose
The narrow-striped mongoose (Mungotictis decemlineata) is a member of the family Eupleridae, subfamily Galidiinae and endemic to Madagascar. It inhabits the Madagascar dry deciduous forests of western and southwestern Madagascar, where it lives from sea level to about 125 m (410 ft) between the Tsiribihina and Mangoky rivers. In Malagasy it is called bokiboky (pronounced "Boo-ky Boo-ky").Nyctereutes
Nyctereutes is an Old World genus of the family Canidae, consisting of just one living species, the raccoon dog of East Asia. Nyctereutes appeared about 9.0 million years ago (Mya), with all but one species becoming extinct before the Pleistocene.
Native to East Asia, the raccoon dog has been intensively bred for fur in Europe and especially in Russia during the twentieth century. Specimens have escaped or have been introduced to increase production and formed populations in Eastern Europe. It is currently expanding rapidly in the rest of Europe, where its presence is undesirable because it is considered to be a harmful and invasive species.Paradoxurus
Paradoxurus is a genus within the viverrid family that was denominated and first described by Frédéric Cuvier in 1822. As of 2005, this genus was defined as comprising three species native to Southeast Asia:
the Asian palm civet (P. hermaphroditus)
the golden palm civet (P. zeylonensis)
the brown palm civet (P. jerdoni)In 2009, it was proposed to also include the golden wet-zone palm civet (P. aureus), the Sri Lankan brown palm civet (P. montanus) and the golden dry-zone palm civet (P. stenocephalus), which are endemic to Sri Lanka.Rusty-spotted cat
The rusty-spotted cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus) is one of the cat family's smallest members, of which historical records are known only from India and Sri Lanka. In 2012, it was also recorded in the western Terai of Nepal. Since 2016, the global wild population is listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List as it is fragmented and affected by loss and destruction of prime habitat, deciduous forests.Santa Barbara Zoo
The Santa Barbara Zoo is located on 30 acres (12 ha) near the ocean in Santa Barbara, California. It was built on the site of what was known as the Child Estate. The zoo has been ranked numerous times as one of the nation's best small zoos. It has more than 500 animals in numerous exhibits, including capybara and California condors, and is famous for having had a giraffe with a crooked neck. It also features a few non-animal attractions, such as the 2 ft (610 mm) narrow gauge Zoo Train, complete with a pair of Chance Rides C.P. Huntington locomotives. The zoo first opened in August 1963.West African oyan
The West African oyan (Poiana leightoni), also known as the West African linsang, is a linsang species native to the Upper Guinean forests in West Africa.
It is one of the least known small carnivores in Africa.
Extant Carnivora species