Black Footed Cat - Felis nigripesBy: C.M.Shorter
also called the "Ant Hill Tiger" is
mighty powerful with its claim to fame being it is perhaps
of all cat species on earth. It rivals only the Rusty
small stature. This powerful "Small
Cat" weighs in at only 2.2 to 5 lbs and has no problem
attacking baby sheep more than four times its own weight.
Other special adaptations to their harsh desert terrain
is a broad skull with large, rounded ears and hair on the
soles of their feet to help absorb the heat of the desert
sand. Black Footed cats are known for their tenacity and
unsociable disposition, often setting their ears back in
an aggressive posture, an adaptation to hunting in areas
with little or no ground cover. Sandy in coat color they
sport dark spot markings with tails approximately 30 to
50% of their body length with 3-4 dark rings, tapering
to a black
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ANIMAL WEB CAMS
Black Footed Cats make their home in South
Africa known to reside in only three countries on the African
Continent: Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa. These remarkable
little creatures share home range with our African
Cheetahs. These special adaptations help them survive in the
grass plains, scrub desert and sand plains including the Kalahari
and Karoo Deserts. Grassy areas with a high prey density of
rodents and birds provides maximum preferred habitat. In order
to survive, Black Footed Cats are opportunistic hunters obtaining
their moisture requirements mostly from prey, but will drink
water when available. Being strictly nocturnal hunters their
techniques include the flushing of birds nests, or the "wait
and stalk" hunting technique when making a meal of the
local rodents or spiders. Larger males are known to take down
adult Cape Hares. They may also make a meal of bird or lizard
eggs, crushing them gently and devouring the contents. These
cats have healthy appetites consuming almost 1/5 of their body
weight each night.
These stealth little hunters take
residence in termite mound holes or burrows abandoned by
other animals and are known to
frequent ant hills, which gives them their common name "Ant
Hill Tiger". Due to scarcity of prey they must travel
far distances each night and they have a "Meow",
said to rival the roar of a tiger, being one octave higher
which carries over long distances allowing them to communicate
with others and locate their mates. Females have an extremely
short estrous cycle - only 36 hours and invest very short periods
of time breeding. The behavior of a short breeding susceptibility
period is typical for a carnivore living in a desert environment
with a low food supply. Also, as an exceptionally small animal,
they cannot afford to be exposed for any length of time with
a number of natural enemies waiting for an opportunity of their
own such as venomous snakes, jackals and large night owls.
Males and females are solitary coming together only to breed.
Once successful in breeding, the mother changes dens frequently
with the young developing rapidly and ready to leave the nesting
area at only three months of age.
The Black Footed Cat is one of the
few "Small Wild Cats" sponsored
under the Species Survival Plan (SSP) with their studbook originating
at the Frankfurt Zoo in 1988. In the wild, interbreeding with
domestic cats has polluted and diluted their wild genetic line.
Never common, and ever increasing threats through human intervention
in their natural environment has placed the Black Footed Cat
on CITES Appendix 1.
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Scientific Name: Felis nigripes
Common Name(s): Black Footed Cat, Ant Hill Tiger
Range: Botswana, Namibia and South Africa
Average Weight: 1 - 2.4kg (2.2 - 5 lbs)
Length: 50 - 63 cm (22 - 25") Tail one-third of body length.
Diet: Carnivorous. Variety of rodents such as mice and gerbils,
birds, insects (i.e. spiders, locusts, reptiles & eggs. These
cats are known to scavenge other predator's kills.
Gestation Period: 63-68 Days (Eyes open 7 days), weaned at 3
months. Females have 2 litters per year.
Cub Maturity: 12 - 20 Months
Cubs Per Litter: 1 - 4 Kittens
Lifespan: 12-15 years in the wild. There are less than a dozen
in Zoological facilities with a high instance of females being
killed by their mates. Maximum captive longevity reported of
Predators: Venomous Snakes, Jackals, Night Owls. Man. Threat
of death by ingesting poisoned prey (especially locusts and caracal
Social Structure: Solitary.
Territory Size: 12-15 km (7-8 miles)
Conservation Status: Black Footed Cats are listed on CITES Appendix
I. Fully protected in South Africa and Botswana but they receive
no legal protection in Namibia.