If you were asked to name the deadliest cat in the world, you would probably respond with either a leopard, a lion, or a tiger. If these are the answers that you would give, then you are incorrect. In fact, it is a much smaller and less scary looking feline that is the world’s deadliest. This accolade goes to the Black-footed cat, which looks surprisingly cute and cuddly considering it is such a threatening hunter.
Despite its prowess as a hunter, many people have never even heard of this species. The black-footed cat is the smallest wild cat in Africa and the second smallest wild cat in the world, as the only cat smaller than it is the rusty-spotted cat.
Although you would expect this cat to have black paws as this is what its name suggests, the only parts of the feet that are black are the pads. There are several colors of this species as the coloring ranges from tawny to cinnamon-buff. Its general appearance is similar to that of a domestic cat, which is what makes it so surprising that they are such fantastic hunters.
They are native to many countries in Africa, including South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia. They live in grasslands and open savanna areas where they can hunt in the long grasses and they live in burrows during the day.
If you are wondering why you have never heard of this wild feline species, it is probably because they are rarely sighted. They are nocturnal creatures who prefer to live a solitary lifestyle. They avoid sightings by other animals by sneaking around in grassy areas.
The black-footed cat features in a PBS series called ‘Super Cats’. The series shows footage of these amazing creatures while they are enjoying their nightly forays. Some of the footage shows them hunting and the commentary describes how these fascinating predators can kill more prey in one night than the average leopard catches over a six-month period.
Technology was involved in capturing these scenes as it would have been impossible to see their activities up close without the use of gadgets. Luke Hunter, a zoo curator from Germany. Was involved in the process. He helped the crew to fit the animals with radio collars. This enabled the television crew to track the black-footed cats, even when they were hunting in tall grasses.
Hunter, who has studied this feline species since the 1990s, explains that the black-footed cats are not a threat to the same prey as the big cats. For example, lions and leopards hunt larger animals, such as gazelle and wildebeest. The black-footed cats do not hunt these animals due to their smaller size. However, their kill rate of smaller animals makes them the deadliest cat of all.
Astonishingly, these cats can kill between 10 and 14 rodents and small birds Every night. This is the equivalent to killing one prey every 50 minutes. This is an astounding feat by these talented hunters. However, it is also a necessity to survive as the black-footed cat has an active metabolism.
The hunting skills of the black-footed cat are impressive, and they use a variety of techniques to capture their prey. Sometimes they bound energetically through the grass to pounce on their prey, while at other times they will sit silently and immobile next to the burrow of their prey waiting for the perfect opportunity to go in for the kill. Another technique they use is to weave in and out of the grass so that they can sneak up on their prey unexpectedly. The techniques they choose depends on the environment and the type of prey.
Sadly, like many wild felines, this species is now endangered. Zoo curator Luke Hunter explains that we need to take steps now to prevent them from becoming extinct. This would involve reducing the threats that these animals face. Current threats to the black-footed cat include indiscriminate predator traps and the deterioration of its habitat. The latter is generally caused by overgrazing. Other potential risks include disease, declining populations of springhares, predators, and dangerous farming practices. The black-footed cat is now a protected species and hunting of the species is banned in both South Africa and Botswana.