The Black-footed Cat

Scientific Name: Felis nigripes
IUCN Status: Vilnerable
Weight: 2-5 pounds



The Black-footed Cat is one of the two smallest cats, slightly larger then the Rusty-spotted Cat, with a stockier thickset body and relatively short legs. The body fur is light tawny to cinnamon-buff and varies from pale to dark along a north-south cline. Southern individuals are richly coloured with bold black spots and blotches whereas northern individuals are paler with coffee-brown to rust-red-tinged markings. Two subspecies are usually recognized, the first restricted to the eastern Cape region and south Africa. The other occurs everywhere else in the range. Four subspecies are usually described, based broadly on the species’ putative discontinuous distribution, but further molecular analysis is required to assess their validity.


The Black-footed Cat is a very active and opportunistic hunter, primarily of very small mammals and small ground-foraging birds. Birds are often taken in flight, in leaps up to 1.4m high. Black-footed Cats can overpower prey very close to their own weight, such as rabbits and hares, which are the largest prey species recorded. Other prey sources include mongooses, squirrels, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates. 

Habitat and Distribution:

The Black-footed Cat is endemic to southern Africa where it is found primarily in South Africa, Namibia, and Botswana. It is recorded from extreme north-west and southern Zimbabwe close to the south African border. The Black-footed Cat is a specialist of open, dry habitats with cover, especially short-grass savanna, Karoo scrub, open savanna woodlands with sparse tree cover, and vegetated semi-desert.


Breeding occurs year-round in captivity but is seasonal in the wild having up to 4 litters per year. Gestation is 63-68 days. Litter size 1-4 kittens, usually 2 in the wild.