small spotted cat (English)
chat à pieds noirs (French)
gato patinegro, gato de pies negros (Spanish)
klein gekolde kat, swart poot kat, miershooptier [anthill tiger] (Afrikaans: South Africa)
!koirus (Nama: Namibia)
tutchu (Naron Bushman: Botswana)
sebala, lototsi (Setswana: Botswana)
ingwe yeziduli (Xhosa: South Africa)
Description and Behavior
The diet consists mainly of small mammals and birds, and includes also arachnids,
insects and reptiles (Rautenbach 1978, Smithers 1971, Stuart 1981, Sliwa 1994).
Radio-collared cats were observed by Sliwa (1994) to catch larks by stalking to within
a short range and making a quick run and jump, catching some in the air as they flew off.
Small rodents were caught by stalking or waiting (up to 30 min.) at holes. They also
fed on emerging alates of the harvester termite, and caught larger winged insects such
as grasshoppers. The largest mammal prey was an adult Cape hare, weighing as much as the
adult female who caught it (1.5 kg). The largest bird caught was a small bustard, the
black koorhaan, weighing 700 g. Black-footed cats have also been observed to eat black
koorhaan eggs: "she flushed a female koorhaan from her nest, and then crushed the eggs
gently between her jaws and licked their contents clean" (A. Sliwa in litt. 1994).
Stuart (1981) reports a black-footed cat trapped with a guinea fowl carcass as bait. A.
Sliwa (pers. comm.) has observed black-footed cats cache rodent and bird carcasses
in hollows, returning after 2-14 hours to feed, and once observed a cat scavenge for four
nights on a springbok lamb.
Most observations in the wild have been at night (Smithers 1971; P. Stander, J. Visser
pers. comm.). The cat observed by Sliwa (1993) was generally active between sunset
and sunrise, and only during the cold winter months at first light and in late afternoon.
The cat was active for most of the night, travelling an average of 8 km while foraging
(n=10 nights). Black-footed cats lie up in disused burrows, such as those made by
springhares, or in rocky crevices (Shortridge 1934, Sliwa 1993). Black-footed cats
are apparently water-independent (Skinner and Smithers 1990). Unusually high blood
levels of creatinine and urea (even for arid-adapted cats) have been found in both wild
and captive black-footed cats (G. Olbricht and A. Sliwa pers. comm. 1993). Olbricht
and Sliwa have also noted that black-footed cats appear to have higher energy requirements
than the larger African wildcats.
Estrus: (C): 1 (Leyhausen and Tonkin 1966) - 5 days
Estrus Cycle: (C): 54 days (Mellen 1989)
Gestation: (C): 63-68 days (Leyhausen and Tonkin 1966)
Age at Sexual Maturity:
Longevity (C): up to 13 years (Green 1991)
Habitat and Distribution
The northernmost records are from around 19S in Namibia and Botswana (Shortridge
1934, Visser 1978, P. Stander pers. comm. 1992), although the species may occur
in the south-western corner of Angola (Anstey 1992). It has not been recorded
from Zimbabwe and Mozambique, although it probably occurs there marginally
(Shortridge 1934, Dias 1966, Stuart and Wilson 1988, J. Visser in litt. 1993).
A record for Malawi is erroneous (Ansell and Dowsett 1988).
Most authorities have described the black-footed cat as a naturally rare species
(Stuart and Wilson 1988, Skinner and Smithers 1990). Shortridge (1934) reported
at the turn of the century that mantles made from the skins of this species were
expensive, "on account of their scarcity." Still, it is locally common at certain
localities in South Africa, especially in the Orange Free State and northern Cape
(J. Visser in litt. 1993). Being restricted to arid environments, it probably
occurs at relatively low densities. An adult female observed for three months on a
game farm near Kimberley (northern Cape, South Africa) had a home range of 12
km2. A young male observed for a shorter period of
time maintained a home range of 13 km2, overlapping
the female’s range by about 50% (A. Sliwa in litt. 1993).
No Legal Protection:
© 1996 IUCN - The World Conservation Union