In the wildcats species of cats the black footed cat is the smallest species of cat. With a shoulder height of almost exact about 22cm and a body length of 50cm, the average male weighs in at about 2.2kg - however the female often weighs as little as 1.5kg and as such can be clarified as the smallest of all wild cats. In appearance the cat has a large broad head in proportion to its small body - its coat color changes from light sandy brown to reddish brown and is covered with dark spotted patches which sometime combined into broken stripes. The legs of the black-footed are bared with dark horizontal stripes and the tail is broken with dark rings and extend only to a limit in a black tip. The pads of its feet are black and are surrounded by long black hairs which give the small felid its name as well as protecting its feet from the heat of the dry-desert home.
The Black-footed Cat is found only in parts of South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Southern Angola. It is classified in the genus Felis and has just two named sub-species. Felis nigripes nigripes displaying a paler coat is found in the northern parts of its range (Botswana, Namibia and Angola) and Felis nigripes thomasi having a darker coat, is native to the Eastern Cape Provence and the southern parts of South Africa.
By way of adaptation to its arid habitat it is thought that the black-footed cat can go without water, instead gaining all its moisture requirement from its food - this is also seen in the SAND CAT which inhabits the arid lands to the northern of the African continent.
Black-footed cats inhabit arid brushland and semi-desert and are known to make their dens in disused Cape Hare burrows, under the cover of rocks and boulders and occasionally within old anthills for which the cat earns the local name of 'Anthill Tiger'. Most reports are of nocturnal hunting although in some parts of its range, most notably in protected areas such as National Parks and Reserves, an increase in crepuscular activity is common. Reptiles, spiders and insects also constitute a small part of the black-footed cat's diet. Hunting technique varies depending on the prey species sought - mammals have been seen to be caught by waiting at the entrance to their hole until they emerge and birds have been observed being taken by the leaping black-footed cat in mid air just as they take off. It is common for the black-footed cat to cache larger prey and return to the dead body later and also to clean the dirt on the meat of larger dead mammals such as lambs.
In the wild it seems that the black-footed cat develops more quickly than the domestic cat but unlike the similarly sized Sand Cat, young black-footed cats become independent much later. The litter size is usually small, between 1-3 (typically two) kittens and they are born after a gestation period of approximately 65 days. The kittens weigh between 60-90g at birth - have a daily weight gain of approximately 8g per day and reach maturity as late as 20 months of age.
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