Black-footed Cat

He is a wild animal

Origin
African desert
Translation
Francis Vandersteen
The possession of this animal is not authorized Royal Decree establishing the list of mammals not kept for production purposes that may be kept (M.B. 24.08.2009)
The Black-footed Cat, also known as the Black-legged Cat, is a species of wild feline with a stocky appearance and mottled coat. Its name comes from the black hair on the soles of its feet, which protect it from the scorching desert floor. Weighing less than two kilograms on average, it is one of the world's smallest felines, and the smallest in Africa.

With an average weight of 1.6 kg, the Black-footed Cat is one of the smallest living cat species, along with the Rubiginous Cat, the smallest cat in Africa and the smallest cat in the Felis genus. Females weigh an average of 1.3 kg and males 1.9 kg. Head and body length vary from 36 to 52 cm, with a tail of 13 to 20 cm. A Black-footed Cat measures around 25 cm at the withers. Total length from tip of muzzle to tip of tail varies from 337 to 500 mm, weight from 1.5 to 2.75 kg.

The broad head with large eyes seems disproportionate to the rest of the body, which itself is massive in appearance, with short legs and tail. The rounded ears are set low on the skull, and the cuff is the same color as the coat. The soft, thick coat is light fawn to cinnamon brown, marked with solid, oblong black or dark brown spots. In the southern part of its range, in the Karoo bush region, the coat tends to be darker than in the north.

The belly is lighter than the rest of the body, while the chin, chest and inside of the limbs are white. The markings merge into stripes on the legs and hips. Two horizontal stripes run across the cheeks, one from the outer corner of the eye, the other at nose level. The throat is marked with three black rings. The tip of the tail is black, preceded by two to three black rings. Unlike other spotted cats, the Black-footed Cat's skin is unpigmented; the nose is pink. At night, the eyes give off bluish reflections when caught in the light. As its name suggests, the soles of its feet are covered in black hair, perhaps to protect it from the extreme temperatures of the desert. The Sand Cat, a small feline living in the desert areas of North Africa, has the same morphological characteristics.

In the wild, it may be confused with the Sub-Saharan African Wild Cat, which is found in the same region and has a similar coat, but is larger than a domestic cat and has mottling on a more neutral color tone.

The Black-footed Cat is an insatiable nocturnal hunter, going out every night and in all weathers, despite temperatures that can vary from -10 to 30°C. Extremely active, these felines cover an average of eight kilometers and up to sixteen kilometers every night in search of prey. The success rate is 60%: on average, a Black-footed Cat makes an attempt every thirty minutes and kills a small animal every fifty minutes. Every night, this represents ten to fifteen small mammals and birds killed, or 250 to 300 g of meat: this little feline absorbs the equivalent of 20% of its own body weight every night. By way of comparison, a tiger can swallow up to 20% of its own weight after the capture of a large prey, but will then go several days without eating.

The Black-footed Cat has three different hunting techniques: slow hunting, fast hunting and stalking. During slow hunting (0.5 to 0.8 kilometers per hour), the Black-footed Cat glides between rocks and grasses, attentive to any movement, flattened on the ground to get as close as possible to its prey. Fast hunting (2 to 3 kilometers per hour) enables it to flush out its prey by running over or through the grass. The final hunting technique is a stalk: the feline sits motionless near a rodent's burrow to capture it at the slightest sign of activity. The eyes may be closed, giving the impression of sleep, but the ears are constantly moving, alert to the slightest noise.

To catch birds, the Black-footed Cat prefers to hunt slowly before darting towards its prey very quickly, often with a great leap of up to two meters long and 1.4 meters high. The bird is either seized directly in flight, or pushed to the ground with its front legs before suffering the fatal bite. Smaller birds are left unplucked and eaten whole within two to four minutes, while only the longest body and wing feathers are removed from larger birds. The weight of a Korhaan Bustard is one-third to one-half that of a Black-footed Cat. Sightings of this type of predation were reported by Alex Sliwa: a female discreetly caught up with her prey for around twenty minutes. Over the last three meters, a fast run enabled her to bite the bustard directly in the neck, while holding it for two minutes, the time it took for the bird to stop flapping its wings. The hunt is followed by a short period of calm, during which the feline checks that there is no danger before starting to eat.

With large prey, or possibly carcasses, the Black-footed Cat can feed for several hours, consuming large quantities of bone and flesh relative to its size. The feline may also detach or hide part of it to leave at dawn or pull the carcass to safety. When the prey is large and difficult to transport, he may cover it with sand and return to feed on it the following night.

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