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Why is the Black-footed cat the most dangerous cat in the world?

Black footed cat

The Black footed cat can kill up to 14 prey in just one night.

© Shutterstock

The Black footed cat looks very similar to your domestic cat but, turns out it's one of the world’s most dangerous cat. So why is that? Let’s find out.

By Emilie Heyl

Published on the 28/02/2021, 10:00

When asked “What is the most dangerous cat in the world?” people will immediately think of the lion, the tiger or the leopard right? Well, not everyone knows that there is another candidate in this category of most dangerous cats in the world. Let us give you some clues: this wildcat is neither big nor particularly powerful and definitely not that terrifying…

And the answer is: The Black-footed cat! This wildcat is one of the smallest cats in the world and is considered to be the most dangerous one.

What is a black-footed cat?

The Black-footed cat, also called the African black footed cat, looks very similar to a domestic tabby cat. However, be aware of its adorable and innocent looks, as a dangerous and adept killer lies beneath its sweet appearance. 

The Black-footed cat is actually the smallest wildcat in Africa and is also an exceptional hunter. Indeed, this cat can kill more prey in a single night than a leopard in six months, making it the deadliest of all the world’s felines.

What does the black-footed cat look like?

The Black-footed cat doesn’t differ much from the household cats we are familiar with. Standing at 8 inches tall, measuring 14 to 20 inches in length, and weighing 2.4 to 4.2 pounds, this wildcat is roughly 200 times less heavy than a lion. Their coat is light brown and covered with dark spots all over their body which sometimes merge together to form rings. The tip of their short tail is also black. Despite its name, it is only the sole of their paws which are black, protecting them from the hot ground.

The Black footed cat hunting at night ©Shutterstock

Why is the black footed cat dangerous?

Most of the time, small predators have a high metabolism meaning they are always hungry. Therefore, they have to adapt their hunting skills in order to always find some food. This African wildcat’s hunting technique is extraordinarily efficient. And that’s not it, the Black-footed cat has developed three different types of hunting techniques

  • The fast hunt: A technique where the Black-footed cat bounces really quickly through the tall grass to catch one of its small prey.
  • The slow hunt: This technique requires the wildcat to be quiet and careful. Indeed, here, the cat slowly and quietly sneaks up towards its prey.
  • The sit and wait hunt: This third technique is very similar to the second one, except here, the cat just sits there very still and quietly. It sometimes even closes its eyes and listens to the sounds of the night. They can sit there for hours waiting for their prey to arrive.

With these different hunting techniques, the Black-footed cat can kill between 10 to 14 rodents or small birds in only one night (that’s an average of one kill every 50 minutes). According to Luke Hunter, Chief Conservation Officer at Panthera, a global wildcat-conservation organization: “With a 60 percent success rate, black-footed cats are about three times as successful as lions, which average a successful kill about 20 to 25 percent of the time.”

What prey does the black-footed cat hunt?

The Black-footed cat is dangerous for prey like mice, birds and rabbits. But don’t worry, humans aren’t on the menu for these little creatures. The African wildcat is extremely shy and therefore mainly hunts at night. Nevertheless, this deadly animal does not seem to mind if its prey is larger or heavier than himself. According to local observers, this brave and skilled cat can sometimes attack goats or giraffes and deliberately bite the prey’s carotid artery. But that’s probably if they are REALLY hungry… right?

Where does the most dangerous cat in the world live?

The black-footed cat lives in South Africa, Namibia and Botswana. They live in dry Savannah areas in a burrow they took over from other animals. You can also find them living in abandoned termite mounds, that’s where their nickname “ant tigers” comes from.

One very interesting fact about the Black footed cat is that they don’t have to drink a lot. Indeed, because they live in a dry habitat, their bodies have adapted to this climate. However, they need a comparatively large amount of food (250g of meat per day) to stay hydrated.

Is the black-footed cat critically endangered?

Unfortunately, like many other animals, the African Black-footed cat is threatened by extinction. In 2002 the species was added to the “IUCN Red List of Endangered Species”. Due to the low level of awareness, there is a lack of donations, which is why various organisations are committed to preserving them. Of course, this doesn’t mean that buying an African black-footed cat will be the solution to their extinction. Something that could help, however, is protecting the animal's habitat.

The Black footed cat with her offspring ©Shutterstock

One other reason for their extinction is kidney disease, from which a surprising number of black-footed cats suffer. There is a protein that destroys and poisons their kidneys. Despite research, it is not clear why this disease affects so many cats. The problem is that they get sick earlier and earlier and therefore only reproduce once or not at all. That is far too little to preserve the species.

What is the most dangerous cat in the world?

It all depends on what criteria you base the world’s most dangerous cat. Lions, tigers, leopards, and cheetahs all come to mind because of their excellent hunting skills and their impressive physiques. But, if we have a closer look at the success rate when it comes to hunting, it is the Black footed cat which is number 1. Indeed, with 60 percent of their nightly raids, this wildcat is an outstanding huntsman who tries to hunt down new prey every half hour. It can kill up to 14 rodents in just one night.

Now, if that’s not impressive, we don't know what is!