It’s hard to be scary with a name like the black-footed cat or the black-legged cat. Especially when you are the smallest cat in Africa and one of the smallest in the world, weighing less than two kilograms on average with a stocky body adorned with elegant spots and with a round head with big eyes. Nothing would really suggest that Felis nigripes is the deadliest feline on Earth.
Appearances can sometimes be deceiving
Native to the grassy plains of Africa, the black-footed cat is smaller than a domestic cat. Measuring between 14 and 20 inches long and almost 8 inches tall, it weighs between 1 and 3 kilograms according to the International Society for Endangered Cats. Because of its small numbers, it is on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List under the ‘vulnerable' classification. Since it is timid it tends to hide from any disturbance, which makes it particularly difficult to observe.
Despite these characteristics that make it seem look like a poor, defenceless cat, F. nigripes hunts and kills more prey in one night than a leopard does in six months, according to the Super Cats documentary broadcasted on PBS. Although it does not climb trees, it is nonetheless particularly active and used to travelling long distances with its powerful legs, and is able to dig burrows or to overcome more tenacious prey.
An effective killer with an aggressive personality
In one night, the black-footed cat is able to kill between 10 and 14 rodents or small birds. Its success rate of 60% makes it a predator which is six times more effective than a lion (which only successfully kills its prey on average 20 to 25% of the time) and therefore the world's deadliest feline. Even if you run little risk of ending up on its menu, it's better not to get in its way.
Although this nocturnal animal prefers to escape to shelter when it is disturbed, it still has quite the aggressive and obstinate personality. Its prey consists mainly of small animals such as birds, mice, insects, reptiles, or eggs found in nests, however zoologist Alex Sliwa says that one of the females he observed one day faced off against a male African ostrich (Struthio camelus) weighing 80 kilograms for more than half an hour, until the bird eventually fled. Even in captivity, this little cat with a strong personality proves impossible to tame. You have been warned.