Black Footed Cat Project

Black Footed Cat / Small Spotted Cat

Felis nigripes

Facts about Black Footed Cats Black_Footed_Cat_Small_Spotted_Cat_Project_friends-of-loskop9

Smallest cat in SA, different to African Wild Cat by bold markings, the ears are never reddish and the colour of the body.

Weight and length

Males 1.5 – 1.7 kg and 38 – 43 cm (head and body)

Females 1 – 1.4 and 27 – 36 cm (head and body)

Tail less than 1/2 head and body 13 – 20 cm spotted with black tip

Legs relatively long, they have a wide head with large rounded ears.


Cinnamon –buff in the South to tawny in the North heavily spotted and barred. There are four black stripes down the back of the neck the outer two extending over the shoulders.Black_Footed_Cat_Small_Spotted_Cat_Project_friends-of-loskop10

The shorter stripes break up into spots; there are three rings around the throat.

Under side of feet black, under parts are pale, with a white chin, chest and insides of the thighs.

Scent glands, not known presumably as in other felids, mammary gland 6


Restricted to the arid central parts of the South West arid zone, in Botswana, Namibia and the Karroo.

Dry areas with enough open space as well as tall grass and shrubs for shelter. By day lies up in disused burrows or in termite mound.

The discovery of these cats in Witbank and Hendrina has expanded their distribution beyond what was previously known.


Shy, nocturnal cats which only appear after dusk and hides at the slightest disturbance. They are usually solitary and hunt on the ground but are also good tree climbers. They are very aggressive for their size and are not easily tamed as other wild cats.

Even kittens taken before their eyes are open and hand reared make defensive threats or attempt to attack their owners


Pray mainly consists of mice, spiders, other invertebrates, retiles and birds   This cat is water independent obtaining enough moisture from pray but will drink if rainwater pools are present.

Captive diet

The cats are fed on a diet of day old chicks, boiled eggs, mice, rats, rabbits and game meat. Supplements are also added.


Oestrous behaviour lasts no longer than 36 hours. A female will only accept copulation for a period of only 5-10 hours during which the pair mates half- a- dozen times.

Gestation is 63-68 days after which 1 – 3 kittens are born mainly during the summer. With a gestation nearly a week longer than the house cat, Black Footed cat’s kittens are more mature at birth and at first develop faster.

Eyes open at 6-8 days they leave the nest at 4 weeks, start eating at 5 weeks and capture pray at 6 weeks.

There seems to be a reproductive barrier which prevents inbreeding in the wild with domestic cats however they will hybrids in captivity

Life expectancy


Meet the cats on Loskop Dam Nature ReserveBlack_Footed_Cat_Small_Spotted_Cat_Project_friends-of-loskop14

Tsetse first male to arrive as a kitten at the reserve after being found on an Anglo American mine in Witbank, Mpumalanga.

Note black on hind feet

Igoya first female on LDNR rescued from certain death on a farm in the Free State

Igoya and the kittens reared in 2009

One of two kitten’s parent reared in 2010.

Ingwe second male, and sire of 4 kittens on LDNR. He was found as a kitten on a farm in Hendrina, Mpumalanga


The first phase of enclosures built for the LDNR by Anglo American for the breeding of Black Footed Cats.

Black_Footed_Cat_Small_Spotted_Cat_Project_friends-of-loskop13Environmental Enrichment on Loskop DamNature Reserve

The cats have their food placed in these buckets. In order to get the food, the cats have to pull it out a small hole with their paws.


Anglo American Environmental Department for the enclosure.

Highveld hatchery for the donation of day old chicks.

The Lowe family from Kranspoort for the enrichment buckets.


On June 22 all the cats were captured and anesthetised. Blood was drawn and Dr Alex Sliwa, stud book keeper from Wuppertal Zoo Germany, measured and weighed them. Ground_Hornbill_Project_friends-of-loskop6The cats were treated for internal and external parasites. The two kittens born in 2010 were sexed as males, all the cats were micro chipped for identification purposes.Southern_Ground_hornbills_Friends_of_loskop2

Anglo American started construction on the second phase of the cat camps during the last week of June.