It's hard to sound scary with a name like black-footed cat. Especially when you're Africa's smallest cat, and even one of the world's smallest wildcats: less than two kilograms on average, with a stocky body adorned with elegant spots and topped by a round head with large eyes. No, really, nothing would suggest that the Felis nigripes is the deadliest feline on Earth, and yet. And yes, even the cutest animals can do damage.
Appearances can be deceiving
Native to the grassy plains of Africa, the black-footed cat is smaller than a domestic cat. Measuring between 36 and 52 centimetres in length and about 20 centimetres in height, it weighs between 1 and 3 kilograms according to the International Society for Endangered Cats. Due to its restricted range, it is classified as 'vulnerable' on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. It is shy and tends to hide at the slightest disturbance, which makes it particularly difficult to observe.
Despite these characteristics that would make it look like a poor, defenseless tomcat, F. nigripes hunts and kills more prey in one night than a leopard would in six months, according to the 2018 PBS documentary Super Cats. Although it does not climb trees, it is nonetheless particularly active and accustomed to traveling long distances with its powerful paws, capable of digging burrows or defeating stubborn prey.
An efficient killer with a bad temper
In one night, the black-footed cat is capable of killing between 10 and 14 rodents or small birds. Its 60% success rate makes it six times more efficient than a lion—which only manages to kill its prey an average of 20-25% of the time—and the deadliest cat in the world. And even if you are unlikely to end up on its menu, it is best to stay out of its way.
Although this nocturnal animal prefers to take cover when disturbed, it is nevertheless aggressive and stubborn. Although its prey consists mainly of small animals such as birds, mice, insects, reptiles and eggs stolen from nests, zoologist Alex Sliwa reports that one of the females he observed once attacked an 80-kilogram male African ostrich (Struthio camelus) for more than half an hour until the bird finally ran away.
Even in captivity, this small, strong-tempered feline is impossible to tame. You have been warned.
So what about the most dangerous bird in the world? Once again, the answer may well surprise you.