The Smallest Wild Cat

The Smallest Wild Cat

The black-footed cat is the smallest but the deadliest wild cat, at just 20 inches long.

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The deadliest cat on Earth isn't a shaggy-maned lion, a sleek leopard or a stealthy tiger. It's a wee cat that you've probably never heard of: Africa's smallest feline, the black-footed cat.

Native to the grasslands of southern Africa, the black-footed cat has an endearingly round face and a light brown, black-spotted body that is small even compared to domestic cats. The wild feline measures only 14 to 20 inches (36 to 52 centimeters) long, stands about 8 inches (20 cm) tall and weighs about 2 to 6 lbs (1 to 3 kilograms).

Admittedly, those measurements don't sound very impressive when compared to the sizable big cats that are among the world's most fearsome predators. But despite its small size, the black-footed cat hunts and brings down more prey in a single night than a leopard does in six months.

Black-footed cats use three very different techniques to nab their prey. One method is known as "fast hunting," in which the cats bound quickly and "almost randomly" through the tall grass, flushing out small prey such as birds or rodents, Hunter said. Another of their methods takes them on a slower course through their habitat, with the cats weaving quietly and carefully to sneak up on potential prey.

In one night, a black-footed cat kills between 10 and 14 rodents or small birds, averaging a kill about every 50 minutes. 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.

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