Black-footed Cat

Black-footed Cat

[ Felis nigripes ]

Quick Facts


19 to 25 inches

male: 4 to 5 1/2 pounds; female: 2 to 3 1/2 pounds

WILD DIET: small birds, mammals, reptiles, and invertebrates
commercial horse meat carnivore diet mixed with ground pork, mice, mice, rats, pinkies.
DISTRIBUTION: Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa
dry open savanna, grasslands and semi-desert.


The cat’s meow

Big Cat Personality
Feisty and mighty for their size, black-footed cats are the smallest African feline species.  Weighing between 2 and 4 pounds – half the size of domestic house cats – black-footed cats are opportunistic feeders that prey on a variety of animals.  If necessary, this cat can eat 1/5 of its body weight in one meal.  If cornered or threatened, black-footed cats are known to defend themselves fiercely. 
All In The Name
Sleek bodied with tawny fur, black-footed cats are marked with bold, black spots and black leg rings.  The unique coloration helps this nocturnal hunter camouflage perfectly with its grassland habitat.  Even the soles of the black-footed cat are dark, hence their name.
Tiny cat, even tinier kittens
Litters for Black-footed cats usually consist of only two kittens, each weighing about 60 grams.  A successful female cat can raise up to two litters a year.  Kittens are independent at about 5 months of age, but remain in their mother’s range for longer. 
Conservation Matters
Threatened in the wild, there are less than 60 black-footed cats in North American zoos including 14 breeding pairs.  An animal in the Species Survival Plan, a cooperative breeding program between zoos across the country, the target goal is 65 black-footed cats in zoos. 
Black Footed Cats at Brookfield Zoo
Black-footed cats usually be seen resting up at the front of the exhibit in Fragile Kingdom Desert. They are usually active late morning and early afternoon and if you are lucky, you might see them play with their whole prey food items.

Get Involved

Conservation Fund of the Chicago Zoological Society