Felis nigripes - The Black-footed Cat

Not much bigger than a domestic cat, the Black-footed Cat is one of the world’s smallest wild cats, and is certainly the smallest on the continent. It is shy, rarely seen, and well-camouflaged by its tawny brown and black markings. It is also known as the Small-spotted Cat and the Asant Hill Tiger.

Did you know? Because of chromosomal differences, the Black-footed Cat cannot interbreed with other cats.

This cat has a brown coat (which can range from a light tan colour to a rich cinnamon hue) with black or dark-brown spots. Over the legs, shoulders and tail, these spots become bands. The skull is broad, and this cat is characterised to a large extent by its very large, round eyes and its rounded ears. The tail is shorter than that of a domestic cat.


Males are between 370 and 490mm in length with an added tail of between 80 and 200mm.
Females are about 350 to 400mm long with a tail length of 130 to 180mm.


The male Black-footed Cat weight between 1.5 and 2.4kg, while the female is between 1 and 1.6kg.


The Black-footed Cat chooses scrubby shrublands and savannahs as its natural habitat. It is a hunter, and needs a habitat with trees and shrubs as this enables it to find the prey on which they survive. During the heat of the day, this cat opts for a hollow termite mound or a burrowed hole, where it is kept safe and cool.


This cat is found exclusively in the southern countries of Africa; such as Namibia, South Africa and Botswana.

In South Africa, these cats can be found at the Cat Conservation Trust in Cradock, Addo Elephant National Park (just an hour outside Port Elizabeth), Benfontein Nature Reserve near Kimberley, Kwandwe Private Game Reserve near Grahamstown, and Tenikwa Wildlife Awareness Centre near Plettenberg Bay on the Garden Route.

Diet - Carnivore

As with all wild cats, the Black-footed Cat is a carnivore, eating mainly mammals and birds. In fact, almost three-quarters of their diet comprises mammals, some of which are double the size of this little feline. Depending on habitat and prey availability, some of these cats also eat invertebrates.


This cat is a nocturnal and crepuscular (active at dusk and dawn) animal and an opportunistic hunter, stalking available prey and being rather indiscriminate when it comes to specific types. Females do not share their home range with other females, but the range of male cats usually overlaps with those of females'. Both males and females hunt on their own.


The Black-footed Cat is a loner, not living or hunting with a partner. Mating season is between July and March. The mother will prepare a den in a hollowed out termite nest or similar structure, and a litter comprises between 1 and 4 kittens.


The gestation period lasts for between 63 and 68 days.

Life Expectancy

In human care, the Black-footed Cat lives for an average of 16 years. However, in the wild, they will only live for about 4 to 8 years.


This is a rare cat and is classified as Vulnerable. It does not have many natural predators, but is threatened by the poisons and traps set by farmers for other hunters (like jackals).


Arkive; WAZA.

Wish you were here?

Black Rhino Game Lodge

  • Property TypeGame Lodge
  • Guests36
  • Rooms/Units18
View and book

Where to see Black-footed Cat in their natural habitat?

Want to see black-footed cat? It is seldom that one sees the small spotted cat. They hunt nocturnally, are antisocial, and will run away at the first hint of disturbance. See them at one at these reserves or wilderness areas...

Conservation Status
Black-footed Cat
South Africa's Big 5
South Africa. Explore. Experience. Stay

SA-Venues.com® has been assisting travellers with their South Africa travel plans since 1999, and is the largest, independent online travel guide for South Africa available in both English and German.