The African black-footed cat might be the cutest, least harmful kitten ever, but in reality, it is the deadliest cat in the world. With a success rate of 60 percent while hunting, these itty bitty darlings are straight-up carnivores.
The San Diego Zoo welcomed two black-footed kittens into the world on April 28, 2020. The kittens—male Ryder and female Skyler—were born to mother Arwen and father Sawyer. Weighing 3 ounces at birth, the kittens now weigh about a pound and half each. They will grow to be 2 to 3 pounds and measure 14 to 20 inches in length when fully grown.
They are still nursing from their mother, but the kittens have begun eating a carnivore diet. “We are honored to care for these kittens, and the adult black-footed cats at the Safari Park,” said Chelsea Davis, a wildlife care specialist at San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
“San Diego Zoo Global is one of 17 organizations in the U.S. participating in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) for this species. The birth of these two kittens, and all births, help further our knowledge and conservation of this species.”
One of the world’s smallest cats, the black-footed cat is a southern African native, found in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. Black-footed cats live in dry, open habitats, including desert, savanna and scrubland. Their name comes from the black pads and thick, black hair on the soles of their paws, which help protect them from the hot sand.
Although it is small, typically weighing only two to four pounds well into adulthood, the black-footed cat is sometimes called “the world’s deadliest cat.” In a single night, one black-footed cat can consume up to 14 rodents and birds. With their keen sense of hearing and smell, their predation success rate of 60 percent is the highest of any feline. Compare that to lions who only catch their prey 20 to 25 percent of the time.
The kittens are expected to grow up to a mere 20 inches long and 8 to 10 inches tall, once matured. Currently, zookeepers feed Ryder and Skyler small pieces of meat with tongs while they’re still nursing from their mother.
“This allows us to make sure that the cats don’t associate our hands with food so we avoid bites. But also to make sure that we’re far enough distance back that the cats feel comfortable approaching us for their food,” Davis told the Associated Press.
But don’t worry, the black-footed cat’s success rate is why it’s the deadliest. Larger animals like gazelles or humans can thwart attacks from these cuties.
For more information on these adorable killers, visit the San Diego Zoo Safari Park website at http://sdzsafaripark.org/.