The black-footed cat (Felis nigripes) is the smallest African cat, and is endemic in the south west arid zone of the southern African subregion. It is one of the lesser studied African carnivores, and is listed as Vulnerable by IUCN since 2002.
Black-footed cats are solitary and strictly nocturnal, thus rarely seen. They spend the day resting in dense cover, in unoccupied burrows of springhares, porcupines and aardvarks, or in hollow termite mounds. They emerge to hunt after sunset.
They are typically found in dry, open habitat with some degree of vegetation cover. Apparently, they get all the moisture they need from their prey, but will drink water when available.
Unlike most other cats, black-footed cats are poor climbers, and will generally ignore tree branches. Their stocky bodies and short tails are not conducive to tree-climbing. They dig vigorously in the sand to extend or modify burrows for shelter.
Black-footed cats are highly unsociable animals that seek refuge at the slightest disturbance. When cornered, they are known to defend themselves fiercely. Due to this habit and their courage, they are called miershooptier (anthill tigers) in parts of the South African Karoo, although they rarely use termite mounds for cover or for bearing their young. A San legend claims that a black-footed cat can kill a giraffe by piercing its jugular. This exaggeration is intended to emphasize the bravery and tenacity of the animal.
Within one year, a female covers an average range of 10 km2 (3.9 sq mi), a resident male 22 km2 (8.5 sq mi). The range of an adult male overlaps the ranges of one to four females. On average, the animal travels 8 km (5.0 mi) per night in search of prey. The cats use scent marking throughout their ranges, with males spraying urine up to 12 times an hour. Other forms of scent marking include rubbing objects, raking with claws, and depositing feces in visible locations. Their calls are louder than those of other cats of their size, presumably to allow them to call over relatively large distances. However, when close to each other, they use quieter purrs or gurgles, or hiss and growl if threatened.
This was an inhabitant of the Santa Barbara Zoo.