A Black-footed Cat at Utah’s Hogle Zoo gave birth to a single kitten on August 23. Mom and kitten can now be seen on-exhibit in the Zoo’s Small Animal Building.
Although the kitten has had several veterinarian check-ups since birth, staff aren’t yet sure if it is male or female. The wee-one is up for the first round of vaccinations very soon, and keepers hope they will then know the sex and can choose an appropriate name.
The Black-footed Cat (Felis nigripes) is the smallest African cat and endemic to the southwestern arid zone of the southern African sub-region. Despite its name, only the pads and under parts of the cat's feet are black.
It is currently classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List. The wild population is suspected to decline due to bush-meat poaching, persecution, traffic accidents and predation by domestic animals. The species is protected by national legislation across most of its range, and hunting is banned in Botswana and South Africa.
Males reach a head-to-body length of 36.7 to 43.3 cm (14.4 to 17.0 in) with tails 16.4 to 19.8 cm (6.5 to 7.8 in) long. Females typically reach a maximum head-to-body-length of 36.9 cm (14.5 in) and tails 12.6 to 17.0 cm (5.0 to 6.7 in) long. Adult resident males weigh on average 1.9 kg (4.2 lb) and a maximum of 2.45 kg (5.4 lb). Adult females weigh on average 1.3 kg (2.9 lb) and a maximum of 1.65 kg (3.6 lb). The shoulder height is about 25 cm (9.8 in).
Due to their small size, they hunt mainly small prey, such as rodents and small birds. Insects and spiders are a small supplement to their diet. Black-footed Cats hunt mainly by stalking, rather than ambush.
Females reach sexual maturity after 8 to 12 months. Gestation lasts from 63 to 68 days. A litter consists usually of two kittens, but may vary from one to four young.
Females may have up to two litters during the spring, summer, and autumn. They rear their kittens in a burrow, moving them to new locations regularly after the first week. Kittens become independent by five months of age, but may remain within their mother's range.