Black-footed Cat - Felis Lineage
Black Footed Cat (Felis nigripes) by Ltshears (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Black-footed Cat (Felis nigripes) is the smallest cat in Africa and the second smallest of all wild cats. It is endemic to the arid regions of southern Africa where it is naturally rare and occurs at low densities. These cats, despite their small size, can travel vast distances in search of sparse prey, and have special adaptations to cope with their semi-arid to arid environment.

Felis Lineage

1. Jungle Cat (Felis chaus)

2. Chinese Mountain Cat (Felis bieti)

3. European Wildcat (Felis silvestris)

4. African & Asiatic Wildcat (Felis lybica)

5. Sand Cat (Felis margarita)

6. Black-footed Cat (Felis nigripes)

Key Facts about Black-footed Cats

~ Second smallest of all cats ~

~ Requires little drinking water ~

~ Endemic to southern Africa ~

Black-footed Cat (Felis nigripes) Classification

Black-footed Cats belong to the genus Felis and the full taxonomy or scientific classification of the Black-footed Cat species is as follows:

Kingdom: Animalia (animals)

Phylum: Chordata (vertebrates)

Class: Mammalia (mammals)

Order: Carnivora (carnivores)

Suborder: Feliformia (cat-like)

Family: Felidae (cats)

Subfamily: Felinae (small cats)

Genus: Felis

Species: Felis nigripes (Black-footed Cat)

Subspecies: none

The scientific name for the Black-footed Cat is Felis nigripes which is also known as the binomial name, species name, latin name, biological name or zoological name. Some use the term 'botanical name' however that term is only applicable to the plant kingdom (botany) and not the animal kingdom (zoology).


Male Black footed Cat (Felis nigripes) © Dr Alexander Sliwa

Black-footed Cat (Felis nigripes) Subspecies

Two subspecies of Black-footed Cats have been recognized in the past:

1. Felis nigripes nigripes - northern range (lighter base color and markings)

2. Felis nigripes thomasi - southern range (darker base color and markings)

However the last Felidae taxonomy revision in 2017 suggested that only the species Felis nigripes is valid and thus monotypic (no subspecies). There is insufficient variation to substantiate a subspecies split and just a northern and southern race is more appropriate.

Black-footed Cat Conservation and Research

The global conservation status for the Black-footed Cat is Vulnerable (VU) due to its restricted range in arid regions of southern Africa, where it is naturally rare and occurs at low densities.

The Black-footed Cat Working Group has a long term monitoring program in South Africa, assisted by funding from ISEC in Canada.

Please support this group with their important work if you can. No matter the size of your contribution, every bit helps!

Black-footed Cat (Felis nigripes) with kittens by Kenneth W Fink

Black-footed Cats (Felis nigripes) at den by Hayden Oake

Black-footed Cat Facts and Information

The following organizations have well researched and authoritative information on Black-footed Cats: