Africa’s black-footed cat may look cute and fluffy, but it’s one of nature’s deadliest hunters just waiting to strike.

It has large, plaintive eyes that seem almost too big for its tiny face. Its body is covered in spotted whisps of fur that wouldn’t be out of place on a months-old domesticated feline kitten. And finally, the reason behind its moniker; its black-soled feet. However, Africa’s black-footed cat may look harmless enough, but just beneath the surface of its outward appearance lies a very cold and calculating killer with skills that rank it as the deadliest of Africa’s wild cats.

The black-footed cat, with its unstable population numbers that have it on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, makes its home primarily in the southern regions of Africa where it can hunt rodents and small birds. A carnivore through and through, this cat (which rarely exceeds the 5 pound marker for body weight — less than half of the average-sized American house cat) is nocturnal and begins its quest for prey as soon as the sun sets. It uses stealth and speed as weapons, and quite effectively. So what has happened that this killer kitty is on a vulnerable species list?

For the black-footed cat, it’s a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and then eating the wrong poisoned carcass at any time. Area farmers and landowners have no reason to be worried about the cat since it poses no threat to livestock and actually benefits the area it lives in by hunting rats — upwards of 3000 a year. Unfortunately, traps laid out for larger predators such as jackals often snare the black-footed cat instead, and poisoned bait is looked upon as an easy meal.

Story by Jay Moon