Caturday felids: The world’s deadliest cat, rescued bobcat shows gratitude to saviour; preserved 43,000 year old cave lion kittens

The black-footed cat has a Latin binomial that means exactly “cat with black feet”: Felis nigripes. The smallest wild cat in Africa (it lives in the south), it’s a contender for the world’s smallest cat: adult males weigh on average 1.9 kg (4.2 lb) and females 1.3 kg (2.9 lb). That makes them about half the weight of your house cat. Sadly, they are listed as “vulnerable” due to hunting for bushmeat and human encroachment on their habitat.  Here’s a photo from Wikipedia of this adorable creature:

Live Science has a feature on these cats, with much of the information taken from the PBS Nature series “Super Cats”. For our purposes, it’s enough to know that, in terms of killing rate and percentage success, this tiny felid is the deadliest cat on earth. Luke Hunter, President of the big cat rescue organization Panthera, is quoted here:

Black-footed cats use three very different techniques to nab their prey. One method is known as “fast hunting,” in which the cats bound quickly and “almost randomly” through the tall grass, flushing out small prey such as birds or rodents, Hunter said. Another of their methods takes them on a slower course through their habitat, with the cats weaving quietly and carefully to sneak up on potential prey.

Finally, they use a sit-and-wait approach near rodents’ burrows, a technique called still hunting, Hunter said.

“They wait for up to 2 hours, [staying] absolutely immobile, just silently waiting at the burrow for a rodent to appear. And then they nab it,” [Luke] Hunter told Live Science.

Credit: Copyright Alexander Sliwa

In one night, a black-footed cat kills between 10 and 14 rodents or small birds, averaging a kill about every 50 minutes, according to Hunter. With a 60 percent success rate, black-footed cats are about three times as successful as lions, which average a successful kill about 20 to 25 percent of the time, Hunter said.

“If you’re a gazelle or a wildebeest, a black-footed cat isn’t at all deadly. But those success rates make them the deadliest little cat on Earth,” he said.

Here’s an informative video, with bonus KITTENS!

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The Cheezburger site has a heartwarming story involving the Kraus family, whose son George saved a smoke-damaged bobcat and fawn when a fire swept their neighborhood. George apparently nursed them back to health (aren’t there organizations that are expert in doing this?). Here’s the singed pair:

And here’s the bobcat, apparently showing gratitude. The site notes, though, that Benji the Bobcat may just be marking his territory. I like to think otherwise, since I’m ridden with confirmation bias:

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Eurasian cave lions, Panthera spelaea, were members of a sister species to existing lions, but went extinct about 13,000 years ago. They were a tad larger than living lions, and their range spanned Eurasia, traversing the Bering Straits into Alaska. Being a recent species, it was known to humans and is the subject of some cave paintings, like this one from Chauvet Cave in France, dated about 30,000 years ago:

The Siberian Times has a story (click on screenshot) revealing the sad but informative finding of a pair of spotted cave lion cubs frozen in permafrost and dated about 43,500 years old. The video (below the headline) shows one cat’s spots.

But can we conclude that because the kittens were spotted, the adults were, too? After all, virtually all kittens of wild felids are spotted, including lions, which lose the spots when they grow up. Have a gander at the spots on these lion cubs. They may help the cubs stay camouflaged when they’re young and vulnerable, or they may simply be a developmentally transient remnant of the pattern of their ancient ancestor, like the coat of hair (“lanugo”) we all have for a while when we’re 6-month-old fetuses:

However, the article notes that some cave paintings of cave lions show spots on adult cats, too.

I couldn’t find any paintings showing the spots, but there’s at least one carving that does, found in the Vogelherd Cave of Germany. It’s an ivory carving, about 35,000 years old, and does look like it has spots:

 

h/t: Malcolm, Heather, Woody, Bill

12 Comments

  1. Christopher
    Posted November 17, 2018 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    I think that if the bobcat (or anyone’s house cat) is rubbing their cheeks against an inanimate object then yes, they are just marking their territory. However, if they are rubbing their cheeks against another cat or their human companions they are reinforcing social bonds using their scent. Same difference I suppose but it’s a sign of ownership in the first instance and belonging in the second.

  2. rickflick
    Posted November 17, 2018 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    A small correction, Panthera spelaea went extinct 13,000 years ago. So they coexisted with humans during the period of cave painting in Europe.

  3. Keith
    Posted November 17, 2018 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    These are all such great felid stories! Snopes is reporting that the fawn and bobcat photo is several years old. https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/fawn-bobcat-fire/

  4. Ken Kukec
    Posted November 17, 2018 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    … there’s at least one carving that does, found in the Vogelherd Cave of Germany. It’s an ivory carving, about 35,000 years old …

    Did that ivory come from an autochthonous mammoth?

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 18, 2018 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

      Did that ivory come from an autochthonous mammoth?

      At 35kyr, there’s nothing difficult about thinking that. Mammoths in Eurasia generally didn’t become extinct until 20-odd kyr after that. For Wrangel Island, they were still alive a little over 4kyr ago.
      There were also woolly rhino teeth to carve, which might well have got big enough. And scrimshaw from beached sperm whales and narwhales. The (in-)famous Lewis Chessmen were mostly carved from walrus ivory, and get into the right size range. (I love the berserker.

  5. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted November 17, 2018 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    I recall that cave paintings suggest that the Irish elk had a distinct shoulder hump and some coat color markings.

  6. Charles Minus
    Posted November 17, 2018 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    Can’t help but noticing that those prehistoric artists didn’t have a problem portraying cats.

    • Posted November 18, 2018 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

      I think Christian culture somehow messed up the ability to draw cats.

  7. openidname
    Posted November 17, 2018 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    So wait, 30,000 years ago, a guy drew a cat that went extinct 132,000 years ago?!?

    • rickflick
      Posted November 17, 2018 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

      It’s supposed to be – went extinct 13,000 years ago.

  8. Posted November 18, 2018 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    Black-footed cats are cute!


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