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World's deadliest cat is tiny, adorable and endangered

Posted at 5:21 PM, Jan 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-26 18:42:41-05

CINCINNATI -- At less than 5 pounds, the black-footed cat looks like a fuzzy friend. But the ferocious feline is actually considered the world's deadliest cat. 

Because of the cats' looks and size, many people don't take the endangered species seriously when it comes to conservation efforts, according to experts at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. 

"They look like little kittens and they're full-grown at 2-3 pounds," Bill Swanson said. "But they are ferocious."

Swanson is the director of animal research at the zoo. He said the cats have a 60 percent catch rate for their prey, which is higher than the catch rate of larger cats.

"Think of the nastiest domestic cat -- wild domestic cat -- that you've ever seen, and what would happen if you tried to pick up that animal," Swanson said. "That's what a black-footed cat would do to you."

There are two black-footed cats living at the zoo: Zolla and Nadine. They spent Friday hunting for fish in the zoo's "Night Hunters" exhibit.

"They're small cats, their prey items are small, so they have to hunt and catch prey continually to survive," Swanson said. 

They're one of five endangered small cat species at the zoo. 

"There's so few of them in the wild that, if something happens to that wild population, there's no other places to find them," Swanson said. 

Only 44 of the cats live in zoos around the world, so the two in Cincinnati actually represent 5 percent of that non-wild population.

The zoo is working to repopulate them, and many other endagered species, like ocelots, palace cats, sand cats and fishing cats, according to Swanson. Conservationists are taking samples from wild cats in southern Africa and breeding cats in the U.S. 

The zoo is always looking for volunteers and donations to help with their efforts for endangered specials. Anyone interested can find more information on their website.