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Black-footed Cat VAG Report 2006

SSP/TAG: Black-footed Cat (Felis nigripes)                    DATE: 1Aug06


Name:  Nadine Lamberski, DVM, DACZM                                                                            


Address:  San Diego Wild Animal Park, 15500 San Pasqual Valley Road, Escondido, CA 92027-7017                                                                          

Phone: (day)            760-291-5406  (evening) 760-522-3066  (FAX) 760-747-3168


Name: Karen Terio, DVM, PhD, DACVP


Address: University of Illinois, Zoological Pathology Program, LUMC Bldg 101, Rm 0745, 2160 S First St, Maywood, IL 60153

Phone: (day) 708-216-6183     (FAX) 708-216-5934


MORBIDITY (Significant illnesses/issues facing this species in 2006):

  • Renal disease/failure secondary to amyloidosis


MORTALITY (Causes of death in 2006):
Cause of Death                                                 SB #               Sex                 Age

  • Subacute myocardial necrosis and suppurative myocarditis; moderate subacute gastritis with intralesional bacilli (SB# 137, male, DOB 15May97, DOD 28Jan06)


Current total AZA Institutions: 12 
Current total male population:  15   
Current total female population: 14   
Number of pairs recommended for breeding:  9 (including 3 by AI)
Number of pairs bred: One pair in 2006, 2 pairs bred in 2005
Number of births: 3
            MALES:  mother-reared: 2                    hand-reared:  0
            FEMALES: mother-reared:            1            hand-reared:  0



  • Medetomidine (30 mcg/kg) plus ketamine (3 mg/kg) with or without butorphanol (0.3 mg/kg). Antagonize with atipamezole and naltrexone. Significantly higher doses are necessary for free-living cats.
  • Isoflurane



  • FRCP (Fel-O-Vaxä), Fort Dodge, all killed product) at 8, 12, and 16 weeks of age. Cats should be revaccinated at one year and then every 2-3 years at the time of the routine exam or based on antibody titer. Kittens that are not mother-reared should receive vaccinations starting at 6 weeks of age.
  • Rabies (Imrabä killed product or Purevaxä nonadjuvanted, recombinant product, Merial) at 16 weeks, one year and then every 2-3 years at the time of the routine exam or based on antibody titer.





  •  “Health assessment of free-ranging black-footed cats (Felis nigripes) and prevalence of selected infectious diseases in sympatric species” as part of a larger conservation strategy to determine the ecology, reproductive biology, genetics, and health of the black-footed cat in the Northern Cape Province of the Republic of South Africa. See project description under Information from the Field below.
  • Antemortem diagnostic tests for amyloidosis are being investigated by Dr. Alex Sliwa, Dr. Arne Lawrenz, and Dr. Philip Zimmermann from the Wuppertal Zoo. Please save serum on any anesthetized black-footed cats for future studies.
  • Dr. Karen Terio requests adipose biopsies from black-footed cats for ante-mortem diagnosis of amyloidosis (adipose biopsy protocol attached).
  • Genetic analysis of the captive and free-living populations (blood and tissue biopsy protocols attached).



  • Cats are typically fed a commercial meat diet plus whole prey items. Prey items should be as varied as possible; however, the feeding of chicken is not recommended (due to possible exposure to avian influenza and Salmonella spp.).



  • Routine health exams are recommended every 2 years or more frequently based on the medial history of the individual cat or collection.
  • Routine health exam should include physical examination, microchip identification (placement or verification), body weight determination, dental exam and prophylaxis, survey radiographs (whole body), blood collection for complete blood count (CBC), serum chemistry panel, serum bank, routine serology (FIV, FeLV, FeCV, canine distemper, toxoplasmosis), vaccine serology (feline parvovirus, feline herpesvirus, feline calicivirus, rabies), heartworm antigen testing in endemic areas, urine collection for urinalysis, culture if indicated, and urine protein:creatinine ratio, fecal collection for parasite screen, research samples as noted below, and vaccinations as noted above.
  • Adipose biopsy at time of the routine exam (see research protocol above).
  • Whole blood collection and tissue biopsy samples for genetic studies at the time of the routine exam (see research protocols above, supplies should be obtained in advance).
  • Heartworm and flea prevention recommended for endemic areas.



  • Additional information can be found at,, and
  • Necropsy protocol (see attached document)
  • Gamete rescue (see attached protocol)
  • Whole blood and tissue biopsy for genetic studies (see attached protocols)
  • Adipose tissue biopsy (see attached protocol)



“Health assessment of free-ranging black-footed cats (Felis nigripes) and prevalence of selected infectious diseases in sympatric species” is part of a larger conservation strategy to determine the ecology, reproductive biology, genetics, and health of the black-footed cat in the Northern Cape Province of the Republic of South Africa. A pilot study was initiated in 2004, the first field season was in 2005, and the second field season is planned for November 2006.

This project is endorsed by ZSSD’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (#223), AZA’s Felid TAG, the Black-footed Cat SSP, and the Black-footed Cat EEP. The project has also been submitted to the South African National Park Service (SAN Parks) for endorsement.  This is a collaborative effort by Dr. Alex Sliwa (General Curator, Wuppertal Zoo, Wuppertal, Germany), Dr. Jason Herrick (Gamete Biologist, Cincinnati Zoo/CREW), Dr. Corne Anderson (ecologist, McGregor Museum, Kimberly, Northern Cape Province, Republic of South Africa), Beryl Wilson (technician, McGregor Museum, Kimberly, Northern Cape Province, Republic of South Africa), Dr. Oliver Ryder (Geneticist, ZSSD/CRES), and Dr. Nadine Lamberski (Senior Veterinarian, San Diego Wild Animal Park). Funding has been provided by the Cincinnati Zoo, the Zoological Society of San Diego, and by the individual researchers.

The black-footed cat, or small spotted cat, is a small (~2 kg), endangered felid with a limited range in Southern Africa.  This species is included on Appendix 1 of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), is listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and is ranked as the most vulnerable of the Sub-Saharan cat species by the Cat Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).  Despite its current conservation status, the black-footed cat has received very little attention by the conservation community.  In fact, studies of their basic ecology by Dr. Sliwa represent the only detailed information available for this species in the wild.  Critical information such as the species’ current distribution and the existence of distinct sub-species is still unknown. Information from captive animals is similarly limited. Captive management is hampered by poor reproductive success (currently just 2 breeding pairs) and high rates of mortality among young (4-7 yrs) adults of breeding age. A review of necropsy reports from US institutions indicates that 75% of all deaths in captive animals are due to kidney failure, with amyloidodis as the most common cause (Lamberski, unpublished data).  It is still unclear whether the incidence of amyloidosis in captivity reflects the genetic predisposition of the species or an adverse effect of the captive environment. As natural habitat disappears, populations of black-footed cats may become genetically isolated, which is known to impact the reproductive success of various species.  In addition, wild carnivores are coming into contact with an increasing number of domestic dogs and cats carrying a variety of diseases.  Black-footed cats share their territory and infectious disease susceptibility with many small carnivores, including genets, caracals, African wildcats, yellow mongoose, slender mongoose, suricates, Cape fox, bat-eared fox, black-backed jackals, and striped polecats, providing numerous opportunities for disease transmission.   If wild populations of black-footed cats are facing similar disease and reproductive challenges, the conservation status of this species may be more critical than currently believed. 

The overall goals of this study are to:

  • Better characterize the current distribution of the black-footed cat, especially in the western regions of South Africa.
  • Determine current genetic diversity among various populations to determine the extent of isolation and the possibility of sub-speciation.
  • Obtain biological samples (hair samples, skin biopsies, and whole blood) that will provide a long term renewable resource of genetic material including DNA samples for studies into the conservation genetics of this species.
  • Identify infectious diseases could threaten wild populations of small carnivores in Southern Africa.
  • Investigate reproductive status of wild male cats, as the effects of reduced genetic diversity are most easily seen in ejaculate quality.
  • Establish baseline health and reproductive data that can be used to evaluate the current captive populations. The health of free-living black-footed cats (Felis nigripes) will be assessed by physical examination and collection of baseline data (body weight, complete blood count, serum chemistry panel, urinalysis, pharyngeal swabs, viral serology, fat biopsies for amyloid detection, and screening for ecto- and endoparasites).
  • Increase the viability of captive populations without removing animals from their native ranges by using cryopreserved spermatozoa from wild males for in vitro fertilization procedures involving captive females.



Sliwa A
Seasonal and sex-specific prey composition of black-footed cats, Felis nigripes
Acta Theriologica 51(2):195-204, 2006

Gomez M C; Pope C E; Dresser B L
Nuclear transfer in cats and its application.
Theriogenology. 2006 Jul 1;66(1):72-81. Epub 2006 Apr 18.

Terio K A; Lamberski N; O’Brien T D; Munson L
Amyloidosis in black-footed cats (Felis nigripes). .
Proc. Am Assoc Zoo Vet, Am Assoc Wildl Vet, Wildl Dis Assoc Joint Annual Meeting, San Diego, California, August 2004.

Sliwa A  
Black-footed cats - Spotted nocturnal hunters.
African Wildlife, 58(3): pp. 16-18, Winter, 2004 

Sliwa A  
Home range size and social organization of black-footed cats (Felis nigripes
Mammalian Biology, 69(2): pp. 96-107; Mar 2004   

Wells D L; Egli J M  
The influence of olfactory enrichment on the behaviour of captive black-footed cats, Felis nigripes
 Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 88: 107-119, 2004

Schuerer U; Sliwa A  
International studbook for the black-footed cat (Felis nigripes
Zoologischer Garten der Stadt Wuppertal; Vol. 13, 49p, 2004 

Kennedy M; Kania S; Stylianides E; Bertschinger H; Keet De; van Vuuren M  
Detection of feline coronavirus infection in southern African nondomestic felids.
Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 39(3): 529-535; July 2003

Office International des Epizooties. Wildlife diseases.
In World Animal Health in 2000, p.23-48. Office International des Epizooties, Paris.; 2001 

Lamberski N, Terio K A, Munson L
Morbidity and mortality in black-footed cats (Felis nigripes).
Felid TAG, April 2000

Long J, Lamberski N
Evaluation of deslorelin in a male black-footed cat (Felis nigripes).
Felid TAG, April 2000

Apps P 
Black footed cat-prince of darkness. Africa Geographic,  8(8): 40-44; 2000 

Power R J
A new distribution record for the small spotted cat in the Northern Province bushveld.  South African Journal of Wildlife Research, 30 (4): 165-168. 2000

Woodroffe R
Managing disease threats to wild mammals.
Animal Conservation, 2(3): 185-193. 1999 

Hunter L
Save our species: black-footed cat.
Africa Environment & Wildlife, 7(3): 20-21. 1999 

Sliwa A
Stalking the black-footed cat. International Wildlife, 29(3): 38-43. 1999 

Sliwa A  
Africa's smallest feline-the black-footed cat: five years of research. 
Endangered Wildlife, No.28: 10-13. 1998    

Molteno A J; Sliwa A; Richardson P R K.  
The role of scent marking in a free-ranging, female black-footed cat (Felis
nigripes). Journal of Zoology, 245(1): 35-41. 1998

Pathak S; Dolhonde J A; Multani A S
Amplification of telomeric DNA and the extent of karyotypic evolution.
Cytobios. 1998;93(374):141-6

Deem S L; Heard D J; LaRock R
Heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis) disease and glomerulonephritis in a black-footed cat (Felis nigripes). J Zoo Wildl Med. 1998 Jun;29(2):199-202

Sliwa A
Black-footed cat field research. Cat News, No. 27: 20-21. 1997
Olbricht G; Sliwa A
In situ and ex situ observations and management of black-footed cats Felis nigripes. International Zoo Yearbook,  35: 81-89. 1997

Nowell K; Jackson P.
IUCN Species Survival Commission,
Cat Specialist Group; WWF; WWF-Netherlands; Chicago Zoological
Society; National Wildlife Federation; Sultanate of Oman, Sir Peter Scott
IUCN/SSC Action Plan Fund Wild Cats: status survey and conservation action plan. IUCN/SSC Action Plans for the Conservation of Biological Diversity Gland, Switzerland: IUCN, 1996. xxiv + 382pp.    

Sliwa A  
Black-footed cat studies in South Africa. Cat News,  20: 15-19, 1994

Sliwa A  
Diet and feeding behaviour of the black-footed cat
(Felis nigripes burchell, 1824) in the Kimberley Region, South Africa. 
Der Zoologische Garten,  64(2): 83-96, 1994

Pope C E; Keller G L; Dresser B L  
In vitro fertilization in domestic and non-domestic cats including sequences of
early nuclear events, development in vitro, cryopreservation and
successful intra-and interspecies embryo transfer. 
Journal of Reproduction and Fertility. Supplement,  No. 47: 189-201. 1993.
("Fertility and Infertility in Dogs, Cats and Other Carnivores, Proceedings of the Second International Symposium on Canine and Feline Reproduction held at the University of Liege, Liege, Belgium, August 1992"; Concannon, P. W.; England, G. C. W.; Verstegen, J. P.; Russell, H. A., editors)  

Mangold W  
The black-footed cat - Malignant or maligned? 
African Wildlife,  Vol. 43(2), pp.72-73; 1989 
Lynch C D  
Mem. Nas. Mus. Bloemfontein Mem. Nas. Mus. Bloemfontein No. 25. 116p. 1989. WR 217 

Schuerer U; Dresser B L  
Breeding black-footed cats (Felis nigripes) at Wuppertal Zoo, with notes on their reproductive biology. 
In: Proc. 5th World Conf. Breeding Endangered Species Captivity (Dresser B L et al, eds); Cincinnati OH, Oct. 9-12 1988: 547-554, 1988 

Schurer, U.  
547-554. 1988. WR 231 

Stuart C T; Wilson V J. 
IUCN Species Survival Commission, Cat Specialist Group; African Carnivore Survey; Chipangali Wildlife Trust  
The cats of southern Africa: a summary of the current knowledge of the seven cat species occurring in southern Africa, with emphasis on conservation and status.  Bulawayo, Zimbabwe: Chipangali Wildlife Trust, 1988, 32p.: ill., maps 

Lynch C D  
Mammalian distribution patterns in the Orange Free State. 
Nasionale Museum, Bloemfontein. Navorsinge, Vol. 4(16), pp.473-499; 1985    

Mills L; Bothma J-du-P; Mills M G L; Nel J A J  
Notes on some smaller Carnivores from the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park.
Koedoe,  84: 221-227, 1984

Lynch C D  
The mammals of the Orange Free State.
National Museum, Bloemfontein Memoirs, Vol. 18, pp.1-218; 1983  

Stuart C T  
The distribution of the small-spotted cat, Felis nigripes
Naturalist, Vol. 26(3), pp.8-9; 1982
Carnivore, 1(2), 109-111, 1978 

Armstrong J  
World's Cats,  3(3): 71-80. 1977. WR 169 

Visser J  
African Wildlife, 31(1), 26-28, 1977

Visser J

Lynch C D  
The distribution of mammals in the Orange Free State, South Africa. 
Nasionale Museum, Bloemfontein.
Navorsinge,  Vol. 3(6), pp.109-139; 1975 
von Richter W
Remarks on present distribution and abundance of some South African carnivores.  Southern African Wildlife Management Association. Journal, Vol. 2(1), pp.9-16; 1972 

Von Ketelhodt, H.F.  
The black-footed cats. African Wildlife, 19(3): pp. 236-238, September, 1965 

Shortridge G C  
Felis (Microfelis) nigripes thomasi subsp. nov
Records of the Albany Museum, 4(1): pp. 119-121, January 1931 




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