Africa's cat species include the ferocious leopard, the regal lion, the wildcat, and the serval. Other cat-like predators that look as if they should be cats but are not, include genets, civets, and hyena. The cheetah status is still debated among scientists. But the one to beat them all out at hunting skills goes by the African moniker of the 'vampire cat.' The cat is actually a black footed cat (Felis nigripes) and looks much like your household moggy. But its phenomenal success with hunting skills beats out all of them, including the lions.

Africa's big cats put to shame by the vampire

Locals in Southern Africa call the black-footed cat the vampire cat as it doesn't need water to survive. The Tenikwa Wildlife Awareness & Rehabilitation website explains: "Their reputation as vampire cats is based on their ability to live independent of water. They use the body fluids of the prey they catch for all their liquid requirements." And they catch a lot of prey. Their hunting skills bring in a success rate of around 60 percent as compared to lions at 20 to 25 percent.

Chief Conservation Officer at Panthera, Luke Hunter, told Live Science, "those success rates make them the deadliest little cat on Earth." Also fondly known as 'anthill tigers,' compared to other cats in the wild, they are small.

While anything bigger than a small rabbit need not fear them, the night holds real terror for anything big enough to take down. Vampire male cats weigh in on average at around 3.5 to 4 lbs and at 2.5 to 3 lbs for females. Your average domestic cat is much heavier.

Hunting skills include three deadly strategies

According to Hunter, the cats need to hunt and eat constantly as their metabolisms are very high.

They employ three hunting strategies:

  • Fast hunting,
  • Sneaky stalking, and
  • Sit and wait, (still hunting).

The fast hunting technique involves what looks like random bouncing, leaping, and jumping around. No, the vampire cat's not playing - it's flushing out insects, birds, rats, reptiles, and mice that may be sheltering in the long grass.

The sneaky stalking involves slinking through the grass, slowly weaving through the area in search of unsuspecting prey. The final one takes lots of patience, but they'll sit outside a burrow motionlessly until an animal comes out. One ranger in KwaZulu Natal said on his Facebook page, that he watched one successfully catch a mole like that. The Kruger National Park website explains they can jump as high as 4.5 ft and as far as 6.5 ft.

Vampire cat is endangered

Sadly, the vampire cat joins the endangered list of wild species. As the cats move around at night or sometimes in the late afternoon and early morning, it's hard to monitor them accurately. Nevertheless, the PBS nature miniseries' October 31 episode, managed to obtain footage of them through the assistance of researcher Alexander Sliwa.

Some cats have been collared which means scientists can track them. The main threat to the animals involves indiscriminate poisoning of jackals, poisoning the prey, and the conversion of wild areas into farms. Luckily for the cats, in South Africa, both national and provincial parks keep them safe in protected areas.