This At-Risk Species May Bear a Striking Resemblance to a Housecat But It's Not a Pet

This At-Risk Species May Bear a Striking Resemblance to a Housecat But It's Not a Pet

Meet the black-footed cat.

By Tamara Palmer

When you look at that cat above, could you guess it's a wild animal and not a tabby? If you're like most people, that kitty looks like a cute pet — but it's not. It's actually part of a species that's currently vulnerable (a step below endangered) which means you may actually never see one.

Originally hailing from South Africa, there are only about 45 black-footed cats in captivity (and, yes, that's the scientific name), and only 15 healthy breeding females. Thankfully there is a kitty savior scientist at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo who's working tirelessly to restore the population.

According to Omaha World-Herald, Dr. Jason Herrick has targeted the black-footed cat, which became threatened largely due to high rates of kidney disease, to study means of artificial insemination in order to diversify the gene pool. He's working with colleagues at the Cincinnati Zoo, who have had successes with artificially inseminating other breeds.

“They’re really cool cats, and people don’t even know they exist,” Herrick told the publication of the black-footed cat, which tends to be unequivocally adorable. “Unfortunately, they don’t make great exhibit animals. It’s a four-pound cat and, like most cats, they sleep 18 hours a day. If it’s asleep behind a tiny little bush, the exhibit might as well be empty.”

The scientists are hoping that breakthroughs here will be useful to help repopulate other species as well. We're mostly hoping it means plenty of black-footed kittens to soon see.

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