Two black-footed kittens have been given their first taste of meat at the zoo where they were born.
The pair – a male and a female who have been given the names Ryder and Skyler – were born on April 28 at San Diego Zoo Safari Park in the United States.
While still being nursed by their mother, the kittens are slowly being introduced to meat by keepers, who use tongs partly for their own safety.
“This allows us to make sure that the cats don’t associate our hands with food so we avoid bites, but also to make sure that we’re far enough distance back that the cats feel comfortable approaching us for their food,” said Chelsea Davis, San Diego Zoo wildlife care specialist.
Black-footed cats live in dry habitats including scrubs and deserts, and are native to Botswana, Namibia and South Africa.
They get their name from the black pads and thick hair on the soles of their paws, which protect them from the hot sand they regularly walk on.
Although one of the world’s smallest cats – they grow to be no larger than 20in (51cm) and 3lb (1.4kg) – they are considered the most deadly.
Their hunting has a success rate of 60%, the highest of any feline, and a single black-footed cat can eat up to 14 rodents and birds in one night.