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The public got its first glimpse Monday of a pair of endangered Black-footed cats born recently at John Ball Zoo.The boy and girl kittens -- who resemble ordinary house cats but are smaller -- went on display for the first time with their mother in the zoo's Treasure of the Tropics building.They were born Sept. 12 and have been shielded from public view for six weeks while they bonded with their mother.But make no mistake about it -- the breed may look cute and cuddly, but are among the most vicious in the zoo, said Animal Management Supervisor and curator Dan Malone."Pound for pound, they are probably more aggressive than any other cat we have," Malone said. "What they lack in size they make up for in attitude."That's because the endangered animals are natives of Africa, where many other predatory animals are much larger and would no doubt look on a Black-footed cat as easy prey, Malone said.The zoo received the kitten's parents specifically to breed them because the species is rare, he said.Zoo spokeswoman Krys Bylund said there are only 38 zoos in the U.S. that house Black-footed cats.The animals are secretive, nocturnal and live in burrows, which makes them extremely difficult to track in the wild, she said.For that reason, they are considered endangered and it is thought there are not enough Black-footed cats left to sustain the population, she said.On Monday, the pair and their mother spent much of the morning peeking out of the nesting box in a little room off the main exhibit that the public can see.Malone said he expects them to warm to their new environment in no time."Like most kittens, they're very sleepy," he said. "They will be very active and playful one minute and the next minute they'll be sound asleep."
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