The most aggressive cat breed in the world

In 2016, Smithsonian Magazine wrote that Pete Marra, the top dog at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, advocated eradicating outdoor cats "once and for all." In his book, Cat Wars: The Devastating Consequences of a Cuddly Killer, Marra matter-of-factly asserts, "No one likes the idea of killing cats. But sometimes, it is necessary." He wasn't nursing a dogmatic hatred of felines, and despite having a mild allergy to them, he wasn't harboring a biological vendetta. "I love cats," clarified the scientist. He further insisted that cats have a "freakish love for me" — though that freakish affection might turn into feral hate if felines could read all the smack he wrote about them.

Marra had a moral allergy to keeping outdoor cats alive. Based on more than a half-century of studies, he and colleagues estimated that cats kill up to 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion small mammals annually. In that sense, they are aggressively lethal creatures. But while some cat breeds are particularly dangerous, which type of these natural-born adorable killers poses the greatest risk to residents of the great outdoors?

Kill 'em with cuteness

Before ending your suspense, there are a few caveats. As pointed out by Texas A&M professor Stephen Hammack, "There is no strict definition — scientific or otherwise — of a breed." Some definitions are as broad as "a race of animals which have some distinctive qualities in common" while others narrow the scope to creatures with shared characteristics "usually developed by deliberate selection." Furthermore, different organizations significantly disagree on how many different cat breeds actually exist.

With that in mind, the dubious honor of most aggressively deadly feline goes to the black-footed cat, which looks like the lovechild of a stuffed animal and a cartoon kitten. As Live Science describes, black-footed cats live in the grasslands of southern Africa. They stand just over half a foot tall and weigh 2 to 6 pounds, but these itty-bitty kitties kill "more prey in a single night than a leopard does in six months," per the PBS miniseries Super Cats. Wildlife rehabilitation specialist Nicci Wright told PetMD that black-footed cats hunt more than 14 times a night, making meals out of shrews, gerbils, birds, termites, and even scorpions.

If you're wondering about domestic cat aggression toward humans, the founder of the founder of the Anthrozoology Institute at Bristol University, John Bradshaw, explained to the BBC that cats are seldom aggressive toward people unless they've gone feral or feel threatened. So maybe just don't poke the proverbial bear ... which, in this context, is a cat.