Saturday, 23 January 2016


5 wild cats you've probably never heard of
By Ali Berman,
Mother Nature Network, 22 January 2016.

If you ask 10 people to name some wild cat species, you'll likely get a list that includes lions, tigers, cheetahs (pictured top) and jaguars. Those are all incredible felines. They just aren't the only kitties out there.

Here are five species of wild cats you've likely never heard of before. Some may look more like big cats but all of them aren't too far off in size from the felines we share our homes with.

1. Pallas's cat

Photo: Sander van der Wel/Flickr

These cats may look pretty sizable in pictures, but they're all fur. This kitty weighs between 5 and 10 pounds and has the longest and densest fur of any feline. That tonnage of fluff makes them look a lot bigger and more threatening than they actually are. In reality, they weigh about the same as a standard domestic cat. The Pallas's cat, native to central Asia and countries including Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, northern India and southern Russia, likes cold arid and rocky habitats such as alpine deserts. Their giant fur coat makes their cold weather habitats nice and toasty.

2. Iriomote cat

Photo: Purplepumpkins/Wikimedia Commons

The iriomote cat, native to and named after one small island in Japan, is also approximately the same size as a standard domestic cat. In 1994, only about 100 of these felines were on the island, a number that experts believe has diminished over the past two decades. This cat is considered a subspecies of the leopard cat. They are dark brown with some dark spots and striping, have a long body, a short tail and legs and rounded ears with a white spot on top. The biggest threat to their continued survival, according to the International Society for Endangered Cats, is breeding with domestic cats, an act that they say "dilutes the genetic integrity of the species."

3. Jaguarundi

Photo: Fábio Manfredini/Flickr

Meet the jaguarundi. These small felines only weigh between 6.6 and 15 pounds and are found in Central and South America. Their fur doesn't have distinct markings like stripes or spots, but instead slowly transitions between colours like black, brown, grey and even rufous tones. The jaguarundi can be found in grasslands, forests, swamp, dry scrub and savannah woodlands. They also, differing from other wild cats, are quite active during the day.

4. Margay

Photo: Clément Bardot/Wikimedia Commons

The margay might get the coolest strange talent award. This small cat - also around the same size as a domestic cat - can hang from tree branches by one hind foot, and can rotate its hind feet 180 degrees helping the feline to run down trees (needless to say, its tail is very long). As you might imagine, with skills like those, the margay spends much of its life in the trees. This cat can be found in Central and South America. The markings are quite varied. From head to toe you'll see stripes, spots and blotches as well as variations in the colour of the coat. The margay is light brown on the top and has white fur on the undersides of the chest, chin, belly and legs.

5. Marbled cat

Photo: Johan Embréus/Wikimedia Commons

This tiny cat, weighing in at between 4.4 and 11 pounds, looks a bit like a small version of a clouded leopard. Much of the thick fur coat is marbled and has large, differently shaped blotches, as well as lines down its back. This feline's tail is very long and bushy, sometimes even longer than the body of the cat. When it walks, it holds the tail out in a straight line, parallel to the ground. Believed to live in forested habitat based on its feet, tail length and short limbs, the species is very secretive and has barely been studied in the wild, with the exception of one female who was followed in Thailand with the help of a radio collar. The species lives in Southeast Asia.

Top image: Cheetah. Credit: lajon/Pixabay.

[Source: Mother Nature Network. Edited. Some images and links added.]

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