Asian golden cats, known as the “fire cat” in Thailand and Burma, and as the “rock cat” in parts of China, are of a medium size and stocky build. They form the second largest category of Asiatic felines. Their fur ranges in color from cinnamon to various shades of brown, and also gray and black (melanistic). There are some cats with spotted and striped markings, in appearance similar to an ocelot. Sometimes there are stripes on the cat’s head and cheeks as well. Their ears are black on the outsides and gray on the insides. The cat’s underside is usually white.
The Asian golden cat occurs in Southeast Asia, from Nepal and Tibet to Southern China, Sumatra and India. It prefers forest habitats that are interspersed with rocky areas, being found in deciduous, tropical and subtropical evergreen rainforests. It sometimes lives in more open terrain like the grasslands of Assam's Manas National Park.
Asian golden cats are solitary and territorial. Once considered nocturnal, a radio-tracking study showed them to be diurnal and crepuscular. Although they can climb well, most of their time is spent on the ground, their long tail being curled up at its tip. Little information regarding the communication of Asian golden cats is available, as observing them in the wild is difficult. Like most cats, it is probable that they make great use of scent cues in communication. Other methods that have been observed include scent marking, raking logs and trees with their claws, and rubbing their head against various objects, in the way a domestic cat does.
Asian golden cats are carnivores, often eating small prey like Indochinese ground squirrel, small snakes and other reptiles, muntjacs, rodents, birds, and young hares. In Sikkim, India, in the goral mountains, they also hunt larger animals like wild pig, water buffalo calves and sambar deer. Where humans are present, they will also prey on domesticated sheep, goats, and poultry.
Little is known about this somewhat elusive cat’s reproductive behavior in the wild, and most of what we know is due to observing cats in captivity. Asian golden cats are polygynous, which means that one male gets exclusive mating rights with multiple females. There appears to be no breeding season for the Asian golden cat, but from April to June no births occur. After gestation of about 81 days, 1 to 3 kittens are born. Kittens are weaned when they are 6 months old and they reach independence as early as 9 months, the average being 12 months. Female Asian golden cats reach sexual maturity between 18 and 24 months, males maturing at 24 months.
Asian golden cats are under threat by the habitat destruction that follows deforestation, as well as a decreasing numbers of ungulate prey. Another major threat is the illegal wildlife trade, as well as hunting by tribal people for meat and skin to use in tribal rituals.
No estimate available for Asian golden cat population size. According to the IUCN Red List, this species’ numbers are decreasing and currently it is classified as Near Threatened (NT).