Leopard Cat

Leopard Cat

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Order
Suborder
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Prionailurus bengalensis
Population size
50,000
Life Span
4-20 yrs
TOP SPEED
72.4 km/h
WEIGHT
0.55-3.8 kg
HEIGHT
41 cm
LENGTH
39-66 cm

The Leopard cat is about the size of a large housecat. The head of the animal is small, eyes are round and the muzzle is short. The pale wool of the animal is generally tawny colored while the belly is white. They have rosettes all over their body and tail, while the tip of the tail is often ringed. The animals exhibit four stripes on their forehead, running down to their necks. Various populations of Leopard cats differ in coat length and color, depending on habitat and environmental conditions of the area. Thus, in northern parts of their range, the animals are usually heavier, showing paler and longer coat. Meanwhile, those, living in snowy habitats, exhibit lighter coat in contrast with cats, living in densely forested habitats and having dark-tawny fur.

Distibution

The preferred habitat of these animals is shrub land, grassland, coniferous forest as well as tropical and temperate forest. The natural range of Leopard cats is South and East Asia. The species is distributed across vast territory, stretching southwards from the Amur region in the Russian Far East to China, south-east to the Korean Peninsula and south-west to Indochina, reaching the Philippines and the Sunda islands of Indonesia; then westwards, to the Indian Subcontinent and northern Pakistan.

Leopard Cat habitat map

Habits and Lifestyle

The Leopard cat is a solitary animal, which usually hunts at night, roaming throughout its range and looking for prey. The animal generally spends the daytime hours resting in trees. In order to define its territory, the Leopard cat either uses scent-marks or scratches trees within its home range. The size of the animal's territory may vary, depending on factors such as the amount of available habitat and the level of resource competition on a given territory. The acute eyesight combined with developed senses of smell and hearing, ensure successful hunt. In addition, the Leopard cats have excellent climbing and swimming abilities. Normally, these animals are quiet, though they can occasionally purr and cry like domestic cats.

Diet and Nutrition

The Leopard cat is generally a carnivore, feeding upon small terrestrial vertebrates. The diet of the animal includes also insects, insectivores, birds, snakes, eels, fish, crab, hares, mustelids, pigs, small ungulates as well as reptiles such as lizard. They can also consume carrion on occasion.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
in southeastern Asia: any time of year, in northern areas: January-March
PREGNANCY DURATION
65-70 days
BABY CARRYING
1-4 kittens
INDEPENDENT AGE
8 months
FEMALE NAME
queen
MALE NAME
tomcat
BABY NAME
kitten

Leopard cats have polygynous mating system. The home range of a male cat can sometimes overlap with those of many females. Leopard cats, living in southeastern Asia, mate at any time of year, whereas those, living in more northern latitude, typically breed from January to March. The gestation period last for 65 - 70 days, after which the female yields 1 - 4 babies with an average of 2 - 3 per litter. Newborn leopard cats have closed eyes, which open within 10 days. The young are generally cared by the female, sometimes by male. The animals become fully independent at 8 months old, and are sexually mature at 18 months old.

Population

Population threats

Forest cover is not a decisive factor for these animals, when compared to other species. However, Leopard cats currently suffer from loss and fragmentation of habitat throughout their natural range. Also, the animal is frequently killed due to being considered a poultry pest. And finally, leopard cat is hunted for its meat and skin as well as captured for the pet industry.

Population number

This species is widespread and relatively common.The total population of the Leopard cat is presently stable, being estimated to 50,000 individuals. On the IUCN Red List, the species is classified as Least Concern.

Ecological niche

As predators, these animals hugely control rodent species populations. Also, due to their diet, Leopard cats benefit humans. Firstly, they consume small vertebrate pests in rural areas and agricultural lands, thus reducing numbers of their populations. Then, these cats play important role in disease control throughout the area of their habitat.

Domestication

According to archeological and morphometric studies, domestication of this animal began at least 5000 years ago in Neolithic China. Thus, the Leopard cat was the first domesticated species among all cats. However, these animals were subsequently replaced with cats, originated from the African wildcat of the Middle East. Beginning with 1960s, Leopard cats have been mated with domestic cats, yielding a hybrid species called "Bengal cat", which can be kept as a pet without a license.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Throughout its range, Leopard cat is the most commonly found small cat.
  • Being excellent swimmers, Leopard cats have colonized offshore islands throughout the area of their distribution.
  • These animals are interbred with domestic cats, yielding a species called Bengal cat, which is globally kept as a house pet.
  • Males of this species are called "toms", females are referred to as "queens", whereas offspring are known as "kittens".
  • A group of adult Leopard cats is called "clowder", "clutter" or "pounce", while a group of young cats is known as "kindle" or "embarrassment".
  • The toes of the Leopard cat are a bit webbed, helping the animal in swimming as well as allowing it to move on the slippery ground.
  • Leopard cats typically sleep in hollow trees or caves.

References

1. Leopard Cat Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leopard_cat
2. Leopard Cat on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/18146/0

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