The Marbled cat can be seen as a miniature clouded leopard. Its fur is thick and soft and varies in color from brownish gray to yellow to reddish brown, covered in large patches, which are paler in the middle. It has black spots on its legs and a few black lines on its head and neck. The Marbled cat has a short head, more rounded than other cats, and a wide forehead with large pupils. As with the Clouded leopard, this cat has relatively large upper canines. Its tail is bushy and very long, well adapted to its life in the trees. Its arboreal adaptations indicate that it probably is the Old World’s ecological equivalent to the margay.
Marbled cats live in Nepal and northern India, south-eastern Asia, Borneo and Sumatra. They occur in mixed deciduous-evergreen forest, clearings, secondary forest, rocky scrub and six-year-old logged forest.
There is very little knowledge about the biology and behavior of Marbled cats, except from observations in captivity. They are thought to be nocturnal and solitary, although recent studies show activity during day as well as night. They are territorial animals and their home range usually covers a territory the size of 2.2 square miles. The Marbled cat is characterized as being very active, with a great capacity to climb and jump. Their front feet have webbed and flexible paws which feature heel pads that are twice as wide as their length. Their claws are retractable and are double-sheathed, so they are well suited for climbing. Marbled cats are comfortable on the ground as well. Their behavior and morphology indicates that these are semi-arboreal animals. Like the domestic cats, marbled cats have been seen purring. Their meow has been compared to chirping instead of a more continuous sound inflection. These cats rely heavily on their vision, which in low light is very good.
Marbled cats primarily prey on birds and small arboreal mammals. Mammals they eat include tree squirrels, tree shrews, mice and rats, fruit bats and small primates. Their primary prey is thought to be birds up pheasant size. They also eat lizards, frogs, and insects.
Marbled cats are polygynous, which means that one male mates with multiple females. A breeding season has not been reported, and it may vary from region to region. After a gestation period of 81 days, a female produces a litter of 1-4. By 16 days the kittens’ eyes will be fully open, and they can walk by around 22 days. Kittens in captivity can eat solid food by the age of 59 days, which may be when weaning begins in the wild. Females invest heavily in their offspring through the periods of gestation and lactation, and they also put in significant time with care post-weaning, as well as teaching. A marbled cat reaches maturity at about 21 months.
The major threat to the Marbled cat is thought to be widespread and rapid destruction of the forest habitat within Southeast Asia, affecting not only this species, but its prey as well.
According to the IUCN Red List, the global population size of Marbled cat has not been quantified, but it is likely that it numbers over 10,000 mature individuals. This species’ numbers are decreasing today and it is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List.