The Asian golden cat (Catopuma temminckii) is a medium-sized wild cat native to Asia. In China, the Asian golden cat is thought to be a kind of leopard and is known as "rock cat" or "yellow leopard". Different color phases have different names; those with black fur are called "inky leopards", and those with spotted coats are called "sesame leopards".
The Asian golden cat is polymorphic in color. Golden, reddish brown, and buff-brown individuals were recorded in northeastern India and Bhutan. Reddish brown morphs were recorded in Sumatra. Melanistic individuals were recorded in the eastern Himalayas, and in Sumatra. A spotted Asian golden cat with large rosettes on shoulders, flanks, and hips was described for the first time based on a specimen from China in 1872. This morph was recorded in China, Bhutan, and in West Bengal's Buxa Tiger Reserve.
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 also communicate with meowing, hissing, purring, and growling.
Asian golden cats are carnivores, often eating small prey like Indochinese ground squirrels, 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 pigs, 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 Asian golden cats. After a gestation of about 81 days, 1 to 3 kittens are born. Kittens are blind at birth and are covered with the same color fur as adult cats. They open their eyes in 6 to 12 days after being born. Kittens are weaned when they are 6 months old and they reach independence between 9 and 12 months. Female Asian golden cats reach reproductive maturity between 18 and 24 months, and males mature when they are 24 months old.
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.
The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the Asian golden cat total population size. Currently, this species is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List, and its numbers today are decreasing.