Reed cat, Swamp cat, Swamp lynx
The Jungle cat (Felis chaus) is a medium-sized cat. Its name comes from the Caucasus Mountains, the place this cat was first discovered. In Asia, it is the Jungle cat, but in Africa, it is commonly named Reed cat or Swamp cat, due to its preference for wet habitats.
The Jungle cat is long-legged and is the largest of the extant Felis species. Females tend to be smaller and lighter than males. The face is long and narrow, with a white muzzle. The large, pointed ears are reddish brown on the back and are set close together; a small tuft of black hairs, nearly 15 mm (0.59 in) long, emerges from the tip of both ears. The eyes have yellow irides and elliptical pupils; white lines can be seen around the eye. Dark lines run from the corner of the eyes down the sides of the nose and a dark patch marks the nose. The coat, sandy, reddish brown or grey, is uniformly colored and lacks spots; melanistic and albino individuals have been reported from the Indian subcontinent. Kittens are striped and spotted, and adults may retain some of the markings. Dark-tipped hairs cover the body, giving the cat a speckled appearance. The belly is generally lighter than the rest of the body and the throat is pale. The fur is denser on the back compared to the underparts. Two molts can be observed in a year; the coat is rougher and lighter in summer than in winter. The insides of the forelegs show four to five rings; faint markings may be seen on the outside. The black-tipped tail is marked by two to three dark rings on the last third of the length. There is a distinct spinal crest. Because of its long legs, short tail, and tuft on the ears, the Jungle cat resembles a small lynx. It is larger and more slender than the domestic cat.
The Jungle cat is most prevalent in India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. It is also found in Egypt, and throughout southwest Asia, southeast Asia, and Central Asia, extending its range as far as the south of China. Jungle cats are usually found in swamps and wetlands, on flood plains, and within dense coastal vegetation at altitudes that are relatively low. Although they are nearly always associated with dense vegetation and water, these cats may also occur in a wide range of other types of habitat, including deserts, where they live near oases and along riverbeds, as well as in woodland, grassland, and dry deciduous forests.
The Jungle cat is not nocturnal, unlike many other wild cats, and does much of its hunting in the early mornings and late afternoons. It typically rests during the day in dense cover but often sunbathes on cold winter days. Jungle cats have been estimated to walk 3-6 km (1.9-3.7 mi) at night, although this likely varies depending on the availability of prey. They are good swimmers and can swim up to 1.5 km (0.93 mi) in water and plunge into the water to catch fish. Jungle cats hunt by stalking their prey, followed by a sprint or a leap; the sharp ears help in pinpointing the location of prey. They use different techniques to secure prey. The cat has been observed searching for Musk rats in their holes. Like the caracal, they can perform one or two high leaps into the air to grab birds. They are efficient climbers as well. Jungle cats are territorial animals. Scent markings and rubbing scents on objects are done by males to mark their territory, their home range typically overlapping that of several females. The Jungle cat is usually a solitary animal and only socializes with others of its species during the breeding season. However, family groups of a male and a female with their kittens have been reported in the wild.
Jungle cats are carnivorous creatures and mostly prey on rodents, lizards, frogs, snakes, birds, fish, insects, hares, and livestock. During the winter they may supplement their diet with some fruit.
Jungle cats are polygynandrous, with males and females both having multiple mates throughout their lives. Both genders use intensive mew calls to attract potential mates. The mating season is from January to March, differing somewhat with geographic location. After a gestation of 63 to 66 days, a litter usually numbering two or three kittens is born. Up to six kittens may be born in one litter, and these cats can have two litters within one year. Kittens begin to be weaned at around day 49, weaning being completed at 15 weeks old. These cats live in families with a mother, father, and their kittens during the time that the young are being reared. Kittens reach independence at 8 to 9 months old and become reproductively mature at 11 to 18 months old.
The Jungle cat is under threat by habitat loss and hunting by humans, and its prey numbers have been reduced by the conversion of its natural habitat. The highly adaptable cat has therefore fed on livestock and this has caused conflict with farmers, who lay traps and poisons. This species is also threatened by the fur trade, and illegal trading still takes place in Egypt, India, and Afghanistan.
According to IUCN Red List, the total population size of the Jungle cat is unknown. However, there are estimated populations in the following areas: 500 individuals in Russia and more than 10,000 individuals in Nepal. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List but its numbers today are decreasing.