Rusty-Spotted Cat
Prionailurus rubiginosus
Population size
Bnelow 10,000
Life Span
18 years
kg lbs 
cm inch 

The Rusty-spotted cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus) is one of the cat family's smallest members, of which historical records are known only from India and Sri Lanka. In 2012, it was also recorded in the western Terai of Nepal. Since 2016, the global wild population is listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List as it is fragmented and affected by the loss and destruction of its prime habitat, deciduous forests.


Rusty-spotted cats are smaller than house cats and have slender bodies. Described as a ‘washed-out’ smaller version of the leopard cat, their more rusty-colored tail measures about half the length of their body, and is thick with less distinct spots. Their faces feature two dark streaks and there are also four dark streaks that run from their nape to the top of their head. They have a rusty band on the chest. Their paws and tails are uniform reddish grey. The eyes of these cats are quite large and their irises are amber to grayish brown. Their ears are rounded and short and, with rufous gray on the backs and with spots of light-colored basal.




The Rusty-spotted cat is found only in Sri Lanka and India and earlier was thought to occur only in moist forests, but recent records demonstrate that it also inhabits dry deciduous forests, bamboo forests, wooded grasslands, arid scrubland, and rocky hill slopes. They favor rocky areas and dense vegetation and probably do not occur in evergreen forests.

Rusty-Spotted Cat habitat map

Climate zones

Rusty-Spotted Cat habitat map
Rusty-Spotted Cat
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Habits and Lifestyle

Rusty-spotted cats are solitary, living alone in forests, more recently in agricultural areas dominated by humans. They are considered terrestrial, with arboreal tendencies. They are apparently mainly nocturnal, spending their days inside a hollow log, forest, or tree thicket. Being a capable climber, this cat is thought to hunt on the ground at night and climb to escape from predators and hide in trees. Like other cats, Rusty-spotted cats mark their territory with urine. In India, in Eastern Gujarat, these cats have been seen in caves, and sheltering in the gaps of big boulders. These animals hunt by ambushing their prey in bamboo thickets and in the grass, or from big tree branches, jumping directly onto the ground on top of their prey.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Rusty-spotted cats are carnivores. They eat birds and small mammals, sometimes domestic ducks and poultry. Locals report that after heavy rains these elusive cats emerge to feed on the frogs and rodents that surface.

Mating Habits

67 days
1-2 kittens
35-60 days

It is thought that Rusty-spotted cats may be polygynous. However, males in zoos have been permitted to stay with mates after mating and the birth of kittens. In the West Berlin Zoo, it was recorded that a male brought meat to his kittens and protected them from zoo keepers, suggesting that they may have a monogamous mating system. Rusty-spotted cats will mate year-round. The gestation period is about 67 days, and one or two kittens are born in a secluded den, like a shallow cave. Young begin to venture forth from the den at around 28 to 32 days. At 35 to 42 days old, young are able to climb down from steep branches head-first. Most of the interactions between a mother and her kittens are play oriented. From 35 to 42 days weaning starts and it is completed within 60 days.


Population threats

The biggest and most serious threat to the Rusty-spotted cat in both Sri Lanka and India has been deforestation and cultivation, causing large-scale habitat loss. There is still some trade in the cat’s skin. Rusty-spotted cats are also hunted for food in some areas and are often killed because they take domestic livestock, especially chickens.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, Rusty-spotted cats appear to be rare almost wherever it occurs. The total population size of the rusty-spotted cat is suspected to be below 10,000 mature individuals. Overall, this species’ numbers are decreasing today and it is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List.

Ecological niche

Rusty-spotted cats have a role in controlling small vertebrate populations as prey.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Rusty-spotted cats in Sri Lanka are called ‘Kola Diviya’ or ‘Handun Diviya’.
  • The world’s two smallest cats are the Rusty-spotted cat and the black-footed cat.
  • Kittens do not have the adult’s rusty spotting but instead have rows of black spots. At maturity, the rusty-colored coat appears.
  • Between the ages of 47 and 50 days, kittens are able to jump around 50 cm from a height of around 2 m.
  • Rusty-spotted cat kittens first sleep on or near their mother, going to where she lies down after an active period. As the kittens get older, they sleep alone on high ledges.
  • The Rusty-spotted cat’s size, speed, and agility are the reason for the unusual nickname it has been given: "hummingbird of the cat family", in comparison to these small, vigorous birds.


1. Rusty-Spotted Cat Wikipedia article -
2. Rusty-Spotted Cat on The IUCN Red List site -

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