Rusty-spotted Cat

I must start this article on the Rusty-spotted Cat by touching on the subject of conservation, the most pressing of issues for all the wildcats. In 2002 the Cat Survival Trust website, which was last updated in June 2002, says that this cat was not considered to be threatened by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ (Red List). This would make the classification at that time, NT (Not Threatened). Today, at June 2009, the Red List classifies this wildcat as Vulnerable (VU). This is one more stage towards extinction. I discuss this further below.

rusty-spotted-cat

These fine photographs of the Rusty-spotted Cat are by Joachim S. Müllerand published under a Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivs creative commons License — this site is for charitable purposes in funding cat rescue and wild cats.

rusty-spotted-cat-1

Description

See Rusty-spotted cat description. The scientific name is: Prionailurus rubiginosus. It would seem that the most noticeable feature of this wildcat is its diminutive size. It is one of the two smallest of the wildcats, the other being the Black-footed Cat. Their weight is similar to that of a domestic miniature cat. These are the vital statistics and some interesting comparisons:

Characteristic Measurement
Length of head+body 35-48 centimetres (14-17 inches)
Average weight (approximate) 1.5 kg (3.3 lbs)
Average weight females 1 kg (2.2 lbs)
Average domestic cat weight – for comparison 8 lbs
Average weight of miniature domestic cat for comparison 3.5 lbs
Average weight of Black-footed Cat – for comparison 3.5 lb

 

The coat is the usual heavily ticked tabby coat with very particular markings. The best known domestic cat with a ticked coat is the Abyssinian cat. As can be seen in the lower picture above, the coat has a ground colour of grey with rust coloured spots and markings over the body and face with a white underbelly. The eyes are very large and round. If a cat breeder bred a cat with eyes that large it would raise eyebrows! The large size must have evolved for survival as a nocturnal and arboreal cat. This means the cat is active at night and spends a lot of time in the forest trees.

In general the overall body conformation is what a person in the cat fancy might consider to be balanced and moderate (i.e. of pretty normal appearance).

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ Assessment

As mentioned the classification is VU – vulnerable. The assessment has been in place from 2008 to present.:

IUCN-Red-List-Vulnerable

This is in the category of threatened species. The reason for this classification is as follows:

  • although found across most of India and Sri Lanka the distribution of the Rusty-spotted Cat is “relatively restricted”. This must mean in comparison to other wild cats with a wider distribution that covers much larger areas, e.g. Eurasian lynx.
  • low estimated population at less than 10,000 mature cats.
  • habitat loss
  • decreasing population
  • subpopulations containing 1,000 or less individual cats. A “sub-population” means a part or subdivision of a population.

Range, Habitat and Ecology

The Rusted-spotted Cats range in indicated below in the map (but see the map lower down):

Rusty-spotted-cat-range-1

The map above (modified by me) is published under Wikimedia® creative commons license = Attribution-ShareAlike License. User: MichaelFrey. The map above is slightly different from the one below that I made up from information from the Red List website using a free blank map from the About.com website:

rusty-spotted-cat-range-3

In this more recent assessment of range, it is larger in the north and the boundary in the north is not a straight line. This would seem to be due to research in 2002 and beyond, whichrusty-spotted-cat-range-4 established that it is found over a much larger area of India. [Sunquist and Sunquist 2002, Patel and Jackson 200 6, Manakadan and Sivakumar 2006, Patel 2006, Vyas et al. 2007. (src: Red List)].

Also the range in Sri Lanka does not completely cover the country as in the older map. There is an area in the west where the Rusty-spotted Cat is not found according to the Red List – see map.

Update: the map below is the also based on the Red List map but made up using Google My Maps. It is an open collaboration project and can been seen here in large format: Rusty-spotted cat range


View Rusty-spotted Cat Range in a larger map

This wild cat is only found in India and Sri Lanka (see picture). What does the Indian landscape look like? Here is a fine photograph, which gives a feel for it and more:

indian-landscape

Photo above by mindstock.

The Rusty-spotted Cat prefers dense vegetation and rocky areas. I would have thought that the dense vegetation in the picture above would do nicely. They occupy:

  • moist & dry deciduous forest (deciduous forest: “typically used in reference to trees or shrubs that lose their leaves seasonally….” – Wikipedia)
  • scrub and grassland
  • agricultural areas
  • settled areas (areas where there are people)
  • forested areas as they are “highly arboreal”

They prey on:

  • frogs (one cat observed hunting frogs)
  • rodents – this may lead this cat into settled areas where rodents may be more abundant.

Threats and Conservation

Threats:

  • It might sound cynical to say it but the usual reasons apply, namely human population growth and accompanying activity, which translates to habitat loss and cultivated land. The Rusty-spotted Cat can and does exist in settled (human settlements) areas but how far can this go? Is this going to be transformed into modern day domestication? The best prospects for survival for this cat are probably to become domesticated as the wild cat did generally some 9,000 year ago. The nearest this seems to have got is the creation of a hybrid Rusty-spotted Cat/domestic cat, which was observed (see Wildcat Hybrids. This offspring was larger in size (hybrid vigour), had long legs and “unusual markings” on a pale ground colour.
  • Another threat is the usual body parts trade (skins).
  • Killed by farmers protecting livestock (presumed poultry etc.).
  • Killed for food.
  • Domestic trade is uncontrolled in Sri Lanka

Conservation:

There are two levels of listings under CITES:

  • In India the cat is listed in Appendix I (“..threatened with extinction and CITES prohibits international trade in specimens of these species except when the purpose of the import is not commercial”)
  • In Sri Lanka the cat is listed in Appendix II (“..lists species that are not necessarily now threatened with extinction but that may become so unless trade is closely controlled”)
  • Hunting is banned in India (how good is enforcement?)
  • Hunting is banned in Sri Lanka (as above)
  • There are protected areas in both India & Sri Lanka such as:
  • Yala National Park in Sri Lanka
  • Gir Forest National Park in India (also the home of the lion in India, the only place in India where the lion is found).
  • Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve in India.

From Rusty-spotted Cat to Wild Cat Species



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