Are Asian leopard cats dangerous?

Are Asian (Asiatic) leopard cats dangerous? The interpretation of the word ‘dangerous’ is elastic. For a risk-averse person the leopard cat is dangerous as you are liable to be scratched and bitten and perhaps even be frightened as this is a small wild cat known for their independence of mind and spirit. Some experts and breeders refer to this species as ‘ALC’.

But if you are a risk taker the leopard cat is not dangerous because you are not frightened of being on the receiving end of the occasional aggression from a small wild cat even if the cat is tamed or domesticated.

The answer to the question depends on your point of view. What I can do is provide some information which may assist in making up your mind.

Asian leopard cat

‘Tigger’, a 6-month old female leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis). Photo: WFFT – they rescued the cat from the owner because they could not cope.

Perhaps the first issue is that the potential danger extends beyond injury to the owner. What about the public if the cat escapes? That is where the real danger is I suspect. At least it is how the law makers see it.

You’ll find that in many developed countries that the small wild cats are classified as dangerous under their legislation. Strangely the leopard cat is not mentioned at all by the UK’s Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 when other similar wild cats are such as the black-footed cat, sand cat and kodkod are. All three are not classified as dangerous under that act. It is am omission by those who drafted the law to leave out the leopard cat.

However, the Scottish government lists the Asian leopard cat under their ‘Dangerous wild animals: species guidance’. So the Scottish politicians think the leopard cat is dangerous perhaps to the public at large as mentioned.

You can see this wild cat which is the size of a domestic cat falls in the middle ground between considered dangerous and not.

But all small wild cats even when domesticated present problems which owners have not really foreseen in terms of their handling and management.

Leopard cat

Leopard cat. Photo: Soi Dog Foundation.

I have never lived with one or even seen one live but I know from reading a lot about the wild cats and wild cat hybrids that they are not everyone’s cup of tea. Too wild by nature. Not pliable enough. Too hard to live with for most people. But not dangerous per se. But there will be a perception of danger to the public if the cat escapes and is at large in public places.

As mentioned you’ll probably end up with a nasty scratch or bite. It’ll be a scratch or bite which is worse than you might get from a domestic cat.

I have recently written about a Texas couple who live with two bobcats. Admittedly bobcats are much larger than leopard cats but the woman said that the bones in her hand had been broken by bites! Get that. She was stoic and pragmatic about it and hinted that things were getting better (therefore they must have been worse!).

The small wild cats not only behave in a more hyper manner they also talk in strange tongues. Their vocalisations can sound quite frightening. They are louder and more fierce sounding; not very encouraging I must say.

Asiatic leopard cat

Asiatic leopard cat camera-trapped in Tangkulap Forest Reserve, Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. Photo: A. Mohamed & A. Wilting/IZW, SFD, SWD.

In the US each state has their own laws on keeping ‘exotic’ animals and the leopard cat would fall into this category. They may be banned and they may be accepted.

If accepted you can’t just being your leopard cat to your home like a domestic cat. You’ll have to have an enclosure, probably, and find ways to keep them inside. If they escape its hasta la vista baby and mayhem and probably the end of the cat.

The first thing I’d do would be to check the law in your jurisdiction to see if the Asian leopard cat is banned or if their are restrictions and limitations on ownership. Go from their. Go slow and be realistic. And expect inspections if you need a license.

And remember the conservation aspect of owning a leopard cat. Where did it come from? Was it a kitten in the wild stolen from its mother? Ownership of wild cats as pets damages conservation ultimately as it changes the relationship between wild cats and humans to the detriment of the cats. It suggests that we can destroy their habitat with impunity.

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Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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