Yes, you can domesticate the rusty-spotted cat to a certain extent or you can tame it according to two naturalists who lived over 100 years ago.
The rusty-spotted cat is a wild cat species and the smallest in the world. It looks a bit like a domestic cat but smaller which is perhaps why people ask if you can domesticate them.
The best answer would come from two British naturalists who lived over 100 years ago in India. They are Robert Armitage Sterndale (1839-1902) and Thomas Caverhill Jerdon (1811-1872).
We are told by the authors of the book Wild Cats of the World (the Sunquists) that both, independently, kept rusty-spotted cats as pets. Jerdon was a medical surgeon with the East India Company who authored natural history books on Indian wildlife. Sterndale was a naturalist, artist, writer and statesman who also authored books on Indian natural history.
I can visualise them in their studies in India writing and preparing their books with a fan above gently stirring the air and on their desks would be the diminutive rusty-spotted cat, somewhat domesticated but still a little wild, fast moving and independent.
They both obtained their pet rusty-spotted cats as kittens and they said that they tamed easily. It makes me believe that somebody stole these kittens from their mother in the wild at a time when this diminutive wild cat species was more easily found and far less endangered. To take kittens from wild cat species in the wild is not a good thing. It is still done today a lot and it is still a bad thing to do.
“The grace and agility of their motions was most striking [and they] dart like a squirrel up the walls of the tent onto the roof.”- Sterndale
So we have a report from over a hundred years ago that the rusty-spotted cat can be domesticated to a certain extent and become a pet. However, I would envisage that they weren’t great pets because they would be far too independent, wild and not the sort of companion animal who would curl up on your lap purring. Nonetheless it is evidence that this cat can be domesticated with a little ‘d’.
Despite this information and despite the fact that they weigh only a few pounds they are reputed to be extremely fierce.
A Ceylonese artist and entomologist (study of insects) of the era, de Alwis, stated that “for its size, it is singularly vicious.”
And Jerdon stated that when he introduced his eight-month-old rusty spotted cat pet into a room where there was a gazelle fawn:
“The little creature flew at it the moment it saw it, seized it by the nape, and was with difficulty taken off.”
Much of what we know today about the rusty-spotted cat comes from the work of these two naturalists. In other words, we don’t know much about this cat in the modern era.
P.S. Don’t try and domesticate a rusty-spotted cat. Leave them alone in the wild – please.