The rusty-spotted cat is known as the world’s smallest wild cat species. I believe that we must say it is the world’s smallest cat either wild or domestic. So, what does this charming yet fierce creature look like? Fortunately, we have a very nice photograph from India of a rusty-spotted cat that his rescuers named Numero Uno. This individual was rescued by the animal rescue charity RESQ Charitable Trust. The picture provides us with a nice size comparison which brings home to us this cat’s small size.
The charity was founded by Neha Panchamia, the person who is holding the rusty-spotted cat in the picture. I’m told that this individual cat is about 85% of the full-grown adult size for this species. And as you can see this is a very diminutive and cute looking cat. But don’t think they make pets because in their minds they are just as ferocious and potentially aggressive as the largest Siberian tiger.
It’s nice to know that this individual cat was rescued as kitten/cub and raised in a captive environment where there was little human contact to enable them to return him to the wild as soon as possible. It is understood that they achieved this successfully. RESQ Charitable Trust said this:
[Numero Uno is] India’s first rusty-spotted cat ever to be captive-raised, rehabilitated and released back into its natural habitat.
I guess the name reflects the cat’s status for the reasons stated above.
The data that I have from the book Wildcats of the World tells me that 2 rusty-spotted cats captured in Sri Lanka weighed 1.1 kg and 1.6 kg respectively. Three male captive rusty-spotted cats had an average of 0.9 kg with a weight range of 0.8-1.1 kg. And one female captive cat weighed about 0.9 kg.
1 kg is 2.205 pounds. Therefore, the average weight approximately of this sample of rusty-spotted cats was about 2.2 pounds which puts this species firmly in the position of the world’s smallest cat of any cat species either wild or domestic.
The average domestic cat weighs about 10 pounds and therefore this little creature is less than a quarter of that weight.
Distribution, habitat and ecology
This species is found in India and Sri Lanka. It likes to live in moist and dry deciduous forest, tropical thorn forest, grassland, rocky areas and hill slopes. When they are seen (and they are secretive) they been seen in teak, bamboo, grassy areas and dry thorny vegetation.
They are known as fierce fighters but being so small they are a potential meal for many predators such as foxes, jackals and other larger species of wild cat.
The rusty-spotted cat is a superb climber and at one time the experts thought that the species was arboreal, meaning a tree dweller, but it seems that they do their hunting on the ground.
Observed captive individuals were mainly nocturnal but they had bursts of activity during the day. They make quick darting movements like a speeded-up version of other small cats. They behavior somewhat like squirrels. They feed on birds, small mammals and possibly frogs, insects and reptiles.
In the photograph you can see the classic small wild cat facial appearance with those high contrast markings streaking back from the eyes over the head. We see that kind of pattern on a number of small to medium-sized wild cat species.