Madagascar’s ‘forest cats’ are wild tabby cats

Madagascar forest cat
Madagascar forest cat. Photo: JULIE POMERANTZ AND LUKE DOLLAR.
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There is an cat interesting story from sciencemag.org. It concerns Madagascar’s mysterious, small wild cat, which looks very much like a large, domestic tabby cat. This is unsurprising because the experts believe that around 1000 years ago (900 C.E.) or earlier Arabian ships may have transported domestic cats to Madagascar. There appears to be quite a history of Arabic influence on the island of Madagascar because of the Indian Ocean trade routes that stretched from Arabian ports to the island starting in the second millennium BCE.

Forest cats of Madagascar came from Arabian Peninsular it is believed
Forest cats of Madagascar came from Arabian Peninsular it is believed

It would appear that domestic cats from the Arabian peninsular we used as ship’s cats on trading ships from the Arabian Peninsula to the island of Madagascar. The ship’s cats disembarked with their owners and became domestic companion animals on the island. Some became feral which is very typical because almost inevitably some domestic cats leave the home environment or are abandoned and become feral and survive. They breed to create a colony and then, as appears to be the case in this instance, they become a wild cat perhaps unique to this island.

This is not a new species of cat but effectively a feral, domestic cat (Felis silvestris catus) . However, they appear to be larger than normal averaging more than 0.6 m in length. If this is true it is due to uninterrupted breeding over a thousand years. They are called “forest cats”. They have spent centuries adapting to the island preying upon lemurs and other mammals, birds and insects on the island as is usual for feral cats. Australia’s feral cats are similar.

There are no wild cat species on the island. The largest mammalian carnivore on the island is the fossa. They weigh between 5.5 and 8.6 kg (12 and 19 pounds). They are comparable in size to the island’s forest cats but perhaps a little larger. They no doubt compete with the forest cats for prey and indeed they may prey upon them.

Some pages on cat history

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