Categories: Wild Cat Species

Marbled Cat Range

The title to this page is misleading as it evolved to provide comprehensive information about this cat species including its distribution.

Marbled Cat Range – 2009: Below is a large format map of the distribution of the marbled cat (scientific name: Pardofelis marmorata). It is faithfully reproduced from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ map as best as is practically possible when bearing in mind the scale of the Red List map. Google maps have the capacity of being far more accurate because of close zooming. The original of the map below is on this page: Marbled Cat Range 2009 (new window).

The idea is that the original map is public and what I call “open collaboration”, which means anyone with sufficient knowledge and willingness can refine the map. I think it is common knowledge that all wild cat range maps can and should be constantly improved.

The map below can be moved inside the window by holding down left click and moving the mouse. There is more general information about the marbled cat below the map.

View Marbled Cat Range 2009 in a larger map

August 2009: Marbled cat photographs are very hard to come by indicating that this is a rare and secretive wild cat. In 1884 Robert Sterndale (in National History of the Mammalia of India and Ceylon) reported that “very little is known about the habits of this cat”.  Judging by the acute scarcity of photographs and indeed information about this cat not much has changed over the intervening 125 years. That may, in fact, be good for the cat. Is it possible that research into the wildcats, the purpose of which is conservation may have some negative aspects to it? The more we know about a cat, the easier it is to exploit it, surely? I wonder then if knowing the marbled cat range better, the purpose behind the open collaboration map that I created will aid this cat’s conservation.

Marbled Cat Range – countries occupied

  • Bhutan
  • Brunei Darussalam
  • Cambodia
  • China
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Laos
  • Malaysia
  • Myanmar
  • Nepal
  • Thailand
  • Viet Nam
  • Bangladesh (unsure)


The appearance of this cat is sometimes misdescribed by photographers. The larger well known picture is definitely a marbled cat as it has distinctive markings on the top of the head. The black spots are somewhat triangular shaped and form an almost symmetrical pattern either side of the middle of the head (a mirror image). The cat in the smaller picture does not have these markings. These special markings merge to form stripes on the neck of the marbled cat. The much earlier drawing below right shows the body markings well and are similar to those in the picture top right. Although the head pattern is not the same. This is probably because of simply inaccuracy although it could be due to naturally occurring variations.

The patterns of some wild cat species vary considerably over the range of the cat (the lynx comes to mind). If the markings on the body in the picture are the same across the marbled cat range then they are distinctive. Sometimes, one species can look very similar to another (the margay and ocelot being an example in terms of pattern).

In line with other small wild cats, the face has strong, high contrast, black markings against a brown background with plenty of white (for further contrast). The eye spots on the back of the ears are also very noticeable in this photograph. These are called ocelli. The  background colour varies from grey-brown to red-brown. The forehead colour of the cat in the picture is red-brown. The underside of the cat, also rather typically, is lighter in colour and has a black spotted pattern.

Although we cannot see it in the picture, the marbled cat’s tail is an outstanding characteristic being very long (as long as or longer than the body). This is to aid balance when climbing. It is also bushy and reminds me of the tail of another tree dwelling cat, the clouded leopard (see also clouded leopard range). Although, the clouded leopard is much larger. And although at one stage it was thought that the marbled cat was a close relative of the clouded leopard, recent genetic analysis has disproved this. There are anatomical similarities beyond the tail. The feet are large (about twice the size of a similar sized small wild cat, the Asian Leopard cat). This I presume is to further aid this cat’s climbing ability. The pattern on the tail is marked with black spots (nearer the base of the tail) and rings (nearer the tip of the tail).

The marbled cat is similar in size to our well known domestic cat at 3 kilograms (6.6 lbs – see Largest Domestic Cat Breed for the range of cat breed weights and Wild Cat Species by Size for a chart of wild cat weights). The actual recorded weights are often lower at 2.4 kg (in Borneo from a small sample of cats) but in Thailand one or more were recorded at 5 kg. In fact there are a number of domestic cat breeds that are considerably heavier and bigger than the marbled cat.

Although little is known about this cat, while preparing the marbled cat range map above and working in “terrain mode” with Google maps, it quickly became apparent to me that this cat lives in forests or has at least a preference for forest cover. And marbled cats that have been “collected” (trapped?) have come from lowland forests which are usually about 300 metres above sea level. However, the marbled cat has been seen in forests at 1,200 metres above sea level (Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Thailand – see marbled cat range map above – blue marker). As mentioned its anatomy strongly supports this. The marbled cat has been seen stalking birds in trees. (Wild cats of the world by Guggisberg 1975 reporting on Strebbing’s). It also hunts on the ground judging by its prey.


Being arboreal, birds it is believed are a major part of the diet of the marbled cat. Other prey include:

  • squirrels
  • frogs
  • lizards

Marbled cat drawing created some time between 1814-1865

Reproduction and development

Studies have been made in captivity:

  • duration of pregnancy: 66 – 82 days
  • weight of newborns: 61 – 85 grams
  • kitten opens eyes
    for first time: 12 days old
  • kitten eats solid food
    for first time: 59 days old
  • kitten eating meat: 121 days old
  • cat reaches sexual maturity 21 – 22 months of age
  • death: about 12 years of age

Marbled Cat Range – Threats and Conservation

The Red List is the primary source. This cat lives in forests. Forests are being cut down. The threat is apparent. The marbled cat is not only cat threatened in this way. The Sumatran tiger, clouded leopard and margay come to mind immediately. There are more. There is a lot of deforestation in Asia where a number of small wild cats are found. A little more than 10% of the forest in Asia has been cut down in ten years (1.2-1.3% per year on this basis). One current (at 2009) reason for deforestation is to plant oil palm for diesel replacement, which makes a mockery of the green credentials of the concept of burning oil palm rather then diesel (see Wildcat Habitats). Total population size is estimated to be 10,000 mature individuals. Despite this it is killed for its skin (human decoration), meat (food?) and bones (medicine, I expect). The marbled cat is killed by people because it kills their poultry probably because it has to. For these reasons the Red List classification is Vulnerable:

Within the marbled cat range, paper protection comes from a CITES Appendix I listing. Species so listed are the most endangered among CITES and they are threatened with extinction and “CITES prohibits international trade in specimens of these species except when the purpose of the import is not commercial” (CITES).

There are reserves within the marbled cat range that are intended to protect and further protection (more paper protection I suspect due to lack of enforcement) comes in the form of hunting bans in the following countries:

  • Bangladesh
  • Cambodia
  • China (Yunnan only)
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Malaysia
  • Myanmar (trade in animal parts in this country takes place openly I allege)
  • Nepal
  • Thailand

From Marbled Cat Range to Wild Cat Species

Marbled Cat Range – Source other than stated:

  • Wild Cats Of The World (Sunquists)
  • top photo: Marbled cat – Wikimedia commons Johan Embréus (Embreus (talk))
Please comment here using either Facebook or WordPress (when available).
Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

View Comments

  • Hello,

    My mother just been to her country home and sighted a Wild Cat, and the description, which she gave me over phone seems to be a Marbled Cat. Its lives on the coconut palm trees and only comes down for some time and again climbs up another coconut palm tree.

    • Fantastic. Marbled cats are pretty secretive and I'd be wonderful if she could get a photo. I know that is almost impossible but it would be nice for the record. Thanks for sharing your experience on PoC.

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