This picture of a female Chinese mountain cat and her kittens has just emerged although the date on the camera trap photograph tells me that it was taken on 19 September 2018 at 5:51 PM in the afternoon. It seems that she has made a den in the side of a hill. It seems almost certain that she has taken over a burrow made by another animal. The photograph is rare and it is the first I have seen of this secretive cat in the wild.
The report online appears to have got their dates mixed up. I don’t think that is important, however. In China, we are told, that this rare species of wild cat, which is in the same family of cats as the domestic cat and the Scottish wildcat, is under “second-class national protection”. I don’t know what that means exactly but it at least tells us that this cat is protected in China.
Liu Yanlin who is involved in researching this species of cat, said that it is rare for one female Chinese mountain cat to successfully raise four cubs at once. We don’t see four cubs or kittens in the picture.
I am told that the photograph was taken in the Qinghai section of the Quilian Mountain National Park. This is one of China’s pilot national parks. It covers 50,200 km².
I have a page on the Chinese mountain cat, which is also called the Chinese desert cat, a misnomer because the cat does not live in the desert.
Chinese mountain cat in brief
The Chinese mountain cat has also been known as the Pale Desert Cat or the Pale Cat. This is a wildcat which is slightly larger than a domestic cat. It’s coat does not have the usual feline spots or stripes. There is an overall yellowish-grey colour.The female cat in the photograph has a stocky and robust conformation. Her kittens do have tabby markings. They are quite high contrast and very pronounced. It appears that these markings fade as the kitten develops into adulthood. The tail is tipped with black and a few dark rings circumvent it. The thick coat informs us that this cat lives in a cold environment. There are tufts of hair sprouting between the pads of its paws. It inhabits barren steppe country and mountain brush terrain. The picture on this page I think is an accurate reflection of the sort of habitat in which this cat survives.
In 1996, Dr Desmond Morris described this species of wild cat as the least known by the experts. Most of our knowledge at that time came from skins that had been offered for sale by fur-trappers in local markets. This cat weighs between 11 and 13 pounds and the length of head plus body is 27.5 inches to 33.5 inches (70 to 85 cm). It’s tail length varies between 11.5 inches and 14 inches (29-35 cm).