The rusty-spotted cat is the smallest wild cat species. It is half the size of a domestic cat but extremely agile and active. It has been called the hummingbird of the cat family. And let’s not forget it is a wild cat and therefore can be very aggressive. Some people might believe that they can domesticate this cat but they can’t, in truth, and shouldn’t (although see below).
As you can see in this rare video, the rusty-spotted cat has short, brownish, grey fur tinged with a rufus colour. In 2002 this diminutive cat species was thought to be confined to Sri Lanka and southern India but reports at that time extended the species-range to some 1600 km north of Bombay. No doubt, however, it’s distribution is being squeezed by human population growth and activity. It is a cryptic animal and rarely seen which is one reason why the video on this page is exceptional.
The rusty-spotted cat is found in moist and dry deciduous forest, tropical thorn forest, shrub forest, grassland, arid shrub lands, rocky areas and hill slopes. When the cat is seen it is most frequently in areas of teak, bamboo, grass and dry thorny vegetation. You might be lucky to see this cat between sea level to elevations of 2100 m in humid forest, in low scrub, on mountaintops and in arid coastal belts.
This cat weighs only a few pounds but they are said to be extremely fierce.
“For its size, it is singularly vicious” (de Alwis)
There’s a report (1874) by a scientist, TC Jerdon, who states that he had a pet rusty-spotted cat but a very wild cat nonetheless. He says that he introduced his pet cat to a gazelle fawn in a room. The cat leapt at the gazelle and seized it by the nape. He had difficulty taking his ‘pet’ off the animal.
There are very few rusty-spotted cats in zoos which is one reason why we know very little about the species. Very few of them have been studied in the wild. The team who made the video on this page are probably one of the first to have done so. The rusty-spotted cat’s diet consists mainly of birds and small mammals and includes possibly insects, lizards and frogs. There are reports that this cat also kills domestic chickens and ducks when the opportunity presents itself. In captivity they have demonstrated a tremendous appetite. A cat weighing 5 pounds will eat 4 to 6 ounces of meat mixture and a dead mouse or chick every day.
Although most sightings have shown the cat to be a ground dwelling cat early reports suggested that it might be partially arboreal (tree-dweller).
Although a fierce fighter this small animal is prey to other predators including foxes, jackals and other larger cats. It is a superb climber which enables it to escape predation.
The cat scent marks just like any other cat including domestic cats by spraying urine. In captivity the cat does not do well. This is unsurprising as most wild cats do badly in captivity. This species contracts feline enteritis as a matter of routine once in captivity and therefore they must be vaccinated against the disease immediately.
The info comes from myself & Wild Cats of the World by Mel and Fiona Sunquist.
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