The adorable and cute Pallas’s cat is quite friendly

It is not often that you can describe a wild cat, albeit a small one, as “quite friendly” as Mel and Fiona Sunquist did in their excellent book1. And yet a well-known British biologist, R.I. Pocock described captive Pallas’s cats (alternative names ‘manul’ or ‘Pallas cat’) as follows:

The manul is markedly different in both behavior and appearance from the majority of the specimens of the genus Felis kept in captivity… fear or desire to hide from spectators.”

The genus Felis is the family of cats on the planet so he is comparing Pallas’s cat to all other wild cat species.

Cute Pallas's cat in rucksack
Cute Pallas’s cat in rucksack (backpack)
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

This observation begs the question why this wild cat was not domesticated along the lines of the African-Asian wildcat (the domestic cat’s ancestor). The answer is probably one of common sense and practicalities. Pallas’s cat lives in relatively remote regions while the Africa wildcat lived near human settlements and became integrated into those settlements.

People consider Pallas’s cat to be cute and there is a desire amongst some to try and adopt one as a pet. Bearing in mind what Pocock said it might be workable but it is not a good idea and it, too, is impractical.

I am strongly against pet wild cats of any species as it is against conservation first and foremost and there are very few people who can do justice to the demands of looking after a small wild cat. It can be cruel because of the unnaturalness and small size of the environment. I am against zoos as well. Humans should not possess any wild creature as far as I am concerned. Let them live freely in the wild and let’s stop breeding as a human race, please. I know I am being entirely unrealistic which is depressing.

Captive Pallas’s cats are incredibly rare in the USA or at least they were in 1989. In that year only ten were held in institutions participating in ISIS (International Species Information System – now called Species360). At that time, it was believed that virtually all Pallas’s cats born in North America were the offspring of two individuals who were related and probably past the age of breeding. In addition, they breed badly in captivity and the offspring have high mortality rates; not good at all.

I made a map of all American zoos and listed the wild cat species at those zoos. I don’t recall any keeping Pallas’s cat but I am happy to be corrected. – The map is no longer because Google stopped providing the service.

The Pallas’s cat’s cuteness extends to the sounds it makes. It’s sexual call is a combination of a dog bark and an owl’s hoot.

Note 1 — Wild Cats of the World page 223.

15 thoughts on “The adorable and cute Pallas’s cat is quite friendly”

    • Thanks Tamara. Interesting. They do live at high altitude which is why their coats are so dense. The densest of all cats. But I guess these manuls (their scientific name) are not living at the upper reaches of Mount Everest! No, somewhere at the bottom but still thousands of feet above sea level.

      • Had to go look further into this. 17,000 ft!!! But we must remember global warming has melted a lot of ice and snow. It’s getting hotter at lower elevations and with the thick fur of the Pallas cat of course it would move higher up.
        From April 7 to May 2, 2019, Dr. Tracie Seimon of Wildlife Conservation Society’s Zoological Health Program, based at the Bronx Zoo, co-led the Perpetual Planet Everest Expedition biology field team of scientists who collected environmental samples from two locations 6 km (3.7 miles) apart at 5,110 and 5,190 m (16,765 and 17,027 ft) elevation above sea level along Sagarmatha National Park on Mount Everest’s Southern Flank.

        • So it got me to thinking about the conditions on Mount Everest. And sure enough the glaciers are melting, fast. Bodies are popping up.
          So the Pallas’s cat is moving up to cooler climates and I’m sure other animals are too. I live in SW Missouri and a few years ago I saw a roadrunner! I think animals are moving north to get away from the heat. We are all frogs sitting in a pot boiling slowly and yet the nuts are still screaming hoax.

  1. This has little to do with the actual Pallas cat and its temperament, but I discovered this cat’s existence from an article in my family’s 1960’s and 1970’s set of Encyclopedia Brittanica when I was a teenager. I noted particularly the marked resemblance between Pallas (in a reproduction of a portrait engraving accompanying the article) and his namesake cat (a photograph accompanied the article), especially regarding their respective eyes, brows, and visages. Just an example of a happy co-incidence I suppose.

    • I’ll check that out because it interests me. Thanks for telling me and hope you are well. I think I’ve had Omicron Covid for the past 2.5 weeks and it was unpleasant. I kept on working but it was hard. Terrible sore throat. Agony. Anyway, I think I am over it.

  2. I’ve seen this video before and I love how the cat sees the camera and then peeks into the lens. It never gets old and makes me LOL.

  3. Only if it weren’t difficult to breed and keep them (rare and mortality rate), they’d be VERY popular for sure. That R.I. Pocock described them as quite friendly probably says as much about their careful handling. It takes good humans to allow good qualities to show in non-human animals. Unfortunately, in the future it might be that for some species, keeping them in zoos or as pets might be the last resort to save them from extinction. I don’t see a way around it due to habitat loss. That seemed impossible to me as a kid, but now totally probable.

    • Watching their behavior, although they are of their own genus and have been separated from Felis by 6M years, it’s obvious that they are still cats and can be expected to socialise well with humans and other cats.

      The biggest barriers will be environmental (they can’t tolerate much heat, as can be seen in Japanese zoos), and medical (they have little or no resistance to lowland diseases and none at all to the killer toxoplasma, which has been responsible for the 50% death rate in the first 30 days of life).

      But the Cincinnati zoo’s specialist vets may have solved the toxoplasma problem: the vets take the neonates before they first suckle and put them to willing wet-nurses (lybica moggies) who are nursing and are known to be disease free and not to have any objection to taking in foster kids. By the time the children are returned to Mum, they are eating solids and no longer in such devastating danger.
      (What hasn’t been reported is how hard it is on the Mums to lose their kids for months immediately after birth. We know from observation that they are excellent, attentive, and loving mothers so it cannot be easy for them)

      The minimum environmental quality would have to be air conditioning always on, possibly organised to chill a purpose-built stony cave in the back yard. And the full array of vaccinations every month. Supporting the cats would not be cheap. We could expect them to begin adapting over generations, but the thought of the cost in lives makes me feel ill. But I trained in psychology and engineering, not as a physician, pharmacist, or biochemist, so I can hope that there are ways to get around the death toll that I have yet to learn.

      I’m as certain as I can be that unless we humans take responsibility for supporting and socialising enough of the floofs as a client species that can live with us as the lybicas’ descendants do, they will be driven to extinction everywhere.

      • Thanks for your comment. You paint a pretty pessimistic picture but probably a true one. I’d prefer that the human race stopped procreating and stopped thinking about economic growth and started to give wild animals some space and to leave them alone. That’s a mad dream. We’ve totally f**k*d up when it comes to conservation of the wild cats. All wild cats of any species are under pressure from humans to varying degrees. Many are heading towards extinction in the wild.


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