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…..no 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.
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.
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 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.