Video of Chinese desert (mountain) cat

Here is a video from China of the rarely discussed Chinese desert cat (Felis bieti). There are also clips of snow leopards. ‘Chinese desert cat’ is perhaps a misnomer because this wild cat does not live in the desert. It is also called the Chinese mountain cat.

Chinese mountain cat
Chinese mountain cat. Screenshot from video. Beautiful and majestic cat.
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The video is really nice and very rare. It is wonderful to see a Chinese desert cat in a film because we only see a few photographs normally. It is a fairly large animal about twice the size of a domestic cat. In the video you can see that its fur is quite long reflecting no doubt it’s habitat which must be quite cold for long periods being at high elevations.


 
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The books that I have describe the fur as nearly uniformly pale yellow-grey, ticked with longer dark brown or black guard hairs. The underfur is gray next to the skin and brownish at the tips. The belly fur is white. It seems to me that they vary in appearance. I have seen variants which are less slender.

As I understand it, this video was made in the Qjinghai region. As at 2002 this wild cat species was mainly distributed in Sichuan, Shanxi, Gansu, Inner Mongolia, Xingjiang and Qjinghai. My reference books do not have a lot of information about this cat species. They were first recorded in 1889 by members of a scientific expedition lead by Prince Henry d’Orleans. The main evidence for their existence came from skins on sale in fur markets in Szechwan Province. They purchased two skins and they are apparently still at the Musee d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris.

It’s classification as a separate species to the Eurasian wildcat is probably in doubt. I’m sure you will find books referring to it as a subspecies in the same bracket as the domestic cat, the Eurasian wildcat and the African-Asian wildcat (North African wildcat).

The video is really nice and very rare. It is wonderful to see a Chinese desert cat in a film because we only see a few photographs normally. It is a fairly large animal about twice the size of a domestic cat. In the video you can see that its fur is quite long reflecting no doubt it’s habitat which may be quite cold for long periods.

The books describe the fur as nearly uniformly pale yellow-grey, ticked with longer dark brown or black guard hairs. The under fur is grainier the skin and brownish at the tips. The belly fur is white.

As I understand it, this video was made in the Qjinghai region. As at 2002 this wild cat species was mainly distributed in Sichuan, Shanxi, Gansu, Inner Mongolia, Xingjiang and Qjinghai. My reference books do not have a lot of information about this cat species. They were first recorded in 1889 by members of a scientific expedition. The main evidence for their existence came from skins on sale in fur markets in Szechwan Province. They purchased two skins and they are apparently still at the Musee d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris.

It’s classification as a separate species to the Eurasian wildcat is probably in doubt. I’m sure you will find books referring to it as a subspecies in the same bracket as the domestic cat and the Eurasian wildcat and the African-Asian wildcat.

The records suggest that they inhabit mountainous terrain and they’ve been seen at elevations of 2800 to 4100 metres above sea level. As mentioned, it’s habitat is not so much desert terrain but probably steppe and mountainous terrain with bush and forest which is similar to the forest used by the giant panda and the golden monkey.

The skins referred to were apparently taken from cats on the steep slopes of the Tibetan plateau from about 30 to 38° North latitude at elevations up to 3000 metres.

On an analysis of scats (faeces) it appears that they feed primarily on rodents but they also prey on birds and pikas. They rest in burrows during the day and hunt primarily at dawn and dusk and at night which is similar to the domestic cat. This is unsurprising seeing as they are within the same category of wild cat.

It is said that they mate between January and March and most offspring are born in May. The birth dens are in burrows which are usually situated on south-facing slopes. Litter size is probably 2 to 4.

Their status in the wild in terms of vulnerability to extinction is not well known. Some believe the cat is rare and some don’t. Skins continue to be found at fur markets. A recent article on a Chinese website, Xinhuanet.com states that Chairman Xi is interested in the conservation of the Chinese mountain cat and the snow leopard. I don’t believe it but the administrators of the area where this video was made, which is the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau ,are apparently interested in conservation.

There has been pollution in the area from illegal factories one of which was an asbestos factory. These factories negatively impacted the lives of sheep herders in the area. When the sheep were slaughtered asbestos residue was found in their intestines. You can imagine the negative impact upon the wild species as well including the cats referred to.

As I understand it, both these species are found in the Qilian Mountains National Park. The local administration have spent 613 million yuan on an ecological restoration project to restore the area to its previous grandeur. I presume that this refers to restricting or eliminating illegal businesses in the area.

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