Wild Cat Parents of Domestic Cats

by Michael

Asian Leopard Cat - looking deeply unhappy in a nasty cage in a Malaysian zoo. Why do we do this?

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Asian Leopard Cat - looking deeply unhappy in a nasty cage in a Malaysian zoo. Why do we do this?

Of the wild cat parents of domestic cats, the Asian Leopard cat (ALC) is not one of the most suitable. I decided this having read a article by a person who cares for ALCs. With hindsight, if you were starting from scratch today, breeding a wild cat hybrid, it is interesting to ask whether the ALC was the best wild cat for the job? This is in despite of the fact that the Bengal cat (the wild cat hybrid in question) is by far the best known wild cat hybrid.

It seems that the selection of the ALC happened by pure chance when Jean Mill, the founder of the Bengal breed decided to create a wild cat hybrid. An ALC was being used in animal testing/research by a person she knew and one thing led to another. Not a very auspicious start really. But it was a time (the 1960s and 70s) when the idea of wild cat hybrids was taking shape. Here was a tailor made opportunity for a cat breeder to start a whole new cat breed from scratch and become famous for it.

The trouble is that at that time and to a large extent today, people did not know that much about the wild cats, particularly the small wild cats and the ALC is the size of a domestic cat with a coat that was at the time far more glamorous, to some people at least. The ALC is possibly the wildest of the small wild cats. In a very interesting article1, Thierry Plaud describes what it is like to look after Asian Leopard cats and it is quite revealing because the focus in the article is on the character of the cat and how to deal with that and how it impinges on the relationship between cat and human. This is important in that a bit of the ALC is in the Bengal cat (approximately 12% in a stud book Bengal cat or domestic Bengal cat).

In reference to the title of his article Prejudices: The Asian Leopard Cat, Thierry says that the ALC is thought to be impossible to work with. And this is in comparison to other wild cats. For example, the lynx is thought of as sweet natured and the Serval as hissy (they do have a hiss that does not always mean what we think a cat's hiss should mean). On the basis alone that the Bengal is thought of as impossible this begs the question as to whether Jean should have created a wild cat hybrid from a different species of wild cat, say a lynx for starters. Although there a number of lynx/domestic hybrids. Were all of these founded before Jean created the Bengal cat? Not sure without research.

But the "impossible" tag is a prejudice so it is incorrect. However, not by that much wrong as far as I can tell. It seems that of all the wild cats that have been released to the wild from captivity the ALC is the most able and can cope the best. There are many failures by wild cats that couldn't. This indicates a deep rooted wild cat mentality that is untamable.

The ALC will adapt to living with people but readily drifts back to the wild state. For instance not interacting for 5 days with an ALC leads to a need to reacquaint yourself with this very self-possessed cat and to gain its trust.

The Bengal cat has retained a glimmer of this character and I wonder if that makes the Bengal truly the best kind of cat companion. They are a bit wild aren't they. Maybe it is that that makes them attractive but is it practical in the modern world? Could it have been done better? It was all a question of timing and circumstance. Of course it is all very well looking at things in hindsight.

As a candidate for a suitable wild cat in a wild cat breeding program, in hindsight, the ALC ticks the boxes in respect of appearance with its classic rosetted small wild cat coat but it fails on character when compared with a number of other candidates.

Wild cat hybrid -the best knownDate createdWild cat ancestor
Chausie1960sJungle cat
Bengal cat1963Asian Leopard cat
Safari Cat1970sGeoffroy's cat

What happened to the African wildcat as a parent for a hybrid? This cat was domesticated thousands of years ago and is ideal as a domestic cat. But the defining criteria, the colour and markings of the coat are not up to standard in the African wildcat. There are other wild cats that have fathered hybrids but these have failed to take off probably because of the domination of the Bengal and Savannah and people consider these two to be enough.

Wild Cat Parents of Domestic Cats to Wild Cat Species


1 FCF magazine, entitled Prejudices: The Asian Leopard Cat

Comments for
Wildcat Parents of Domestic Cats

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Dec 10, 2009 Last comment
by: Michael

Hi Mary H, thanks very much for your valued input. I agree with what you say in principle. I am simply questioning things with a bit of vigor rather than passing judgment. I hope that comes across and if not I have failed.

I think that we must always question and reflect as it is the only way to improve and we must improve. There is a lot of work to do.

What I don't like to see is the piles of repetitive regurgitation of information about cats on the internet that simply supports the status quo.

There is a lot of good in the cat world and a lot of bad. We have a duty to to deal with and improve the bad and not just to recycle the same old stuff.

Dec 09, 2009 Some Valid Reasons
by: Mary H

While the questions you raise are good points, there are also a couple of things you are not looking at. No. 1 being the fact that many many more people would be buying/owning wildcats like this picture of the poor guy in the cage if they did not have an option to purchase a hybrid instead. Many of the breeders talk folks out of buying pure wildcats for the exact same reason as you state in your concerns. The hybrids, while retaining a lot of the wild look, are much more adaptable to a captive environment than a wild cat ever would be. (And you might want to consider the Mule, which is generally sterile but that has been breed for hundreds of years).
Yes, in an ideal world the money would be going to preserve cats in the wild. In an ideal world many things are different, not just the cat situation. I, for one, am not willing to crucify breeders of the hybrid cats for what I consider to be a viable option to importing/breeding more truly wild cats into our neighborhoods.

What is that saying?? "let he who is without sin cast the first stone..." Good words to live by.

Dec 09, 2009 Very sad
by: Ruth aka Kattaddorra

That picture makes me very sad ! Whether large or small, every cats basic instict is to have freedom, but people are taking more and more of it away.I suppose they will keep on breeding wildness out and domesticating cats more and more until the day comes they are all born totally domesticated and dependant on people.
Some would like to see all cats born clawless too ! I'm sure someone is experimenting right now in the hopes of being the first to achieve that.
This world was never meant to be this way !

Dec 09, 2009 Spot on
by: Anonymous

You are right I believe. More effort and money is given to creating wild cat hybrids as domestic cats than preserving wildcats in the wild. Or at least that is the way it seems from my standpoint.

And it should not be the case. But this is a symptom of everything that is wrong with the planet.

There is little regard for nature. The creation of wealth takes precedence over almost everything at the expense of nature (and true wildcats in the wild).

The feeble excuse that breeding the Bengal cat was done to help highlight wildcat conservation was simply a convenient justification for breeding it, but never really believed by anyone.

Dec 09, 2009 It is in the chromosomes
by: Anonymous

This is what determines if a wild species can be crossed with a domestic. Even then the males from the first cross are sterile and some times it takes even longer before you get fertile males. I have always wondered by people did not put more effort in protecting the wild species instead of creating a bew domestic hybrid.

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