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Felis (Prionailurus) bengalensis


Maximus of Bamboo  copyrights
Maximus of Bamboo

 

Description

The Leopard Cat (LC) comes in many sub-species that range from five pounds to twenty pounds in size. Being a small cat, they are a very shy animal and are as much predatorized as being a predator. They are known to eat small birds, rodents, insects, fish and vegetation in the wild.

        The Euptilura subspecies are are often more than twice as large as many southern Asian subspecies, with a dense coat, heavy bone and  muscling, and thick tail. These  traits are necessary for survival in the cold northern regions where they originate. The Euptilura has earned the nick name of Amur, for the Amur region of Russia where the Euptilura are commonly found. But it should also be noted that the Euptilura range does run down through eastern China as far south including northern Korea where they are commonly called Asian Leopard Cats as well.

        The LC is not an aggressive cat and will flee rather then fight. The leopard cat is a beautiful spotted cat which is similar in size to a tall domestic cat. Their coats are generally pale brown/tawny yellow, but this coloring is extremely variable, and may be bright reddish or gray. Under parts are white and they are marked with dark spots, bands, blotches, and rosettes. There are usually four longitudinal black bands running from the forehead to behind the neck. The ears of a leopard cat are wide and rounded with a white spot on the black backs. Two whitish stripes run up from the internal corners of the eyes and there are one or two white streaks across the cheeks. The tail is spotted at the base and in some subspecies, ringed indistinctly toward the tip. The soles of the feet are dark brown, and the legs are relatively long.

Characteristically the leopard cat has a small head and narrow muzzle. The skull is short and rounded and the orbits of the eye sockets are open at the back. Usually the anterior upper premolar is present.

Leopard cats are usually classified in the genus Felis, but Wozencraft (1993) in his recent review of cat taxonomy put them in the genus Prionailurus. This reflects that the leopard cat's relationship with the other members of the genus (the flat-headed cat P. planiceps; rusty-spotted cat P. rubiginosus; fishing cat P. viverrinus) is closer than it is to the other cats.

There are at least ten leopard cat subspecies:


F. (P.) b. bengalensis* India to Indo-China and Yunnan
F. (P.) b. borneoensis Borneo
F. (P.) b. chinensis China and Taiwan
F. (P.) b. euptilura North Korea, Far Eastern China, East Siberia
F. (P.) b. horsfieldi Kashmir to Sikkim
F. (P.) b. javanensis Java and Bali
F. (P.) b. manchurica Manchuria
F. (P.) b. minuta Philippines
F. (P.) b. sumatrans Sumatra
F. (P.) b. trevelyani North Kashmir to South Baluchistan, Pakistan
* endangered subspecies
This list does not contain Tsushima cat, which was only recognized by science in 1988, when it was given species status. It is now believed to be a variety of the leopard cat. It is smaller and darker than the typical leopard cats and its population appears to have been separated from the mainland leopard cats for a long time. One article in the newsletter of the IUCN Cat Specialist Group, Cat News, stated that the Tsushima cat was a member of the Siberian subspecies, P. b. euptilura (More on the Tsushima Cat. Cat News 12, 1990, p. 23). Previously, Professor P. Leyhausen stated that specimens from the island of Tsushima “clearly belonged to the subspecies P. b. manchuricus” (New Cat Not New? Cat News 11, 1989, p.18).

These subspecies and those of many other animals are the subject of much taxonomic debate, and many are disputed. Much more genetic evidence is required before subspecies can be accurately determined, if they ever can be.

The Sumatran subspecies has fewer and smaller markings than the typical mainland forms. In contrast to the bright and quite rufous Bornean subspecies, the Javanese and Balinese leopard cats have rather dull coloration. The Pakistani leopard cat is rather gray. The largest subspecies is the one which occurs the farthest north, P. b. euptilura, the gray coat is thicker and less distinctly marked than the other subspecies. As the scientific name suggests, the Philippine race is the smallest.

         Principal dimensions



  Overall Males Females
Head and Body lengths (cm) 44-107    
Tail lengths (cm) 15-44    
Weight (Kg) 3-7    

 

Distribution and Habitats

Leopard cats are one of the most common and widely distributed felids, from the dense tropical forests of Sumatra to the Manchurian and Siberian taiga. They are not restricted to primary forests, being found in scrublands, second-growth woodland, semi-deserts, and even agricultural regions, especially near water. They are tolerant of human activity, often being found close to villages.
Distributed as far north as North Korea, the Amur basin, East Siberia and as far south as Bali, the leopard cat's range extends towards Pakistan through northern India, the southern Himalaya, Bangladesh, Burma, and Indo-China. They are found on the Philippines, Borneo and Java and several island near Japan.

The island of Tsushima is 700 km2, with steep mountains and ravines. On the map it appears as a tiny dot just off the south coast of Korea
The map shows the distribution of Leopard Cats in red.
The map is based on information in the Wild Cats Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan published by the IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group in 1996.

Diet

Leopard cats are, like most felids, opportunists, and they will prey on hares, rodents, reptiles, moles, insects, amphibians, game birds, fish, mouse deer and the fawns of roe deer. Grass and eggs may supplement their diets. They are known to raid poultry and to tackle aquatic prey in the water.

Behavior

Primarily nocturnal, leopard cats hunt both on the ground and in trees. They are also reported to swim very well. A male's home range has been measured as 9.0 km2. The southern or Asian Leopard Cats usually pair and sometimes even for life and males will participate in rearing their young, unlike most felids. The northern or Amur Leopard Cats are usually solitary and  males may breed several females a year.

Many cats delineate their territories using their feces and spray urine as scent markers, but adult leopard cats usually urinate and defecate in water to mask their traces. This behavior has also been noted in captive animals. Juveniles will bury their feces near the den. This avoids drawing attention to themselves. The larger Leopards take significant numbers of leopard cats.

Reproduction

One to four (usually two or three) kittens are born, about May, in a hollow tree or rock cavity. Gestation takes about 56 to 72 days. At birth the kittens weigh about 75 to 130 grams. They open their eyes when they are about ten days old, and start to eat meat by 23 days. Sexual maturity is reached at 18 months. If the kittens are removed from the mother, she is able to have another litter that year.

Lifespan

 
In the wild, a Leopard Cat's lifespan is only about 3.5 years. A captive Leopard Cat has been reported to lived for 19 years. Unfortunately, most don't live only but a few years in captivity. Many cubs are still being taken from the wild and exported and lost during and shortly after being shipped. This is because of so many being purchased by inexperienced Bengal breeders.

It should be noted, that only about one of ten Leopard Cats will breed a domestic cat and many of those that don't breed, end up being neglected, mistreated, or even released in the wild to die of starvation. Every year countless of valuable Leopard Cat unquie genes are lost.  It is our belief that no one should own Leopard Cats unless they will maintain a Leopard Cat breeding program.



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