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Leopard Cat[1]
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Prionailurus
Species: P. bengalensis
Binomial name
Prionailurus bengalensis
(Kerr, 1792)

The Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) is a small wild cat of Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent. There are eleven subspecies of Leopard Cat, classified according to their wide geographic dispersal. The Leopard Cat's name is derived from the leopard-like spots prevalent in all subspecies, but its relation to the leopard is distant, as the leopard is a member of a different genus, Panthera.

Contents

Distribution

The Leopard Cat has the widest geographic distribution of all felines. It can be found in forest areas throughout Indonesia, Philippines, Borneo, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, China and Taiwan. The cat also can be found in Korea, Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan. Their range of habitat is varied, and includes tropical forest, scrubland, pine forest, second-growth woodland, semi-desert, and agricultural regions, especially near water sources; they may also be found at heights up to 3000 m.

Physical characteristics

A Leopard Cat at the Bronx Zoo

On average, the Leopard Cat is as large as a Domestic Cat, but there are considerable regional differences: in Indonesia the average size is 45 cm (18 in), plus a 20 cm (8 in) tail, while it is 60 cm/40 cm (24/16 in) in the southern Amur region. The shoulder height is 41 cm (16 in) and the weight is 4.5-6.8 kg (10-15 lbs), similar to a Domestic Cat. The fur color is also variable: it is yellow in the southern populations, but silver-grey in the northern ones. The chest and the lower part of the head are white. The Leopard Cat bears black markings that may be spotted or rosetted, depending on the subspecies. It has litters of 2 to 4 kittens; the gestation period can vary from 60 to 70 days.

Habitat and behavior

The Leopard Cat is a skillful tree climber. It is also able to swim, but will seldom do so. This cat is nocturnal, and during the day it spends its time in dens that may be hollow trees, cavities under roots, or caves. It spends time outside during the day in areas where there are no humans. The Leopard Cat is solitary, except during breeding season. There is no fixed breeding period in the southern part of its range; in the colder northern parts it tends to breed around March or April, when the weather is nice enough to support newborn kittens. Leopard Cats usually pair for life and raise their cubs together for about 7 to 10 months. Full maturity is reached at 18 months, but in captivity, the male can become ready to breed at 7 months, and the female at 10 months.

Reproduction and development

The estrus period lasts for 5-9 days. After a gestation period of 9-10 weeks (60-70 days), two to four kittens are born in a den, where they remain until they are a month old. The kittens weigh about 75 to 130 g at birth and usually double their weight by age of two weeks; at five weeks, they are four times their birth weight. The eyes open at ten days, and the kittens start to eat solid food at 23 days. At the age of four weeks, the permanent canines appear, which coincides with their intake of solid food. If the kittens do not survive, the mother can come into heat again and have another litter that year.

Diet

An alert Leopard Cat

Leopard Cats are carnivorous, and feed on variety of small prey, including mammals, lizards, amphibians, birds, and insects. The Northern subspecies of Leopard Cat also eat hares. The diet is often supplemented with grass, eggs, poultry, and aquatic prey.

Conservation

In Hong Kong, the Leopard Cat is a protected species under the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance Cap 170. The population is well over 50,000 individuals and although declining, the cat is not endangered.[2]

The conservation status of the Leopard Cat is listed as Appendix II in CITES (species that are not necessarily now threatened with extinction but that may become so unless trade is closely controlled), and of Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Subspecies

Leopard Cat (Javan variety) from Richard Lydekker's "A hand-book to the Carnivora" (1896)

The Iriomote Cat (P. iriomotensis) was once considered a subspecies of the Leopard Cat. It lives exclusively on the tiny island of Iriomote, one of the Yaeyama Islands in the Japan archipelago.

The Tsushima Cat lives exclusively on Tsushima Island in the Korea Strait. A fragile population, the Tsushima Cat was estimated to number between 70 and 90 in 1997. This cat was first regarded as a separate species, later as a subspecies of the Leopard Cat, and now as a variety of the Manchurian subspecies, P. b. euptailurus.

Recent molecular analysis of leopard cat populations [3] found a clear distinction between northern leopard cat populations (Tsushima, Korea, Siberia, China and Taiwan) and southeast Asian populations. If these genetic differences indicate a specific distinction, P. b. euptailurus may yet be a valid species.

Leopard Cats as pets

Leopard Cats are said to be the most difficult to tame of all the Asian wild cats. Keeping a Leopard Cat as a pet is possible, though a license is required in most places. License requirements vary by location.

The Asian Leopard Cat (P. bengalensis bengalensis) is often mated with a domestic cat to produce hybrid offspring known as a Bengal cat. These hybrids are permitted to be kept as pets without a license. For the typical pet owner, a Bengal cat kept as a pet should be least four generations (F4) removed from the Leopard Cat. The so-called "foundation cats" from the first three filial generations of breeding (F1-F3) are usually reserved for breeding purposes or the specialty pet home environment.[4]

References

  1. ^ Wozencraft, W. C. (16 November 2005). Wilson, D. E., and Reeder, D. M. (eds). ed. Mammal Species of the World (3rd edition ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 542-543. ISBN 0-801-88221-4. http://www.bucknell.edu/msw3.  
  2. ^ a b Sanderson, J., Sunarto, S., Wilting, A., Driscoll, C., Lorica, R., Ross, J., Hearn, A., Mujkherjee, S., Ahmed Khan, J., Habib, B. & Grassman, L. (2008). Prionailurus bengalensis. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 22 March 2009. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of least concern
  3. ^ T. Tamada, B. Siriaroonrat, V. Subramaniam, et al. (2006). "Molecular diversity and phylogeography of the Asian leopard cat, Felis bengalensis...". Zoological science 26: 154-163. doi:10.2108/zsj.25.154. http://www.bioone.org/doi/pdf/10.2108/zsj.25.154.  
  4. ^ Breeding the ALC with domestic cats
  • Sunquist, M. & F., 2002, Wild cats of the world, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

External links

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