Animal Info - Rusty-spotted Cat

(Other Names: Bitari Billi, Chat-Léopard de l'Inde, Chat Rougeàtre, Chat Rubigineux, Gato Rojizo, Gato Rubiginosa, Handun Diviya, Kaadu Bekku, Kadu Poona, Kola Diviya, Namali Pelli, Rostkatze, Verewa Puni, Wal Balalla)

Prionailurus rubiginosus (Felis r.)

Status: Vulnerable


Contents

1. Profile (Picture)
2. Tidbits
3. Status and Trends (IUCN Status, Countries Where Currently Found, Taxonomy, Population Estimates, History of Distribution, Threats and Reasons for Decline)
4. Data on Biology and Ecology (Size and Weight, Habitat, Age to Maturity, Gestation Period, Birth Season, Birth Rate, Early Development, Dispersal, Maximum Reproductive Age, Maximum Age, Diet, Behavior, Social Organization, Age and Gender Distribution, Mortality and Survival, Density and Range)
5. References


Profile

Pictures: Rusty-spotted Cat #1 (5 Kb JPEG) (Tiger Terr.); Rusty-spotted Cat #2 (23 Kb JPEG) (IUCN Cat Spec. Gr.); Rusty-spotted Cat #3 (37 Kb JPEG) (Cat Surv. Trust) 

The rusty-spotted cat is one of the smallest cat species, with a head and body length of up to 48 cm (19") and a weight of up to 1.6 kg (3.5 lb).  The rusty-spotted cat's coat is a short, soft fawn-grey with a rufous tinge, patterned with transverse lines of small rusty-brown spots which form solid stripes along the back of the head. The belly, chest, and throat are white, marked with large dark spots and bars.  The tail, which averages about half of the head-body length, is faintly marked with dark rings.

In India the rusty-spotted cat is found in moist and dry deciduous forests, tropical thorn forest, scrub forest grasslands, arid shrublands, rocky areas, and hill slopes. In Sri Lanka the rusty-spotted cat is found from sea level to elevations of 2100 m (6900‘) in northern low country dry zone, monsoon forest and grassland, southeastern dry zone, monsoon scrub jungle, scrub forest and grassland, lowland regenerating rainforest, arid coastal belts, and on mountaintops. The rusty-spotted cat has been found in areas of human habitation. 

The rusty-spotted cat mainly feeds on small birds, rodents, frogs, insects and, possibly, small lizards, as well as domestic fowl. In the wild, rusty-spotted cats are thought to be mainly, but not completely, nocturnal and to spend the daytime resting in a hollow log or dense cover. Early reports suggested that the rusty-spotted cat might be partially arboreal, but in recent sightings the cat has always been seen on the ground. 

The rusty-spotted cat is found in India and Sri Lanka. In both of these countries, habitat loss and the spread of cultivation are serious problems for wildlife. In addition, rusty-spotted cats are often killed by local people. In Sri Lanka adults are frequently mistaken for baby leopards and killed. In some parts of India and Sri Lanka the flesh of the rusty-spotted cat is considered edible, and a number of cats are killed for this purpose. Road kills are also a growing threat to the rusty-spotted cat. 


Tidbits

*** Cat Tidbit #10: Large eyes with large pupils generally have good light-gathering abilities. Cats’ eyes are extremely large in relation to their body size; the eye of a domestic cat, for example, is only slightly smaller than the eye of a human. This helps the cat's ability to see at night. (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002) (See Cat Tidbit #11.)

*** Which cat species is the smallest is still open to discussion, with the black-footed cat, kodkod (Chilean cat/guigna), and rusty-spotted cat all candidates for the title (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002).

*** The rusty-spotted cat has been called the hummingbird of the cat family - a fairly apt description, as not only is it about half the size of a domestic cat, but it also is extremely agile and active. (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002).

*** The fact that wild rusty-spotted cats have been found on several occasions to den and breed in the ceiling space of houses, while preying on domestic poultry, is a testimony to feline adaptability (Nowell & Jackson 1996).


Status and Trends

IUCN Status:

[The IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature; also called the World Conservation Union) is the world’s largest conservation organization. Its members include countries, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations.  The IUCN determines the worldwide status of threatened animals and publishes the status in its Red List.]

  • 1988 - 1994: Insufficiently Known
  • 1996: Data Deficient
  • 2002 - 2005: Vulnerable (Criteria: C2a(i)) (Population Trend: Decreasing) (IUCN 2005) 

Countries Where the Rusty-spotted Cat Is Currently Found:

2005: Occurs in India and Sri Lanka (IUCN 2005).

Taxonomy:

Recent genetic analyses have lead to the proposal that all modern cats can be placed into eight lineages which originated between 6.2 - 10.8 million years ago. The rusty-spotted cat is placed in the "leopard cat lineage," which diverged from its ancestors as a separate lineage 6.2 million years ago. The leopard cat lineage also includes the pallas cat, the flat-headed cat, the leopard cat, and the fishing cat. (Johnson et al. 2006)

Population Estimates:

[Note: Figures given are for wild populations only.]

History of Distribution:

The rusty-spotted cat was originally thought to be confined to Sri Lanka and southern India, with a distribution extending some 110 km (68 mi) north of Bombay and as far east as Seoni in Madhya Pradesh. However, in recent decades, observations of this cat in other areas in India have extended its known area of occurrence. In 1975 the rusty-spotted cat was collected in the region of Jammu and Kashmir, in the far north of India on the western rim of the Tibetan plateau. Later it was reported from the Dangs forest in Gujarat. In 1989 and 1990, it was seen in the western portion of the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary. In 1992 it was found near Udaipur in Rajasthan. In 2004, a rusty-spotted cat was sighted in the eastern, dry-deciduous forests of Gujarat, 80 km (50 mi) northeast of Baroda. It has also been reported in Madhya Pradesh and Orissa. (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002, Patel & Jackson 2005)

Distribution Map (1 Kb GIF) (Big Cats Online)

Threats and Reasons for Decline:

Habitat loss and the spread of cultivation are serious problems for wildlife in both India and Sri Lanka. In addition, carnivores which take poultry are vulnerable to persecution. (IUCN 2005)

Rusty-spotted cats are often killed by local people. In Sri Lanka adults are frequently mistaken for baby leopards and killed. In some parts of India and Sri Lanka the flesh of the rusty-spotted cat is considered edible, and a number of cats are taken for this purpose. (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002) Road kills are a growing threat to the rusty-spotted cat. In addition, feral dogs attack the rusty-spotted cat, while feral domestic cats pose a threat through competition for food and transmission of disease. (Bambaradeniya & Amarasinghe 2001)  Inter-breeding with the domestic cat is also a possibility (Kittle & Watson 2004).


Data on Biology and Ecology

Size and Weight:

The head and body length of the rusty-spotted cat is 35 - 48 cm (14 - 19"). It weighs 0.8 - 1.6 kg (1.8 - 3.5 lb). (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002) 

Habitat:

In India the rusty-spotted cat is found in moist and dry deciduous forests, tropical thorn forest, scrub forest grasslands, arid shrublands, rocky areas, and hill slopes. Sightings of the cat are most frequently reported from teak, bamboo, grassy areas, and dry thorny vegetation. In Sri Lanka the rusty-spotted cat is found from sea level to elevations of 2100 m (6900‘) in northern low country dry zone, monsoon forest and grassland, southeastern dry zone, monsoon scrub jungle, scrub forest and grassland, lowland regenerating rainforest, arid coastal belts, and on mountaintops. The rusty-spotted cat has been found in the midst of settled areas. (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002, Nekaris 2003, IUCN 2005)

The rusty-spotted cat is found in the Western Ghats and Sri Lanka Biodiversity Hotspot (Cons. Intl. 2005).  

Age to Maturity:

One female rusty-spotted cat reached sexual maturity at 68 weeks of age (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002).

Gestation Period:

66 - 70 days (captivity) (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002).

Birth Season:

In captivity, births are not confined to any particular season. The only information from the wild comes from Sri Lanka, where a litter of 2-week-old rusty-spotted cat kittens was found in early February. (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002)

Birth Rate:

The female rusty-spotted cat gives birth to one or two kittens. For 9 litters born at the Cincinnati Zoo, the average litter size was 1.55. (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002)

Maximum Age:

At least 16 years (captivity) (Nowak 1999).

Diet:

The rusty-spotted cat feeds mainly on small birds, rodents, frogs and, possibly, small lizards, as well as domestic fowl. It can also be found near termite hills, especially after a heavy downpour, feeding on winged termites that come out for their nuptial flight. (Bambaradeniya & Amarasinghe 2001)

Behavior:

In the wild, rusty-spotted cats are thought to be mainly, but not completely, nocturnal and to spend the daytime resting in a hollow log or dense cover (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002).

Early reports suggested that the rusty-spotted cat might be partially arboreal, but in recent sightings the cat has always been seen on the ground (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002).

One rusty-spotted cat was observed denning in a shallow cave beneath a small rock among a field of tea bushes. The site was close to a steep, rocky patch of virgin jungle. (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002)


References

Bambaradeniya & Amarasinghe 2001, Big Cats Online, Cat Surv. Trust, Cons. Intl. 2005, IUCN 2005, IUCN Cat Spec. Gr., Johnson et al. 2006, Kittle & Watson 2004, Nekaris 2003, Nowak 1999, Nowell & Jackson 1996, Patel & Jackson 2005, Sunquist & Sunquist 2002, Tiger Terr., Tigerhomes


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Last modified: April 25, 2006;

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