December 27, 2018

Asian Leopard Cat

The Asian Leopard Cat, sometimes referred to as just a Leopard Cat, is known scientifically as the Felis bengalensis or Prionailuros bengalensis. This feline species boasts several subspecies (approximately 10), such as the P.b. sumatranus, P.b. borneoensis, and the P.b. nminuta, located in Sumatra, Borneo, and the Philippines respectively. This wild species can be found across southern and eastern Asia, including islands such as Sumatra, Philippines, Taiwan, Borneo, Bali and Java, as well as in India.

Size and Appearance:

The size of the Asian Leopard Cat varies depending on its region, and can range from a smaller stature of 15 inches (~39 centimeters) to a larger size of 38 inches (~97 centimeters). The Asian Leopard Cat generally weighs between 8 to 17 pounds (3.6 to 7.7. Kilograms), but this can likewise vary depending on the region. Additionally, Manchuria Asian Leopard Cats are generally larger than the other subspecies, whereas the Philippines subspecies are the smallest. The Asian Leopard Cat’s body size and shape is similar to that of a common domestic cat, but the Asian Leopard Cat tends to have longer legs.

Coat color varies greatly depending on the region – Asian Leopard Cats in Sumatra have fewer markings, Asian Leopard Cats in Java and Bali have duller coats, Asian Leopard Cats in Borneo have brighter and redder coats. Subspecies in the northern regions will lean towards a reddish-brown coat, and subspecies in the central/more humid regions will tend to be more yellowish/brownish in color. Throughout the species, the Asian Leopard Cat has a coat with black spots that can be either solid or a rosette (similar to that of a leopard, hence its name). The tail of an Asian Leopard Cat has bands or spots along its length, finishing with a colored tip.

All subspecies have four bands running down from the forehead to the neck, a white underside and throat, as well as a white spot on the back of each ear. Asian Leopard Cats have slight webbing between their toes in order to help them swim and grip onto trees.

Habitat:
The Asian Leopard Cat resides in a variety of habitats, including woodlands, the tropics, scrublands, mountainous areas, and semi-desert climates that have bodies of water. When it comes to forested climates in particular, Asian Leopard Cats can also be found in a wide range of habitats, including evergreen rainforests, rubber plantations, and coniferous forests. Due to the fact that their feet are not suitable for navigating through deep snow, Asian Leopard Cats avoid areas that have a snow depth of over 4 inches (10 centimeters).

Behavior:
The Asian Leopard Cat is a nocturnal species, and prefers to reside in solitariness. Asian Leopard Cats make their homes in hollow trees, caves, or any spaces underneath large roots. They will mark their territories with a variety of methods, including spraying, head rubbing, and scratching.

Competent hunters, the Asian Leopard Cat are able to swim and climb trees, thus enabling them to fish and hunt for birds, squirrels, and other prey in addition to general ground hunting.

Due to their nature, Asian Leopard Cats do not make good pets. Their preference for reclusive and solitary life prevents humans from engaging with them, and their hunting habits are threats to humans (especially children) and domesticated animals.

Diet:
Asian Leopard Cats are carnivorous, and rodents are their favorite type of food. They hunt a large range of small prey, ranging from mammals to amphibians, as well as birds and insects. Asian Leopard Cats also tend to add vegetation, eggs, and aquatic prey (e.g. Fish) to their diets.

Reproduction:
The breeding seasons of each subspecies depend on the climate/region it resides in. For tropical subspecies, there is no set breeding season, and breeding can take place at any time of the year. In northern-based subspecies, breeding occurs annually, around February or March.

The gestation period is around 65-70 days, and queens will produce a litter of 2-4 kittens. Kittens are able to consume meat at 4 weeks of age, and they reach sexual maturity at the early age of one year. Asian Leopard Cats are able to live up to 15 years of age in captivity.

The Asian Leopard Cat is an ancestor of the domesticated Bengal cat, with the latter species having adopted many physical traits as well as its ancestor’s love for swimming. Unlike the Asian Leopard Cat, the Bengal cat’s behavior and temperament are completely suitable for one to raise as a pet.

Threats:
There are two major threats that Asian Leopard Cats have to face. The first is deforestation, which leads to the loss of habitat, and this in turn negatively impacts the number of Asian Leopard Cats. Secondly, Asian Leopard Cats are heavily hunted for their pelts, with yearly numbers estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands. In addition to being hunted for their fur, they are also hunted down as a source of food.

Although the population of the Asian Leopard Cat is declining, it is currently not categorized as an endangered species. Various countries such as Hong Kong have placed the Asian Leopard Cat under protection in an attempt to curb the drop in numbers.

Summary
A species of wild cat, the Asian Leopard Cat is widely distributed across South-East Asia and parts of the Indian subcontinent, and is considered to have the broadest geographical spread out of all the small Asian feline species. Although similar to the domestic cat in both size and shape, the Asian Leopard Cat differs drastically with the domestic cat in terms of behavior and temperament – the Asian Leopard Cat is not suitable to be raised as a pet. The Asian Leopard Cat hunts and lives alone, but will gather during its mating season in order to reproduce. Although not considered an endangered species, the Asian Leopard Cat still faces danger from hunters and habitat loss.


Image Credit
Photo by Drew Avery - CC BY 2.0

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