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Asian Golden Cat - Catopuma temminckii - "Fire Cat"

By: C.M.Shorter

The Asian Golden Cat, striking in appearance, has long been known throughout its territory in Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand as the "Fire Cat". The Asian Golden Cat is a medium size feline with a solid, muscular build and fairly long legs making them agile and excellent climbers. Their unusual coat colorings range from fox-red (thus the name "Fire Cat") to gold-brown, black, brown and even gray fur coloring. Their coat is of moderate length, very dense and generally unmarked although cats in the northern regions are more likely to have spots and stripes which closely resemble the markings of the Leopard Cat. Ironically, this same exquisite coat and unique coloring is one of the very things that places them in the greatest danger.
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These "Fire Cats" still figure prominently in ancient Asian folklore. It is unfortunate that these unfound myths have been handed down from generation to generation. Traditional local legend says that carrying even one hair from their pelt will protect the bearer from tigers and other dangers. Villagers in this Wild Cat's home range still believe these animals have magical, mystical powers. Locals believe that burning the Asian Golden Cat's pelt will protect their village by driving tigers away. Their meat is considered a delicacy, with the entire animal being consumed and the bones ground up for home-made remedies to ward off fevers and other such ills. These unfound beliefs persist to this day in the Asian Wild Cat's home range and is one of the primary reasons for their dwindling population.

Asian Wild Cat's have one very distinguishing feature, striking facial markings similar to those of the Fishing Cat - white lines with black borders across their cheeks. Typical of many of the Wild Cat species, their undersides and inner legs are white. This white marking runs the full length of the underside of their tails which is roughly 30-50% of their body length. The "Fire Cat's" eyes are usually amber or greyish-green in color. Ears are small, rounded being black in color on the back with whitish colored centers.

The Asian species is more abundant than the African Wild Cat with territory throughout Southeast Asia ranging from China, Thailand, Malaysia and Sumatra into Nepal and traversing into northeast India. Asian Wild Cats are nocturnal forest hunters, residing in deciduous and tropical rainforest canopy cover. Local tribesman have reported sighting dens high in the hollows of trees. They occasionally travel and have even adapted to more open, rocky terrain and in China particularly, they are called the "Rock Cat".

This Asian species closely resembles the African Golden Cat even though the two species are separated geographically by over 6,000 kilometers. Over a million years ago, it is believed the population was once one with forested areas covering Senegal to China. A region now divided by vast desert areas and, over the years, it is believed these same deserts isolated and resulted in the separation of the two species.

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