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Pallas Cat - Otocolobus manul

By: C.M.Shorter

The Pallas Cat has a small, stocky build but looks much larger from its double thick, long fur coat. Hairs in the coat are silver-tipped making the coat have a frosted appearance which almost glistens. The Pallas cat is quite at home in steppes, cold deserts and the rocky country of central Asia and ranges as far as Afghanistan, Georgia, Tajikistan, through Iran, Siberia and Tibet all the way to the Caspian Sea where the now extinct Caspian Tiger once roamed. At one time, scientists mistakenly thought the Pallas Cat to be the ancestor of modern day domestic Persian Cats. The Pallas Cat needs this lush fur coat to protect them from the cold winds of their rugged terrain. They use their tails as a "muff" wrapping it around the body for warmth as a shield against the cold, harsh climate like the Snow Leopard and are often found at altitudes in excess of 4,000 metres. The Pallas Cat has a highly developed nictitating membrane, more commonly known as a third eyelid like our other felids but more pronounced to fend off the sand and dust storms which frequent much of their territory.
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These eyes are very large, golden in color and resemble those of an owl. Pupils contract into small circles rather than the normal feline vertical slit similar in eye structure to the Cheetah of the African plains. Their flat head and low set ears are believed to be a physical adaptation to their environment allowing them to stalk prey in areas with relatively little cover, like our desert dwelling Sand Cat. Pallas Cats survive primarily on prey of small mammals such as pika, voles, marmots and ground squirrels. Birds also comprise part of the Pallas Cat diet and they readily take larks, sand grouse and ptarmigan when they can catch them!

One thing is certain - the Pallas Cat is one rugged animal and it is a good thing they have sought this environment. It is this same rugged terrain that offers this cats greatest protection and serves them well in surviving man. Females are in season for extremely short periods - only 42 hours reported for captive animals. Kittens are born much darker and their coats do not have the silver sheen of older adults until they mature. Radio telemetry studies are underway to try to learn more about this beautiful Wild Cat's behavioral and reproductive patterns. The Pallas Cat is disappearing from many of these regions because they are so highly sought after for their pelts by local fur traders. The luxurious coat is valued and carries a premium in the local fur trade markets with the local populace prizing it to adorn hats, dress collars and, take enough - you have an elegant fur coat - OUCH! Pika poisoning campaigns on a large scale in Russia and China have had a very detrimental effect on the Pallas Cat due to their consumption of tainted prey. Hunting is prohibited over most of their range and declining populations have placed them on CITES Appendix II.

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Scientific Name: Otocolobus manul
Common Name(s): Pallas Cat (named for German naturalist, Peter Pallas)
Manul (Mongolian name), Steppe Cat
Range: Siberia, Iran, Afghanistan through to the Caspian Sea
Average Weight: 3 - 4.5 kg (5.5-10 lbs)
Length: 70 - 96 cm (28-38")
Diet: Carnivorous. Small mammals - pika, voles, marmots and ground squirrels. Birds - larks, sand grouse and ptarmigan
Gestation Period: 66 - 75 Days
Cub Maturity: 4 -6 Months
Cubs Per Litter: 1 - 6 Kittens
Lifespan: 8 - 10 years. Captive individuals recorded to live 12 years.
Predators: Man. Threats: Poisoning from eating tainted pica prey.
Social Structure: Solitary
Territory Size: 4-6km (2 -3 miles)
Conservation Status: Placed on CITES Appendix II.

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