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Rusty Spotted Cat - Prionailurus rubiginosus

By: C.M.Shorter

The Rusty Spotted Cat, native to India and Sri Lanka is smaller in size than that of our domestic felines. They rival only the Black Footed Cat and the Kodkod as the world's smallest living Wild Cat species. Some say they look strikingly like the Leopard Cat of South America and there may an ancient link but there is no modern scientific evidence proving them to have evolved from the same species.

Rusty Spotted Cats are both arboreal and terrestrial inhabiting forest biomes in southern India and have been seen within the dry tropical bounds of the Gir Forest in northern India where the last of the Asiatic Lions live and are fully protected. Territory ranges from moist, deciduous forest to scrub forest in drier areas on to arid scrub lands and even open grasslands. In Sri Lanka this mighty little hunter has been seen at elevation over 2,100 metres in low scrub and arid coastal belts.
Rusty Spotted Cat
Rusty Spotted Cat

Typical of a nocturnal hunter, their eyes reflect the light of the moonlight revealing the eerie tapetum lucidum that makes a cat's eye appear to glow in the dark, a special adaptation for night vision. Coats are tawny to shades of grey and brown in color speckled with brownish to black spotting which extends down the paws. Muzzle and undersides are snow white to very light grey in color and they have two prominent light facial stripes running along the inside of their large, deep gold eyes. Kittens are born tawny in color and do not develop rust spotting until they mature. Legs are short and the soles of their feet are black. Tails do not carry the spotted markings.

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Accomplished climbers they take prey of small birds and mammals as well as reptiles, frogs, tortoises, and lizards. They are known to make a meal of domestic poultry when the opportunity arises. Compact living conditions and loss of habitat has forced the Rusty Spotted Cat closer and closer to areas of domestic settlement. Now it is not uncommon to find them taking shelter and even residence in abandoned houses skirting the heavily populated regions of southern India. Mice and other small rodents probably draw them to this type man-made habitat which is, of course, in no way optimal. Ever increasing human populations in India and Sri Lanka result in destruction of their habitat. Rusty Spotted Cats are fully protected over their entire range, being placed on CITES Appendix I in India, and CITES Appendix II in Sri Lanka.

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Scientific Name: Prionailurus rubiginosus
Common Name(s): Rusty Spotted Cat
Range: India, Sri Lanka
Average Weight: 1.1 - 1.6kg (3-4 lbs)
Length: 50 - 73 cm (20-29")
Diet: Carnivorous. Small birds and mammals, reptiles, frogs, tortoises, insects, and domestic poultry.
Gestation Period: 67 - 71 Days
Cub Maturity: 5 - 6 Months
Cubs Per Litter: 1 - 3 Kittens
Lifespan: 8 - 10 years. Captive individuals have been recorded to live up to 16 years.
Predators: Man. Threat: Loss of Habitat, Deforestation
Social Structure: Solitary
Territory Size: 15-20km (8-11 miles)
Conservation Status: Placed on CITES Appendix I in India. Sri Lankan population placed on CITES Appendix II.

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