Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

The agile rusty-spotted cat is apparently mainly nocturnal (2), and spends its days in a hollow log, tree or forest thicket (4). Whilst this cat is a capable climber, it is thought to hunt at night on the ground, and use its climbing abilities to escape predation (4). It feeds on small mammals and birds, which can sometimes include domestic poultry and ducks (2) (4), and local people report that this elusive cat emerges after heavy rains to feed on the rodents and frogs that also surface (4). Rusty-spotted cats give birth in spring in India (5). Gestation lasts for around 67 days, after which the female gives birth to one or two kittens in a secluded den, such as a shallow cave (2) (4). The kittens are born blind (4), and their coat lacks the rusty spots of the adults (5).
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Description

One of the smallest cat species in the world, the rusty-spotted cat has been called the hummingbird of the cat family, due to its small size, agility and activeness (2). About half the size of a domestic cat (2), the rusty-spotted cat has a short, soft, fawn-grey coat with a rufous tinge, covered with lines of small rusty-brown spots that form solid stripes along the back of the head (4). The underparts are white, marked with large spots and bars (2). The face has two dark streaks on each cheek, and four dark stripes that extend from the eyes, back between the ears to the shoulders (2). Its ears are small and rounded, and the tail is faintly marked with dark rings (4).
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Distribution

Range Description

The rusty-spotted cat is found only in India and Sri Lanka. In India, it was long thought to be confined to the south, but recent records have established that it is found over much of the country (Sunquist and Sunquist 2002, Patel and Jackson 2006, Manakadan and Sivakumar 2006, Patel 2006, Vyas et al. 2007), with a record from the foothills of the Himalaya in Jammu (Chakraborty 1978) requiring confirmation.
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Geographic Range

The rusty-spotted cat is found in the southern parts of India, Gujarat, Jammu, and Kashmir, and in Sri Lanka. Recently, it has also been spotted in central India. The sub-species P. r. rubiginosus is restricted to southern India while P. r. koladivinus and P. r. phillipsi are found in Sri Lanka (Garman,1998; Guggisberg, 1975).

Biogeographic Regions: oriental (Native )

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Range

Occurs in India and Sri Lanka. Most records of the rusty-spotted cat are from southern India but there have been some recorded in the north (4).
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

The Rusty-spotted cat is one of the smallest wild cats (head and body length is 350-450mm). Its tail is about half its body length (150-250mm) and has a dark tip. The species gets its name from the small, rust-colored spots that extend in lines down its grayish-brown upper parts. Its underside and the inside of its limbs are white with blotchy extentions of the spots on its back. Two dark streaks run laterally down its short, rounded head. It has been described as a "'washed-out' version" of its close relative, the leopard cat. There is no sexual dimorphism in adult rusty-spotted cats (Nowak, 1999; The Cyber Zoomobile; Kitchener, 1991).

Range mass: 1 to 2 kg.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Rusty-spotted cats occupy moist and dry deciduous forest types as well as scrub and grassland, but are likely absent from evergreen forest in India (Nowell and Jackson 1996), although there are a few records from montane and lowland rainforest in Sri Lanka (Deraniyagala 1956, Nekaris 2003). While dense vegetation and rocky areas are preferred (Worah 1991, Kittle and Watson 2004, Patel 2006), rusty-spotted cats have been found in the midst of agricultural and settled areas (Nowell and Jackson 1996, Mukherjee 1998, Nekaris 2003). They are highly arboreal (Sunquist and Sunquist 2002), and Patel (2006) observed cats pouncing down from tree branches when hunting prey. Most observations have been at night (Mukherjee 1998, Nekaris 2003, Kittle and Watson 2004, Patel 2006, Vyas et al. 2007). One cat was seen hunting frogs, but small rodents were the main prey reported from a series of observations by Patel (2006) and Nekaris (2003) - seeking out such prey is likely why the cats venture into cultivated areas.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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The two separate populations of rusty-spotted cats--one living in southern India and the other living in Sri Lanka--occupy different habitats. In Sri Lanka, these cats are found scattered through dense tropical forests at slightly higher altitudes. They are absent from the northern, dry parts of Sri Lanka. In central India, the rusty-spotty cat is seen mostly scattered throughout dry grasslands, scrubland, and open forests.

It has been suggested that this sort of habitat distribution may be a result of interspecific competition with its close relative, the leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) on the Indian mainland and with the jungle cat (Felis chaus) in Sri Lanka. The leopard cat occupies the forest land of Southern India while the jungle cat is found in the open grassland of Sri Lanka. In both cases, these two cats are larger than the rusty-spotted cat and might displace it from their own preferred habitat (Nowak, 1999; Guggisberg, 1975).

Habitat Regions: tropical

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest ; rainforest ; scrub forest

  • Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World 6th ed.. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
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The rusty-spotted cat inhabits dry deciduous forest, scrub, grassland and rocky areas (2). It has also occasionally been found in modified habitats such as tea plantations, and the attics of houses surrounded by paddy fields and coconut plantations (4)
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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Not much is known about the Rusty-spotted cat's diet and behavior. It is believed to prey on small birds and mammals and often insects and reptiles as well. It has also been seen to emerge after rainfall to feed on small rodents and frogs. Several reports have stated that the rusty-spotted cat also preys on domestic poultry when possible (IUCN, 1996).

Animal Foods: birds; mammals; amphibians; reptiles; insects

Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates)

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Life History and Behavior

Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
17.9 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 17.9 years (captivity)
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Reproduction

The gestation period of the rusty-spotted cat is 67 days with the offspring usually born in late April. Litter size averages between 1-2 young. Females have been found denning in tea plantations and in the attics of homes. The female period of estrus lasts for approximately 5 days. Little is known about this animal's sexual behavior and courtship habits (The Cat Survival Trust, 1996; IUCN, 1996).

Range number of offspring: 1 to 2.

Average gestation period: 67 days.

Average gestation period: 68 days.

Average number of offspring: 2.5.

Parental Investment: altricial

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Prionailurus rubiginosus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
VU
Vulnerable

Red List Criteria
C2a(i)

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Khan, J.A. & Mukherjee, S.

Reviewer/s
Nowell, K., Breitenmoser-Wursten, C., Breitenmoser, U. (Cat Red List Authority) & Schipper, J. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)

Contributor/s

Justification
Found only in India and on the island of Sri Lanka, the rusty-spotted cat has a relatively restricted distribution. Research into its density and status is needed, but it is suspected that the total effective population size is below 10,000 mature individuals, with a declining trend due to habitat loss, and no subpopulation containing more than 1,000 mature breeding individuals (IUCN Cats Red List Workshop 2007).

History
  • 2002
    Vulnerable
  • 1996
    Data Deficient
  • 1994
    Insufficiently Known
    (Groombridge 1994)
  • 1990
    Insufficiently Known
    (IUCN 1990)
  • 1988
    Insufficiently Known
    (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
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The Indian populations of the rusty-spotted cat are listed in Appendix I, prohibiting hunting and trade. The Sri Lankan populations are placed in Appendix II. This population is therefore open to trade.

The major threats facing these cats are habitat destruction due to deforestation and the increase in cultivation. Their vulnerability to these threats is heightened due to their solitary lifestyle and scattered population distribution (IUCN, 1996; The Cat Survival Trust).

CITES: appendix i

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: vulnerable

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Status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1). The Indian population is listed on Appendix I of CITES and the Sri Lankan population is listed on Appendix II (3).
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Population

Population
Rusty-spotted cats have been observed increasingly frequently by researchers (Kittle and Watson 2004, Manakadan and Sivakumar 2006, Patel 2006, Vyas et al. 2007). They have been described as abundant in some parts of India and Sri Lanka, and have been observed close to and within villages (Nowell and Jackson 1996), but that they were not known to occur in northern India until recent decades suggests rarity in some parts of the range (Sunquist and Sunquist 2002).

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats
Habitat loss and the spread of cultivation are serious problems for wildlife in both India and Sri Lanka. Although there are several records of rusty-spotted cats from cultivated and settled areas, it is not known to what degree cat populations are able to persist in such areas (Nowell and Jackson 1996) - some villagers say rusty-spotted cats, unlike jungle cats, "keep to the forest" and do not prey on domestic fowl (Manakadan and Sivakumar 2006). Kittle and Watson (2004) observed a rusty-spotted cat mating with a domestic cat and also saw a potential hybrid ("being slightly larger in size, with long legs and exhibiting unusual markings on a paler background"). There have been occasional reports of rusty-spotted cat skins in trade (Nowell and Jackson 1996), and rusty-spotted cats killed for food or as livestock pests (Sunquist and Sunquist 2002, Nekaris 2003).
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The rusty-spotted cat is known to be rare, but there is little else known about the status of this small and secretive cat (2). Deforestation and the spread of agriculture pose a serious threat for much of the wildlife in India and Sri Lanka, and this is likely to impact the rusty-spotted cat too. Whilst observed in cultivated landscapes, it is not yet known whether it can survive in such modified habitats (4). The rusty-spotted cat is reported to be killed by local people when it takes domestic poultry (3), and it is also frequently mistaken for baby leopards in Sri Lanka and killed (2). In some parts of the cat's range the flesh is considered edible and a number are taken for this purpose (2). There are some reports of hybridisation with domestic cats, which could threaten the existence of the species, but these reports have not yet been proved (4).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
The Indian population is included on CITES Appendix I, while the Sri Lankan population is included on CITES Appendix II. The species is fully protected over most of its range, with hunting and trade banned in India, and Sri Lanka (although domestic trade is uncontrolled in Sri Lanka) (Nowell and Jackson 1996). It occurs in a number of protected areas, including Yala National Park in Sri Lanka (Nekaris 2003, Kittle and Watson 2004) and the Gir Forest National Park (Pathak 1990) and Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (Dubey 1999) in India.
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Conservation

The Indian population is listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meaning that trade in individuals from this population is only permitted in exceptional circumstances, and the Sri Lankan population is listed on Appendix II, meaning that trade should be carefully monitored to ensure it is compatible with the species' survival (3). The rusty-spotted cat is also legally protected throughout most of its range and hunting is prohibited (4). It is encouraging that such protective measures are in place, but the rusty-spotted cat is now likely to benefit from further research into its distribution, and ecological and habitat requirements, to inform any additional conservation measures to ensure this tiny cat's survival.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

It has been reported that, in areas where its habitat approaches villages in Southern India and Sri Lanka, the rusty-spotted cat will feed on the domesticated poultry of local chicken growers (The Cat Survival Trust, 1996).

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

The rusty-spotted cat is often taken in as a pet due to its affectionate nature. Also, this cat's coat is sought after in fur trade (IUCN, 1996). While it may serve to boost local economies, hunting has a negative effect on rusty-spotted cat populations (IUCN, 1996; Guggisberg, 1975).

Positive Impacts: body parts are source of valuable material

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Wikipedia

Rusty-spotted cat

The rusty-spotted cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus) is the cat family's smallest member and found only in India and Sri Lanka.[3] It has been listed as Vulnerable by IUCN in 2002 as the total effective population size is below 10,000 mature individuals, with a declining trend due to habitat loss, and no subpopulation containing more than 1,000 mature breeding individuals.[2]

Characteristics[edit]

Illustration of skull, in Pocock's The Fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma[3]

The rusty-spotted cat rivals the black-footed cat as the world's smallest wild cat. It is 35 to 48 cm (14 to 19 in) in length, with a 15 to 30 cm (5.9 to 11.8 in) tail, and weighs only 0.9 to 1.6 kg (2.0 to 3.5 lb). The short fur is grey over most of the body, with rusty spots over the back and flanks, while the underbelly is white with large dark spots. The darker colored tail is thick and about half the length of the body, and the spots are less distinct. There are six dark streaks on each side of the head, extending over the cheeks and forehead.[4]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Rusty-spotted cat in its natural habitat in southern India

Rusty-spotted cats have a relatively restricted distribution. They mainly occur in moist and dry deciduous forests as well as scrub and grassland, but are likely absent from evergreen forest.[5] They prefer dense vegetation and rocky areas.[6][7]

Distribution of subspecies[edit]

Two subspecies are recognized:[1]

In India, they were long thought to be confined to the south, but records have established that they are found over much of the country.[5] They were observed in the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park, in the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra, on India's east coast, and in eastern Gujurat.[7][8][9][10] Camera trapping revealed their presence in the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve in the Indian Terai and in the Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary in Maharastra.[11][12] In western Maharashtra, there is a breeding population of rusty-spotted cats in a human dominated agricultural landscape, where rodent densities are high.[13] In July and August 2011, camera trap stations recorded the feline also in Corbett Tiger reserve in Uttarakhand.[14]

In Sri Lanka, there are a few records from montane and lowland rainforest. There are two distinct populations, one in the dry zone and the other in the wet zone.[15]

Ecology and behaviour[edit]

The rusty-spotted cat is nocturnal and partly arboreal, spending the day sleeping in dense cover or shelter such as hollow logs. It feeds mainly on rodents and birds, but may also take lizards, frogs, or insects. They hunt primarily on the ground, making rapid, darting movements to catch their prey; they apparently venture into the trees primarily to escape larger predators rather than for food. As with other cats, they mark their territory by spraying urine.[4]

Reproduction[edit]

Oestrus lasts five days, and mating is unusually brief. Since the cat is likely to be vulnerable during this period, its brevity may be an adaptation to help it avoid larger predators. The mother prepares a den in a secluded location, and gives birth to one or two kittens after a 65-70 day gestation. At birth, the kittens weigh just 60 to 77 g (2.1 to 2.7 oz), and are marked with rows of black spots. The cat reaches sexual maturity at around 68 weeks, by which time it has developed the distinctive adult coat pattern of rusty blotches. Rusty-spotted cats have lived for twelve years in captivity, but their lifespan in the wild is unknown.[4]

Threats[edit]

Habitat loss and the spread of cultivation are serious problems for wildlife in both India and Sri Lanka. Although there are several records of rusty-spotted cats from cultivated and settled areas, it is not known to what degree cat populations are able to persist in such areas. There have been occasional reports of rusty-spotted cat skins in trade.[5] In some areas, they are hunted for food or as livestock pests.[4]

Conservation[edit]

The Indian population is listed on CITES Appendix I. The Sri Lankan population is included on CITES Appendix II. The species is fully protected over most of its range, with hunting and trade banned in India and Sri Lanka.[2]

In captivity[edit]

As of 2010, the captive population of P. r. phillipsi comprised 56 individuals in eight institutions, of which 11 individuals were kept in the Colombo Zoo and 45 individuals in seven European zoos.[16]

When raised in captivity as a pet, the rusty spotted cat is affectionate, playful, and expressive, and forms strong bonds with its keeper. [17]

Local names[edit]

In Sri Lanka, the rusty-spotted cat is known as Handun Diviya (හඳුන් දිවියා) or Kola Diviya (කොල දිවියා).[5]

The terms 'Handun Diviya' and 'Kola Diviya' are also used by the local community to refer to the fishing cat. Both animals are nocturnal and elusive, and therefore it is difficult to determine which cat is specifically referred to as 'Handun Diviya'.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Wozencraft, W. C. (2005). "Order Carnivora". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 543–544. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  2. ^ a b c Khan, J., Mukherjee, S. (2008). "Prionailurus rubiginosus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. International Union for Conservation of Nature. 
  3. ^ a b Pocock, R.I. (1939) The Fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma. Mammalia. – Volume 1. Taylor and Francis, Ltd., London. Pp 276–280
  4. ^ a b c d Sunquist, M., Sunquist, F. (2002). Wild cats of the World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 237–240. ISBN 0-226-77999-8. 
  5. ^ a b c d Nowell, K., Jackson, P. (1996) Rusty-spotted Cat Prionailurus rubiginosus In: Wild Cats: status survey and conservation action plan. IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group, Gland, Switzerland
  6. ^ Kittle, A., Watson, A. (2004) Rusty-spotted cat in Sri Lanka: observations of an arid zone population. Cat News 40: 17–19
  7. ^ a b Patel, K. (2006) Observations of rusty-spotted cat in eastern Gujurat. Cat News 45: 27–28
  8. ^ Pathak, B. J. (1990) Rusty spotted cat Felis rubiginosa Geoffroy: A new record for Gir Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 87: 8
  9. ^ Dubey, Y. (1999) Sighting of rustyspotted Cat in Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 96 (2): 310
  10. ^ Manakadan, R. and Sivakumar, S. (2006) Rusty-spotted cat on India's east coast. Cat News 45: 26
  11. ^ Anwar, M., Kumar, H., Vattakavan, J. (2010) Range extension of rusty-spotted cat to the Indian Terai. Cat News 53
  12. ^ Patel, K. (2010) New distribution record data for rusty-spotted cat from Central India. Cat News 53
  13. ^ Athreya, V. (2010) Rusty-spotted cat more common than we think? Cat News 53
  14. ^ Indo-Asian News Service (2011). "Highly endangered cat species spotted in Corbett". Zee News Limited, 12 August 2011. 
  15. ^ Deraniyagala, P. E. P. (1956) A new subspecies of rusty spotted cat from Ceylon. Spolia Zeylanica 28: 113
  16. ^ Bender, U. (2011). International Register and Studbook for the Rusty-Spotted Cat Prionailurus rubiginosus phillipsi (Pocock, 1939). Frankfurt Zoo, Frankfurt.
  17. ^ Animal Diversity Web Prionailurus rubiginosus
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