The Jungle Cat (Felis chaus) has a broad but patchy distribution extending from Egypt through Southwest, Central, and Southeast Asia, including the Indian subcontinent. Melanistic individuals have been reported from India and Pakistan. These cats prefer tall grass, thick bush, riverine swamps, and reed beds. There are few records from dense jungle. Jungle Cats are sometimes found around man-made fish ponds, reservoirs, and landscapes irrigated by sprinklers. They may also occur in drier, open forests and even sandhill desert and steppe habitats. They are rarely found above 1000 m elevation.
Jungle Cats feed mainly on small mammals (they occasionally take larger prey, such as Chital fawns). Birds are also a significant component of the diet, followed by frogs, lizards, snakes, insects, fish, and turtle eggs. Jungle Cats are stalk-and-ambush hunters. Most prey are captured on the ground, but Jungle Cats are able to climb and leap well. Although mainly nocturnal, Jungle Cats are often seen hunting at dawn and dusk.
The Jungle Cat thrives in agricultural landscapes and in many parts of its range is the most common felid, although in some areas these cats have been extensively hunted for their pelts.
(Sunquist and Sunquist 2009 and references therein)
- Sunquist, M.E. and F.C. Sunquist. 2009. Jungle Cat (Felis chaus). P. 165 in: Wilson, D.E. and Mittermeier, R.A., eds. Handbook of the Mammals of the World. Volume 2. Hoofed Mammals. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
Distribution in Egypt
Widespread (mainly Nile Valley and Delta, but elsewhere too, including oases).
Jungle cats have a wide ranging distribution that extends from Egypt, Israel, Jordan, northern Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, Iran, to the shores of the Caspian Sea and the Volga River delta, east through Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tadzhikistan, Kazakhstan and to western Xingjian, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and southwestern China.
Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native ); oriental (Native )
- Sunquist, M., F. Sunquist. 2002. Wild Cats of the World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Jungle cats range in size from 70 to 120 cm long and 35 to 38 cm tall. They weigh from 4 to 16 kg. Adult males are larger and heavier than adult females. Throughout their range, significant variation in mass occurs. For example, in west Israel, they weigh 43% more than those in east India. This is likely due to increased competition between different cat species in the east. Jungle cats have long, slim faces with white lines above and below their bright yellow eyes with a dark spot just below each eye near the nose. They have long rounded ears, with a distinctive tuft of hair at the tips. Jungle cats have relatively short tails, about 1/3 of their total body length, which have several dark rings along its length and a black tip. Their coat color varies from a reddish or sandy brown to tawny grey. Black jungle cats are regularly seen in southeastern Pakistan and India. Kittens may be striped and spotted, however, these markings typically fade with age and are only retained on the fore and hindlimbs. The muzzle, throat, and belly of the jungle cat are a pale cream color, and their winter coat is darker and denser than their summer coat.
Based largely on external morphological differences, jungle cats have been separated into 10 subspecies: Felis chaus nilotica (Egypt), Felis chaus chaus (Caucasus), Felis chaus furax (Isreal and Iraq), Felis chaus oxiana (Syr Darya and Amu Darya), Felis chaus prateri (Thar desert in the Indo-Pak region), Felis chaus affinis (Himalayan region), Felis chaus kutas (Northern India), Felis chaus valballala (Southern India), Felis chaus kelaarti (Sri Lanka), and Felis chaus fulvidina (Southeast Asia).
Range mass: 4 to 16 kg.
Range length: 70 to 120 cm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: male larger
- Mukherjee, S., C. Groves. 2007. Geographic variation in jungle cat (Felis chaus Schreber, 1777) (Mammalia, Carnivora, Felidae) body size: is competition responsible?. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 92: 163-172.
Habitat and Ecology
Areas with extensive deciduous dipterocarp forest and at least scattered surface water are the species predominant known habitat in Indochina. However, areas such as the Nakai Plateau which support other forms of savanna-like vegetation may support the species. It is probably absent from all closed canopy forests, including rainforest. The species may make use of agricultural areas with a low intensity of human use and which retain patches of scrub (Duckworth et al., 2005).
Jungle cats have adapted well to irrigated cultivation, having been observed in many different types of agricultural and forest plantations throughout their range, such as sugar cane plantations in India. In Israel they can be found around pisciculture ponds and irrigation ditches. Vereschagin (1959) noted that the jungle cat's use of the semi-arid plains of Azerbaijan increased with the development of a local irrigation system and decreased with its abandonment. However, mowing the seasonally flooded riverine tugai vegetation (trees and shrubs with dense stands of tall reeds and grasses) of this region for livestock fodder, as well as plowing it under for agriculture, is known to be associated with the decline of jungle cat populations in the European-central Asian parts of its range (Nowell and Jackson, 1996).
Jungle cats feed mainly on prey that weighs less than one kilogram. Small mammals, principally rodents, are the prey most frequently found in feces and stomach contents. A study in India's Sariska reserve estimated that jungle cats catch and eat three to five rodent per day (Mukherjee et al. 2004). Birds rank second in importance, but in southern Russia waterfowl are the mainstay of jungle cat diet in the winter. With overwintering populations of waterfowl congretating in large numbers on unfrozen rivers and marshes, the jungle cat hunts among reeed beds and along edges of wetlands, searching for injured or weakened birds. Other prey species are taken more opportunistically, including hares, nutria, lizards, snakes, frogs, insects, and fish. In India, they have been seen to scavenge kills of large predators such as the Asiatic lion. In a study in southern Uzbekistan, the fruits of the Russian olive made up 17% of their diet in winter. While jungle cats specialize on small prey, they are large and powerful enough to kill young swine, subadult gazelles, and chital fawns (Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002).
Density estimates from natural tugai habitat in central Asia range from 4-15 individuals per 10 kmÂ², but where this vegetation type has declined due to development density does not exceed two cats per 10 kmÂ² (Nowell and Jackson, 1996).
Jungle cats prefer habitats near water with dense vegetative cover but can be found in a variety of habitats including deserts (where they are found near oases or along riverbeds), grasslands, shrubby woodlands and dry deciduous forests, as well as cleared areas in moist forests. They are commonly found in tall grass, thick brush, riverside swamps, and reed beds. They also adapt well to cultivated land and can be found in many different types of agriculture and forest plantations. Jungle cats are known to occur at elevations of up to 2500 m, but are more common in lowlands.
Range elevation: 2500 (high) m.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune ; savanna or grassland ; forest ; rainforest ; mountains
Other Habitat Features: agricultural ; riparian ; intertidal or littoral
- International Society for Endangered Cats (ISEC) Canada. 2001. "International Society for Endangered Cats" (On-line). Accessed February 19, 2010 at http://www.wildcatconservation.org/Jungle_Cat_(Felis_chaus).html.
- Nowell, K., P. Jackson. 1996. Wild Cats: status survery and conservation action plan. Switzerland: International Union for Conservation of Nature.
- Ogurlu, I., E. Gundogdu, I. Yildirim. 2010. Population status of jungle cat (Felis chaus) in Egirdir lake, Turkey. Journal of Environmental Biology, 31: 179-183. Accessed March 25, 2010 at http://jeb.co.in/journal_issues/201001_jan10/paper_23.pdf.
Jungle cats primarily prey on animals that weigh less than 1 kg and commonly consume rodents, lizards, snakes, frogs, birds, hare, fish, insects, livestock, and even fruit during the winter. Rodents are its primary prey item, however, which provides up to 70% of its daily energy intake. Although they specialize on small prey, jungle cats have been known to kill wild pigs (Sus scrofa) and chital fawns (Axis axis).
Animal Foods: birds; mammals; amphibians; reptiles; fish; insects
Plant Foods: fruit
Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates)
- Baker, M., K. Nassar, L. Rifai, M. Qarqaz, W. Al-Melhim, Z. Amr. 2003. On the current status and distribution of the Jungle Cat, Felis chaus, in Jordan (Mammalia: Carnivora). Zoology in the Middle East, 30: 5-10.
- Duckworth, J., R. Steinmetz, J. Sanderson, S. Mukherjee. 2008. "IUCN Red List of Threatened Species" (On-line). Felis chaus. Accessed March 15, 2010 at www.iucnredlist.org.
- Mukherjee, S., S. Goyal, A. Johnsingh, M. Leite Pitman. 2004. The importance of rodents in the diet of juncle cat (Felis chaus), caracal (Caracal caracal) and golden jackal (Canis aureus) in Sariska Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan, India. The Zoological Society of London, 262: 405-411.
Little is known of the ecological role that jungle cats play in their ecosystem. However, they primarily prey upon small rodents, which often carry parasites, and are known to eat a variety of other small prey items. In the wild, jungle cats are hosts for mites (Haemaphysalis silvafelis and Haemaphysalis bispinosa var. intermedia) and in captivity, are hosts for the parasitic protozoa Toxoplasma gondii.
- Hoogstraal, H., H. Trapido. 1963. Haemaphysalis silvafelis sp. n., a Parasite of the Jungle Cat in Southern India (Ixodoidea, Ixodidae). Journal of Parasitology, 49/2: 346-349.
- Hoogstraal, H., H. Trapido, M. Rebello. 1963. Haemaphysalis paraturturis sp. n., a Carnivore Parasite of the H. turturis Group in India (Ixodoidea, Ixodidae). Journal of Parasitology, 49/4: 686-691.
- Silva, J., S. Ogassawara, M. Marvulo, J. Ferreira-Neto, J. Dubey. 2001. Toxoplasma gondii Antibodies in Exotic Wild Felids from Brazilian Zoos. Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine, 32/3: 349-351.
As cubs, jungle cat have markings that help camouflage them from potential predators. Although they may sometimes fall prey to large snakes (Serpentes) or other large mammals (e.g., leopards, Panthera pardus), their primary predator is humans (Homo sapiens). They are often treated as pests and hunted or poisoned by farmers for attacking poultry. India formerly exported large numbers of jungle cat skins before they came under legal protection in 1976, however, illegal trade continues to this day.
Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic
Known prey organisms
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
Life History and Behavior
Communication and Perception
Jungle cats are solitary animals outside of mating season, however, family groups (male, female, and cubs) are not uncommon. Vocal communication consists of meowing, chirping, purring, gurgling, growling, hissing, and barking. These noises have not been significantly studied, therefore, their meanings are not well understood. Jungle cats also communicate via scent marking and cheek rubbing. Like most felids, they use urine to scent mark their territory, which may help individuals avoid unwanted confrontation. When cats cheek rub, they leave saliva, which serves as a scent marker for other cats. They also cheek rub against scent markings to "pick up" scents, and males often cheek rub females that are in estrus.
Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic ; chemical
Other Communication Modes: scent marks
- Mellen, J. 1993. A Comparative Analysis of Scent-Marking, Social and Reproductive Behavior in 20 Species of. American Zoologist, Vol. 33, No. 2: 151-166.
In captivity, jungle cats live an average of 15 years, but have been known to live up to 20 years. Lifespan in the wild ranges from 12 to 14 years.
Status: captivity: 20 (high) years.
Status: wild: 12 to 14 years.
Status: captivity: 15 years.
Status: captivity: 20 years.
- Weigl, R. 2005. Longevity of Mammals in Captivity; from the Living Collections of the World. Stuttgart, Germany: Kleine Senckenberg-Reihe.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Jungle cat mating season is marked by the shrieks and fighting of male cats. Vocalization rates of males and females increases prior to copulation. Intense mew calls are used by both genders to attract potential mates. They also scent mark territorial boundaries, which may help them find and locate potential mates. Male and female jungle cats may have multiple different mates throughout their lives.
Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)
Jungle cats breed twice a year and produce litters of 3 to 6 kittens. Breeding season varies regionally and gestation lasts between 63 and 66 days. Kittens are quite large at birth (136 g) and gain weight at a rate of about 22 g per day. Kittens nurse until they are about 90 days old, but begin to eat solid food around day 49. They are not completely weaned until 15 weeks old. Jungle cats are independent by 8 to 9 months of age and reach sexual maturity at 11 to 18 months of age.
Breeding interval: Jungle cats breed 1 or 2 times a year.
Range number of offspring: 3 to 6.
Range gestation period: 63 to 66 days.
Average birth mass: 136 g.
Average weaning age: 15 weeks.
Range time to independence: 8 to 9 months.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 11 to 18 months.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 11 to 18 months.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); viviparous
Average birth mass: 131 g.
Average number of offspring: 3.
Jungle cats live in families consisting of mother, father, and offspring while cubs are being reared. Paternal investment is limited to territorial defense while mothers provide cubs with food via nursing. Young jungle cats develop predatory skills rapidly and are able to stalk, kill, and eat their own prey by 6 months old. At 8 to 9 months old, although only half the size of a mature adult, they are independent.
Parental Investment: altricial ; male parental care ; female parental care ; pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Male); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Male)
- Sunquist, M., F. Sunquist. 2002. Wild Cats of the World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- Mukherjee, S. 2008. Field Mouser. Natural History, Vol. 117, Issue 7: 48.
- Peters, G., L. Baum, M. Peters, B. Tonkin-Leyhausen. 2008. Spectral characteristics of intense mew calls in cat species of the genus Felis (Mammalia: Carnivora: Felidae). Springer, 27: 221-337.
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 2002Least Concern
Habitat destruction and persecution by humans are the main threats to jungle cats. As the human population increases, more land is cultivated and jungle cats' natural habitat is converted to farmland. Although they are very adaptable, these altered environments do not support the same density of cats. In addition, farmers often hunt and poison jungle cats for attacking and killing poultry and are also poached for their fur. Although laws have been implemented to protect them, illegal trade still continues in many countries. For example, over the last decade more than 3,000 jungle cat skins have been seized across the globe. Currently, jungle cats are considered as a species of "least concern" by the IUCN, however, population numbers are currently declining.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: appendix ii
State of Michigan List: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
Status in Egypt
In southern China and southeast Asia (with the exception of northeastern Cambodia), however, it appears quite rare in comparison to sympatric small cats (Duckworth et al. 2005). This rarity appears to be a relatively recent phenomenon associated with unselective trapping and snaring, especially in Lao PDR and Thailand as well, where it was described as common by Lekagul and McNeely (1977) but has since suffered drastic declines and is rarely encountered (Duckworth et al. 2005; Lynam et al. 2006, W. Duckworth and R. Steinmetz, Southeast Asia mammal assessment 2003).
In Europe, it is of marginal occurrence, with small populations in Cis-Caspian region and the Caucasus along the Caspian Sea. The European population has been rapidly declining since the 1960s. There was no records of this species in Astrakhan State Reserve (Russian Federation) since the 1980s. In Northern Ossetia (Russian Federation) only about 150 animals were recorded (Kuryatnikov and Varziev 1983). Marked population fluctuations are characteristic of this species in this region, probably because of absence of adaptations to cold winters. Despite these fluctuations the long-term trend in Europe is of decline in both population and area of occupancy. Data from Russia suggest that there are about 500 animals left in the wild (Prisazhnyuk and Belousova 2007). A very small population persists in Georgia (I. Macharashvili pers. comm. to K. Tsysulina 2007). This species is considered threatened in a number of range states in Europe and the Caucasus, and is included in the Red Books of the Russian Federation, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia (IUCN 2007).
In southwest Asia the species is also considered rare and threatened (Abu-Baker et al. 2003, Habibi 2004).
The ecology and status of the jungle cat is poorly known (Nowell and Jackson 1996, Sunquist and Sunquist 2002). In Southwest and Southeast Asia, where it is considered rare and declining, more research needs to be undertaken to gain knowledge of current distribution, both in and outside of protected areas (Abu-Baker et al. 2003, Duckworth et al. 2005). Some farmers consider the jungle cat a pest which takes poultry (Abu-Baker et al. 2003), and conservation measures should include better protection for domestic fowl and halting of indiscriminate poisoning and trapping. The jungle cat would also benefit from improved protection of natural wetlands and reedbeds, particularly in the more arid parts of its range, and improved legislation prohibiting fur trade.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Economic Importance for Humans: Negative
Jungle cats can negatively impact poultry farm owners. As a result, jungle cats are often hunted and poisoned by farmers for attacking poultry.
Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
Jungle cats feed primarily on rodents, which provide up to 70% of the cats daily energy intake. They are often spotted hunting near villages and farms where rodent populations tend to be higher and are sometimes viewed as pests themselves.
Positive Impacts: body parts are source of valuable material; controls pest population
The jungle cat (Felis chaus) is a medium-sized cat native to Asia from southern China in the east through Southeast and Central Asia to the Nile Valley in the west. It is listed as Least Concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as it is widespread and common particularly in India. Population declines and range contraction are of concern, particularly in Egypt, in the Caucasus, and in southwestern, Central and Southeast Asia.
The jungle cat is the largest of the living Felis species. It has a small tuft on the ears, a comparatively short tail, and a distinct spinal crest. Because of its long legs, short tail and tuft on the ears, the jungle cat resembles a small lynx. The face is relatively slender. Fur colour varies with subspecies, yellowish-grey to reddish-brown or tawny-grey, and is ticked with black. Vertical bars are visible on the fur of kittens, which disappear in adult cats, although a few dark markings may be retained on the limbs or tail. The muzzle is white, and the underside is paler in colour than the rest of the body. Jungle cats can range from 50 to 94 cm (20 to 37 in) in length, plus a short 20 to 31 cm (7.9 to 12.2 in) tail, and stand about 36 cm (14 in) tall. Weight varies across their range from 3 to 16 kg (6.6 to 35.3 lb), with a median weight of around 8 kg (18 lb). Females are slightly smaller than males. True to Bergmann's Rule, the felid is largest at the northern limits of its range and becomes smaller-bodied closer to the tropics.
The skull is fairly broad in the region of the zygomatic arch, which leads to its appearance of having a rounder head than some other cats. The ears are quite long, and relatively broad at the base, pointed towards the end, and set quite high. Small tuft of long hairs occurs on ear tips in winter. These hairs form an indistinct tassel ranging from 7 to 20 mm (0.28 to 0.79 in) in length. The fur grows to about 4000 hairs/cm² on the back, and 1700 hairs/cm² on the abdomen, and generally becomes a shade of grayish-ochre in winter. The pawprints measure about 5×6 cm, and a typical pace is 29 to 32 cm (11 to 13 in).
Jungle cats have equal-sized claws on both fore and hind legs, which allow climbing down trees as easily as up.
Distribution and habitat
Jungle cats are largely oriental in distribution and found in Egypt, West and Central Asia, but also in South Asia, Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia. In India they are the most common small cats among the felidae found there.
They inhabit savannas, tropical dry forests and reedbeds along rivers and lakes in the lowlands, but, despite the name, are not found in rainforests. Although they are adaptable animals, being found even in dry steppe, they prefer wetland environments with tall grasses or reeds in which to hide. They do not survive well in cold climates, and are not found in areas where winter snowfall is common. They have been observed from sea levels to altitudes of 8,000 ft (2,400 m) or perhaps higher in the Himalayas. They frequent jungles or open country, and are often seen in the neighborhood of villages.
Jungle cats were known to be absent from south of the Isthmus of Kra in the Malayan peninsula, the possibility of their occurrence was reported from a highly fragmented forest in the Malaysian state of Selangor in 2010.
Although never truly domesticated, a small number of jungle cats have been found among the cat mummies of Ancient Egypt (the vast majority of which are domestic cats), suggesting that they may have been used to help control rodent populations.
Distribution of subspecies
When Johann Anton Güldenstädt travelled in the Russian empire's southern frontier during 1768–1775 at the behest of Catherine II of Russia, he was the first naturalist to catch sight of a Kirmyschak in the Caucasus. In his Latin description of 15 pages, published in 1776, he names the animal Chaus – a name retained for the cat by all subsequent zoologists.
Today, the trinomial Felis chaus chaus still refers to the jungle cat subspecies living in the Caucasus, Turkestan, Iran, Baluchistan and Yarkand, Chinese Turkestan. The other recognized subspecies are listed by year of first description:
- Felis chaus affinis (Gray, 1830) − inhabits the Himalayan region ranging from Kashmir and Nepal to Sikkim and Yunnan;
- Felis chaus kutas (Pearson, 1832) − ranges from Bengal westwards to Kutch;
- Felis chaus nilotica (de Winton, 1898) − inhabits Egypt;
- Felis chaus furax (de Winton, 1898) − inhabits Palestine, southern Syria, and Iraq;
- Felis chaus maimanah (Zukowsky, 1914) − was first described from Maimanah in northern Afghanistan and inhabits the region south of the Amu Darya River;
- Felis chaus fulvidina (Thomas, 1929) − inhabits Southeast Asia ranging from Myanmar and Thailand to Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam;
- Felis chaus prateri (Pocock, 1939) − inhabits western India and Sindh;
- Felis chaus kelaarti (Pocock, 1939) − lives in Sri Lanka and southern India south of the Kistna River;
- Felis chaus oxiana (Heptner, 1969) − lives along the right tributaries of the Amu Darya River, in the lower courses of the Vakhsh River ranging eastwards to the Gissar Valley and slightly beyond Dushanbe.
Ecology and behavior
Jungle cats are solitary in nature. They rest in other animals' abandoned burrows, tree holes, and humid coves under swamp rocks, or in areas of dense vegetation. Although often active at night, they are less nocturnal than many other cats, and in cold weather may sun themselves during the day. They have been estimated to travel between 3 and 6 kilometres (1.9 and 3.7 mi) per night, although this likely varies depending on the availability of prey. Territories are maintained by urine spraying and scent marking.
Jungle cats can climb trees. Like most cats, they utilize not only sight and hearing while hunting, but also their sense of smell. While running, they tend to sway from side to side. They mostly hunt for rodents, frogs, birds, hares, squirrels, juvenile wild pigs, as well as various reptiles, including turtles and snakes. Near human settlements, they feed on domestic chickens and ducks. They catch fish while diving, but mostly swim in order to disguise their scent trails, or to escape threats, such as dogs or humans. They are generally hard to tame, even if taken into captivity at a young age. Like most other cats, they hunt by stalking and ambushing their prey, and they use reeds or tall grass as cover. They are adept at leaping, and sometimes attempt to catch birds in flight. Although they can run at up to 32 kilometres per hour (20 mph), they rarely pursue prey that escapes their initial pounce.
The jungle cat's main competitors are the jackal and forest cat. Their most common predators include crocodiles, bears, wolves, and other larger felines such as tigers. When countered by a threat, the jungle cat will vocalize before engaging in attack, producing small roars, a behavior uncommon for domestic cats. The meow of the jungle cat is also somewhat lower than that of a typical domestic cat. In some cases, they jump on their attacker, but will usually retreat upon encountering larger threats. There have been known cases of jungle cats attacking curious humans near their habitat, but their attack seems to pose no medical significance besides wound infection from clawing.
They have been observed to be capable of swimming as much as 1.5 km at a time.
Females are sexually mature at the age of 11 months; estrus appears to last from January through to mid-April. In males, spermatogenesis occurs mainly in February and March. In southern Turkmenistan, mating occurs in January to early February. Females give birth to litters of three to five kittens, usually only three. They sometimes raise two litters in a year.
Gestation lasts 63–66 days and is remarkably short for an animal of this size. Birth generally takes place between December and June, depending on the local climate, although females can sometimes give birth to two litters in a year. Before birth, the mother prepares a den in an abandoned animal burrow, hollow tree, or reed bed.
Kittens weigh 43 to 160 grams (1.5 to 5.6 oz) at birth, tending to be much smaller in the wild than in captivity. Initially blind and helpless, they open their eyes at ten to thirteen days of age, and are fully weaned by around three months. Males usually do not participate in the raising of kittens, but in captivity have been observed to be very protective of their offspring, more than the females, or males of other cat species. Kittens begin to catch their own prey at around six months, and leave the mother after eight or nine months.
The jungle cat's median life expectancy in captivity is ten to twelve years. In the wild, however, some jungle cats have been known to live for as long as twenty years.
Some populations of jungle cat subspecies are declining in several countries and areas:
- Since the 1960s, populations of the Caucasian jungle cat living in the Cis-Caspian region, along the Caspian Sea and in the Caucasus range states have been rapidly declining. Only some small populations persist today. There has been no record in the Astrakhan Nature Reserve in the Volga Delta since the 1980s. This subspecies is considered threatened and included in the Red Books of the Russian Federation, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.
- In the 1970s, Southeast Asian jungle cats still used to be the most common wild cats near villages in certain parts of northern Thailand and occurred in many protected areas of the country. But since the early 1990s, jungle cats are rarely encountered and have suffered drastic declines due to hunting and habitat destruction. Today, their official Thai status is critically endangered. In Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, jungle cats probably once occurred widely using secondary habitats, which is easily accessible to hunters and where hunting pressure is now very heavy. Due to unselective trapping and snaring, jungle cats appear quite rare nowadays in comparison to sympatric small cats. Skins are occasionally recorded in border markets, and live individuals, possibly taken from Myanmar or Cambodia, occasionally turn up in the Khao Khieo and Chiang Mai zoos of Thailand.
- Jungle cats are rare in the Middle East. In Jordan, they are highly affected by the expansion of agricultural areas around the river beds of Yarmouk and Jordan rivers, where they are hunted and poisoned by farmers for attacking poultry. In Afghanistan they are also considered rare and threatened.
Felis chaus is listed on CITES Appendix II. Hunting is prohibited in Bangladesh, China, India, Israel, Myanmar, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Thailand, and Turkey, but does not receive legal protection outside protected areas in Bhutan, Georgia, Laos, Lebanon, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam.
Subsequent to Güldenstädt’s first description of Felis chaus, various naturalists published descriptions of jungle cat skins from west and further southeast of the Caucasus between 1811 and 1939. Using the scientific name Felis catolynx the German explorer Peter Simon Pallas described lynx-like cats in 1811, which inhabit the reeds and subalpine forests around the Terek River through northern Persia up to the Aral Sea. In the 1820s the German explorer Rüppell collected a female Felis Chaus near Lake Manzala in the Nile Delta. But only in 1832, Brandt recognized the distinctness of the Egyptian jungle cat and proposed the name Felis Rüppelii.
Thomas Hardwicke’s collection of illustrations of Indian wildlife comprises the first drawing of an Indian jungle cat named the "Allied cat" Felis affinis by Gray in 1830. Two years later, a stuffed cat was presented at a meeting of the Asiatic Society of Bengal that had been caught in the jungles of Midnapore in West Bengal. Pearson who donated the specimen described it as different in colour from Felis chaus and proposed the name Felis kutas. In 1836, Hodgson proclaimed the red-eared cat commonly found in Nepal to be a lynx and therefore named it Lynchus erythrotus. In 1844, Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire described a jungle cat from the area of Dehra Dun in northern India under the name Felis jacquemontii in reminiscence of the French explorer Victor Jacquemont. When the Ceylonese naturalist Kelaart described the first Felis chaus skin from Sri Lanka in 1852, he emphasised its close resemblance to Hodgson's Lynchus erythrotus.
The Russian naturalist Severtzov proposed the generic name Catolynx in 1858.The Austrian zoologist Fitzinger proposed the scientific name Chaus Catolynx for the "swamp lynx" in 1869. Also Blanford pointed out the lynx-like appearance of cat skins and skulls from the plains around Yarkand and Kashgar when he described Felis Shawiana in 1876. The German naturalist Grevé proposed the subgenus Lynx Chaus in 1895.
In 1898, the British zoologist de Winton examined the collection of jungle cat skins in the Natural History Museum and revised taxonomic assessments of the jungle cat group. He proposed to subordinate the specimens from the Caucasus, Persia and Turkestan to Felis chaus typica, and regrouped the lighter built specimens from the Indian subcontinent to Felis chaus affinis. He renamed the Egyptian jungle cat Felis chaus nilotica as the name Felis Rüppelii was already applied to a different cat. A single skin collected near Jericho in 1864 prompted him to describe the new subspecies Felis chaus furax as this skin was smaller than other Egyptian jungle cat skins. A few years later, the German zoologist Nehring also described a jungle cat skin collected in Palestine, which he named Lynx chrysomelanotis.
In the 1880s, mammal skins were collected during an expedition to Afghanistan and presented to the Indian Museum. One cat skin without skull from the area of Maimanah was initially identified as of Felis caudata, but in the absence of skins for comparison the author was not sure whether his identification is correct. In his revision of Asian wildcat skins collected in the Zoological Museum of Berlin, the German zoologist Zukowsky reassessed the Maimanah cat skin, and because of its larger size and shorter tail than caudata skins proposed a new species with the name Felis (Felis) maimanah.
The British zoologist Pocock reviewed the generic nomenclature of the Felidae in 1917 and classified the jungle cat group as part of the genus Felis, which is characterized by broad heads, reduced rhinarium, pointed ears, vertically contracted ocular pupil and narrow paws. When the mammal collector of the Natural History Museum Thomas described the first jungle cat from Annam in 1928 he consented with Pocock and referred to Gray’s “Allied cat” by naming it Felis affinis fulvidina.
In the 1930s, Pocock reviewed the Natural History Museum's jungle cat skins and skulls from British India and adjacent countries. Based mainly on differences in fur length and colour he subordinated the specimens from Turkestan to Balochistan to Felis chaus chaus, the Himalayan ones to Felis chaus affinis, the ones from Cutch to Bengal under Felis chaus kutas, and the tawnier ones from Burma under Felis chaus fulvidina. He newly described six larger skins from Sind under the trinomen Felis chaus prateri, and skins with shorter coats from Sri Lanka and southern India under Felis chaus kelaarti.
Results of an mtDNA analysis of 55 jungle cats from various biogeographic zones in India indicate a high genetic variation and a relatively low differentiation between populations. It appears that the Central Indian F. c. kutas population separates the Thar F. c. prateri populations from the rest and also the South Indian F. c. kelaarti populations from the North Indian F. c. affinis ones. The Central Indian populations are genetically closer to the southern than to the northern populations.
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This species of cat is capable of being domesticated under certain conditions. Cat breeders have been able to hybridize jungle cats with certain domestic cats, producing such breeds as the "chausie" (Jungle cat × domestic cat) and the "jungle bob" (Jungle cat x pixie bob).
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