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 km², but where this vegetation type has declined due to development density does not exceed two cats per 10 km² (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
- 1996Lower Risk/least 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