The Return of Wild Cats on Earth Day


After several years, we at CatSynth are resuming our tradition of sharing wild cats on earth day.  Those who follow our Facebook page are regularly treated to photos and videos of wild cats.  We share a few favorites, along with some of our own.

A personal favorite of ours is the fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus).  It is unique in that is adapted for swimming and hunting in the water.  The sleek fur, streamlined shape, and folded ears attest to this adaptation.

[By Bernard Gagnon [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], from Wikimedia Commons]

The fishing cat has discontinuous populations in rainforests of South Asia and Southeast Asia. It is listed as Vulnerable, primarily due to habitat destruction. The Greensboro Science Center in Greensboro, North Carolina, recently posted this video featuring a mother fishing cat teaching her kitten their aquatic heritage.

Another lesser-known cat is the oncilla (Leopardus tigrinus).  It is among the smallest of wild cats, similar in appearance to but significantly smaller than the well-known ocelot.

[By Groumfy69 [CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons]

The oncilla lives throughout Brazil as well as the highland tropical forests of Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. There is even a recorded separate population in Panama. It is listed as Vulnerable in IUCN classification, mainly due (once again) to habit loss.

Both of these cats and many others have a similar spotted look that works well in their forested environments. Our old pal the Pallas cat (Otocolobus manul), also known as the manul, is quite a different beast altogether. It has a squat shape, fluffy fur and a gray color that are suited to its cold rocky environment in Central Asia. Here is a manual I encountered at the Prospect Park Zoo in New York some years ago.

pallas cat

pallas cat

More recently, we attended the Feline NightLife at the California Academy of Sciences, and got to see many wild cats courtesy of Safari West, including this beautiful serval.


While not endangered, servals have been frequently been captured and bred as exotic pets.  They do, however, remain wild predators and their domestic captivity usually goes badly for human and feline alike.  As our host from Safari West said, “they do not make good pets, but they will eat good pets.”  Below is a “cat” that actually is not a cat at all, but a separate genus, the genet.  If they had not told me, I might have guessed it was a fishing cat.


Sadly, Safari West was affected by last year’s devastating Tubbs fire in Sonoma County.  Several structures burned, and the co-founders lost their own home.  Fortunately, most of the property was spared and the animals all made it through the conflagration safely, and Safari West reopened for tours and programs in late November.  You can read more about their experience (and find out how to support them) here.

We conclude with our friends at ISEC Canada, an organization dedicated entirely to the conservation of small wild cats.  They have many projects underway, including a study of the black-footed cat, another lesser-known small wild cat from southern Africa.  It’s esimated range covers parts of Namibia, Botswana and South Africa.

[By Patrick Ch. Apfeld, derivative editing by Poke2001 [CC BY 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons]

The black-footed cat is adorable, and its face closely resembles many housecats.  But once again, this is a wild animal and does not belong in a domestic setting.  We applaud the work of ISEC Canada and other organizations who study and help to preserve them in their wild habitats.

Weekend Cat Blogging: Wild Cats on Earth Day

Every year on or around Earth Day, we at CatSynth dedicate a Weekend Cat Blogging posts to the endangered wild cats around the world.

Through the work of the International Society for Endangered Cats and their active Facebook page, we continue to be surprised by the diversity and beauty of the small wildcats, even while observing their similarities to our domestic companions. The bridge between the domestic and the wild is part of what makes these cats so endearing.


We start this year with the Scottish wildcat. A population of European wildcats was found in Scotland in 2012. They are critically endangered, numbering less than 100 according to the Scottish Wildcat Association.

[By Peter Trimming (Scottish wildcatsUploaded by Mariomassone) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

Without immediate help, this subspecies – the last cat native to Britian – could go extinct this year! You can follow efforts to save the Scottish wildcat via the Scottish Wildcat Association and Highland Tiger.

The Asiatic Golden Cat lives in the tropical forests of southeast Asia. They are a bit bigger and more muscularly built than domestic cats.

[By Karen Stout (originally posted to Flickr as Asian Golden cat) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

They are considered “Near Threatened” or “Vulnerable” on the IUCN scale, largely because of deforestation and hunting. Sadly, there is a thriving illegal trade in their fur, bones and meat, and they are also considered a threat to livestock, which makes them vulnerable to being killed in reprisals.

The Caracal is quite distinctive in its appearance, with its large ear tufts. They are found widely throughout Africa and the Middle East.


[By Kristian Thy from Copenhagen, Denmark (Caracal kitten) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

Although not considered endangered, they are often persecuted for threatening livestock. Especially in southern Africa, caracal killings by farmers and ranchers has become all too common.

A perennial favorite of ours, the Black-footed Cat is among the smallest of wildcat species. ISEC is continuing their Black-footed Cat Project in South Africa in order to better understand this species.

[By Zbyszko (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons]

Another group we follow, the The Felidae Conservation Fund, sponsors projects here in the Bay Area and around the world, including an effort to study Arabian Leopard.

[By עמוס חכמון (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or FAL], via Wikimedia Commons[]

The Arabian Leopard, which is found in various parts of the Arabian peninsula, is the smallest leopard subspecies and is considered critically endangered.

And of course, we have our own wildcats close to home. Bobcats can be found here in the Bay Area and throughout California.

[By Don DeBold from San Jose, CA, USA (Calero Creek Trail Bobcat) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

The main threats to these cats are loss of habitat and fragmentation, especially in our larger more urbanized areas. Bobcats are also hunted for fur and sport (it is still legal in California).

Please visit the sites mentioned in this article to find out more about wildcats and wildcat conservation, and to support their efforts.

Weekend Cat Blogging #307: Wild Cats on Earth Day

Every year, we at CatSynth set aside Weekend Cat Blogging on Earth Day to look at some of the wild cat species around the world. In particular, we focus on some of the smaller wild cats, which after often less well known than the big cats such as tigers, lions and leopards, but in many cases just as endangered.

We begin with the Iriomote cat, a critically endangered wildcat found only on the remote Japanese island of Iriomote.

There are estimated to be only 100 or so left in the wild. The main threats, habit removal and non-native species (notably feral domestic cats), are exacerbated by the fact they are exclusive to one island. One third of the island has been declared a wildlife reserve with a Iriomote Wildlife Center set up to study and protect them. But with such a small population, their future remains uncertain.

With all the events and focus on the Middle East and North Africa this year, it also seems appropriate to feature the sand cat (felis margarita).

As their name implies, sand cats are found in deserts, in particular in pockets in Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco in North Africa, on the Arabian Peninsula. But there are also subspecies found in Iran and as far east as Afghanistan and Pakistan. Although not endangered overall, individual local populations are, such as Israel where it became locally extinct. A program by the Jerusalem Zoo aims to re-introduce them.

In looking up information for this article, I came across the International Society for Endangered Cats (ISEC), an organization based in Canada dedicated to “aid in the wild conservation and captive preservation of endangered and threatened small wild cat species though education, scientific observation and support for captive breeding of critically endangered species.” They have several active projects at the moment, including a study of the black-footed cat.

The black-footed cat is found in the southwest of Africa, i.e., Namibia, Botswana and parts of South Africa. They are among the smallest of wild cats, and as nocturnal creatures they are rarely seen. One thing that makes them unusual is that they don’t climb trees but instead burrow into the ground for shelter.

The ISEC is also conducting a study of the Argentine Espinal:

The Argentine Espinal is an arid grassland and shrubland mosaic that has been greatly modified since the 1600’s, when cattle became the prominent species on the landscape. Found today only in fragmented patches, the Espinal was once home to a great diversity of birds, plants and mammals, among them a unique guild of felids composed of the Pampas cat Leopardus colocolo, Geoffroy’s cat Leopardus geoffroyi, Jaguarundi Puma yagouaroundi and Puma Puma concolor.

We have discussed the Geoffroy’s cat in a previous post. They are still relatively common and have a large range in southern South America. However, they are classified as “near-threatened”, primarily because of habit fragmentation and other concerns.

We also encountered the Pampas cat before. Because there has not been much study of these cats, their conservation status is not officially listed. As one can tell from the photo, it is a somewhat heavier looking cat than many of the other species. Little is known about its diet or hunting habits. Despite being named for the Pampas, their range extends far beyond its geographical boundaries.

For more information, please visit the ISEC website.  In our back yard, the Felidae Conservation Fund is also involved in wild-cat studies around the world, as well as close to home with a study of Bay Area mountain lions. Other organizations involved in cat conservation include the Feline Conservation Federation, and the Cat Specialist Group of the World Conservation Union.

Weekend Cat Blogging #307 is hosted by Jules at Judi’s Mind Over Matter.

The Carnival of the Cats will be hosted this Sunday by Meowza.

And the Friday Ark is at the modulator.