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: Pallas Cat

What do you see in this picture?

Well, since it is Weekend Cat Blogging, one would expect to see a cat. And indeed there is a wild cat sleeping well camouflaged amongst the rocks. This is Pallas’ Cat, native to the high-altitude grasslands of Central Asia including Mongolia, western China, and parts of Russia and Afghanistan.

This particular individual was not in Central Asia, but rather at the zoo in Prospect Park in Brooklyn.

Pallas’ cat has a nice thick fur coat and, unlike the writer of this article, is well suited to colder climates.

They are similar in size to larger domestic cats, and of course have many of the same characteristics. They hunt, tend to be solitary, and spend a decent amount of time sleeping. But despite the similar appearance, there is a lot of question about how closely they are related to other cats. They are currently not part of the genus Felis with domestic cats and related wild cats, but part of the separate Otocolobus (though this is subject to discussion).

Pallas’ Cat is not on the endangered list at this time, but is listed as “near threatened” primarily due to habitat loss and illicit hunting and trade (one can only imagine that an animal with such a fur coat could be easily threatened by illegal hunting). There are efforts underway to help preserve these cats in their native territories, including programs in Russia and Mongolia. Follow the links for information on these efforts.

For more general information on Pallas’ cats and their current status, visit the Feline Conversation Federation (FCF) and our friends at the International Society for Endangered Cats (ISEC)

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.

Weekend Cat Blogging: Tiger!

For this Weekend Cat Blogging, we present a particularly magnificent cat:

This is a Malayan tiger, though as one may be able to tell from the vegetation it is not in its native Malaysia, but rather is at the Bronx Zoo in New York.

It is hard to watch one of these tigers and not immediately see the similarities to the domestic cats that share our homes:

Like many other tiger species, the Malayan tiger is very endangered, with possibly only a few hundred left in the wild. The Bronx Zoo has a breeding program and recently saw the arrival of three cubs, though I did not get a chance to see them personally.

Weekend Cat Blogging #286 is hosted by Othello at PaulChens FoodBlog?!

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

And the Friday Ark is at the mouldator.

California's Worst Representative

Seems I have politics on the brain this week, and no wonder considering the high stakes:

Click for electoral-vote dot com

Click for electoral-vote dot com

Not much excitement in my own district (or any other district in which I have resided during my time in California), but one does not have to go too far east to find California's Worst Representative.

Richard Pombo represents the 11th District, and is the chair of the House Resources Committee. Pombo hails from Tracy, a town that is a poster child for ugly exurban sprawl (and the butt of a lot of jokes when I was living in the East Bay). He has long been obsessed with dismantling the 1973 Endangered Species Act. In addition to being as old as I am, the Endangered Species Act protects a wide variety of plants and animals, including the San Joaquin Kit Fox that inhabits Pombo's district (pictured to the right).

From interviews and statements I've heard, on NPR and elsewhere, he seems to take pride in his work to weaken or eliminate environmental protection and sell land and resources from our National Park System and elsewhere to developers and speculators. He supports not only the oft-mentioned drilling proposal for the Artic Wildlife National Refuge, but also end the long-time ban on drilling of the California coast. His name surfaced again in recent reports about protecting the coast of Northern California (Mendocino, etc.). And, like most of his fellow conservative Republicans, all his efforts seem to be done with a sense that he is on some sort of righteous crusade.

He has also been implicated in several of the trendy Republican scandals, but that's the least of his faults.

You can read more, a lot more, at PomboWatch and Say No To Pombo. Oh, and it might be worth visiting his opponent's website, too. This is turning out to be a competitive race, so any interest and support may help send Pombo back to Tracy, and help some of our endangered friends in the process:

UPDATE: The Stockton Record covers the CA-11 debate last night between Pombo and McNerney.