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: Wildcats, House Panthers and "erf day"

Luna continues to enjoy her “House Panther” status and all the warm compliments. But this weekend, we celebrate cats both domestic and wild, just as we did last year on Earth Day (or “erf day”).

We start again with the Cat Specialist Group of the World Conservation Union (CSG), but focusing on something positive. They are featuring a study of the jungle cat (Felis chaus) and leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis), pictured to the right:

The family Felidae is well represented in India, with 15 species occurring here, making it the richest in cats worldwide. However, except for the large cats the rest figure very poorly in research and conservation policies in the country, probably because of their rarity and elusive nocturnal habits, coupled with cumbersome bureaucratic formalities in studying rare species. Fortunately, in the past few years non-invasive molecular techniques have been introduced in wildlife research in India, which has made small cat research easier.

Another endangered cat of India and Southeast Asia is the Fishing Cat. It is a close relative of the leopard cat, and shares some of the same habitat. However, the fishing cat (not surprisingly) is better adapted to hunting and eating fish, and is an excellent swimmer.

The fishing cat is one of many species featured in The Smithsonian National Zoo's Cat Conservation Project.

Note that these are all “small cats”, which often do not get the attention of the larger cat species, which are of course magnificent and also seriously endangered in many cases. Certainly, the small cats share some of the endearing qualities in appearance to our domestic felines (which are believed to be descendants of African wild cats).

Few wild cats resemble their domestic counterparts more than the Oncilla of South America. However, it seems relatively little is known about this species of cat. According to the CSG, it has never been studied in the wild, and little is known about its behavior or population. However, it is been trapped in the past for the fur trade:

n 1971, 28,000 pelts were counted in Brazilian warehouses, and in 1983, 84,500 skins were exported from Paraguay (Broad 1988)

The Oncilla closely resembles the better known Margay, which inhabits both Central and South America, and is not considered endangered. They are skillful tree climbers, and sometimes referred to as “Tree Ocelots,” taking the name from one of the more well-known wild cats of the Americas.

If you interested in this topic, please visit last year's article, which discusses some of the worlds most endangered cats, including the Iberian Lynx, which continues to be the most endangered in the world, with an estimated population in the hundred. Also, the intriguing little Andean Mountain Cat, illustrated to the right.

And speaking of house panthers…

Weekend Cat Blogging #151 is hosted by Luna's “twin” Puddy, along with Katie of A Byootaful Life.

And that's not all. The Carnival of the Cats is being hosted by the Diamond Emerald Eyes (whose mom created Luna's collage at the top of this article) at House Panthers!

The Bengal Brats may not be “house panthers”, but we still love them. They are hosting the Bad Kitty Cats Festival of Chaos at Pet's Garden Blog.

And lest we forget, the friday ark is at the modulator.