Jungle Cat

Felis chaus

Body Length(mm) -500-750

Weight (kg) - 7-15

Litter Size - 1-6 average

Life Span - 14 years

Status - Least Concern

F.c.affinis - Kashmir

F.c.chaus - Caucasus

F.c.fulvidina - Indochina

F.c.kelaarita - S.India, Sri Lanka

F.c.kutas - N.India, Pakistan

F.c.nilotica - Nile valley, Egypt

The jungle cat is found across a wide geographic area, ranging form Egypt, the Middle East, Parts of Southern Asia through to western China. In the west of its range, contrary to its name, the jungle cat is found mostly in open grasslands, and marshy ground close to rivers – here the cat is alternatively known as the Swamp Cat or Reed Cat. Further east, through into India and South East Asia, the species inhabits a greater range of habitats which, as well as marsh and swampland on forest margins, also includes tropical deciduous and evergreen forest. However, the jungle cat is not found in the denser tropical rain forests as its name might suggest. The jungle cat is not a particularly shy creature and can be often found close to human habitation, hunting in crop fields and plantations for small rodents. In India, it has been reported to inhabit disused buildings on the edge of human settlements.

The jungle cat can be distinguished from other wild cat species within its range by its long legs and uniform coat colour, which ranges from sandy yellow to reddish brown. On closer examination, the adult jungle cat can be seen to have faint stripes on the legs and tail, which is tipped with black. On the head the nose and chin areas are often white, the rather large ears tipped with darker fur and in certain sub-species faint ‘tear stripes’ are noticeable beneath the eyes. As kittens, jungle cats are heavily spotted but these juvenile markings are generally lost at about six months of age.

The jungle cat is generally larger than the African and Asian Wildcats, measuring up to 75cm, with a tail of approximately one third of its body length again. The largest adult males can reach up to 16 kg in weight.

Throughout its range, the jungle cat is mostly crepuscular in hunting but regionally it is known to be more active during daylight hours. The prey ranges from rodents and small mammals, which make up the greater proportion of the animals diet, to birds, reptiles and insects. However, because of its larger size the jungle cat can occasionally take wild pig and chital deer. Although mainly terrestrial in its hunting the jungle cat can climb well and has also been observed diving into water to catch fish.

The reproductive season varies regionally and mating is often accompanied by distinctive, bark like vocalisations from the male. The litter size is generally large, usually consisting of 3 -6 young and are born after a gestation period of approximately 65 days. The kittens are quite large at birth (136g) and have a daily weight gain of approximately 22g per day. Jungle cat kittens are weaned at about 15 weeks and are independent at approximately 8 – 10 months, they reach sexual maturity at around 18 months.

Throughout its range the jungle cat is considered to be common and apart from the destruction of part of its wetland habitat, the cat is under little threat. However trade is restricted and the animal is listed in CITES Appendix 2.

1997 Andrew Garman